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Welcome from Yvette Stanley, Merton's Director of Children's Services
It is always a pleasure and a privilege to discuss issues, big and small, with our young people. And, it is always enlightening to hear young people’s new insights into old issues, as well as to learn about their lived experiences and the myriad of pressures on young people today. I could not introduce this edition of Young Merton Together without acknowledging the tragic events that took place in Manchester on Monday 22 May, and very recently in London on Saturday (3 June), and without inviting you to hear the words of compassion and condolence expressed by Merton’s Youth Parliament in their letter to Manchester which was sent during the days after the earlier event.
I am sure that you will agree that their words represent the sentiments of the wider Merton community, and that, while written in the light of the Manchester events, they also relate to the more recent tragedy - “after all is said and done, the young people in Manchester and the United Kingdom will lead the way and show the world how we stand together for a brighter and safer future”.
This edition of YMT celebrates the direct work with children, young people and families, undertaken by staff in all our Children’s Trust organisations:
We work hard to engage and enable young people to achieve better outcomes and to play a positive role in their lives and the lives of the wider community;
We are committed to closing the gap in educational outcomes and opportunity for our children and young people, to give them a foundation of knowledge and understanding on which they can build throughout the rest of their lives: Merton offers every child a primary school place; Merton supports young people with English as an additional language to access education - SmartChoice; and Apprenticeship participation increases in Merton.
Our ‘Early Help’ offer aims to deliver early help and improve outcomes for those subject to the effects of disadvantage: Early help for Merton's children and families; New children’s centres offer April 2017; New commissioned services for children and young people; and Merton early years children are ‘school ready’.
And, under the theme of ‘safeguarding children and young people’ we have the following updates: An update on the key priorities of the MSCB Business Plan – Early Help, ‘Think Family’ and ‘Adolescents’; Tackling child sexual exploitation; A multi-agency approach to ‘Neglect’; Identifying and safeguarding ‘Children Missing from Education’ (CME); ‘UK says No More domestic violence or abuse’ campaign; and Private Fostering week 3-7 July.
It just remains for me to thank you for your daily work and commitment to engage and support children and young people, and provide them with great opportunities to enjoy their lives and to achieve to their potential, while supporting them in challenging times.
Private Fostering Week 2017
Merton Children's Services are marking Private Fostering Week (3rd – 7th July) by reminding Merton residents to get in touch if they know a child is living with someone other than their parents or close relatives.
Private Fostering Week is a national event which is part of an initiative called Somebody Else’s Child which aims to reduce the number of children in un-notified private fostering arrangements in England.
Private fostering is a private arrangement made by a parent for a child under 16 years (or 18 if disabled) to be cared for by someone other than another parent or close relative lasting more than 28 days.
A close family member is considered to be a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, step-parent or grandparent. A private foster carer might be a family friend, a cousin or a neighbour.
Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is safe, that the arrangement is suitable and that we are providing them with support and access to services.
Nobody knows exactly how many children are privately fostered, but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that some of these ‘invisible’ children could be at risk of abuse or victims of trafficking.
Merton Children’s Services are asking that if anyone is aware of a child or young person who is living with someone who is not a close family member for longer than 28 days that they notify our MASH Team on 020 8545 4227.
For further information about Private Fostering you can contact Debbie Taylor in The Vulnerable Children’s Team on 020 8545 3672.
'Fun and fit family day' promotes new Monday evening fitness session
Jude Simmons, Merton's Head of Youth Service, tells YMT about a wonderful family day event held on Saturday 3 June, to promote the new Phipps Bridge Youth Centre's Monday evening fitness club for local residents, where they can also bring their children, aged 6+ to enjoy arts and crafts:
'The 'Fun and fit' family day was such a success! Seeing the community coming together to have fun and learn new skills at the same time. It definitely put the youth centre on the map! We recruited new members for our fit club on Monday evenings where families come together and take part in activities designed to keep you fit!'.
Our 'Fun and Fit' family day on Saturday 3 June was well attended by children, young people and adults celebrating all things healthy; a wonderful time was had by all!
Supported by Merton's Youth Service and volunteers from Benedict Primary School, the local community, Wimbledon AFC and some of the older young people from Pollards Hill Youth Centre, more than ninety attendees enjoyed circuit training in the garden, healthy cooking, Fit Kids sessions, dance and stretch class, smoothie making, a gym session, mini health checks and much more.
The purpose of the event was to promote a new Monday evening club for local residents which runs at the Phipps Bridge Youth Centre, Cobham Court, Haslemere Avenue, Mitcham CR4 3PR from 6.30pm to 8.30pm during term time.
Local people can come and enjoy circuit training and any other healthy activities that they would like to take part in, and can bring their children aged 6+ to enjoy arts and crafts, play games and table tennis, whilst their parents or carers get fit!
The aim is to encourage local people to use the youth centre, and for the community to see the centre as somewhere that they can get together, in order to break down barriers between young and old, and to bring neighbours and friends together. It will also be an opportunity to promote the activities of the youth centre at the same time. Our aim is to create a centre which has a real community focus offering activities which are led by local volunteers and supporters.
Everybody is welcome on Monday evenings and volunteers are needed to provide healthy cooking workshops, dance classes and anything else fitness related!
For more information about coming to the fitness club, and about helping out as a volunteer, please email me, Jude Simmons on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Phipps Bridge Youth Centre see the webpages: www.merton.gov.uk/phipps_bridge_yc.htm
Follow this link - Continuous Improvement - to access this edition's section about the Children's Trust's commitment to continuously improve the quality, timeliness, and equity of our services for children, young people and families.
This month we feature: Merton's children's services shaped by users
Merton offers every child a primary school place
A primary school place has been offered to every parent in Merton with a child starting school in September.
Figures published by the Pan-London Admissions Scheme, which coordinates school places in the capital, show that 2,610 children from Merton applied for a primary school place.
- 80.8% of children were offered a place at their parents’ first choice of school, an increase from 80.4% last year
- 90.9% of children got into one of their top three schools, up from 90.1% last year
- 94.1% of children were offered a place at one of their parents’ preferred schools, an increase from 93.7% last year
- Every child who applied was offered a primary school place
For more information about admission to schools in Merton see the webpages: www.merton.gov.uk/admissions.
Merton celebrates Duke of Edinburgh success
Ninety of Merton’s young people were presented with certificates and badges, by local dignitaries, for their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award achievements at a special ceremony in Wimbledon Arts Space in April 2017.
In total, 355 young people completed their awards in Merton during 2016/17. At 61%, Merton has enjoyed one of the highest completion rates in London this year.
The young people from 13 secondary schools across the borough were recognised for their perseverance and hard work which led them to complete their awards over 12 months from April 2016 at bronze, silver and gold levels. Rutlish School was presented with an excellence award for their success rate in completing the DofE scheme.
DofE requires young people to get involved in different activities, develop a variety of skills, volunteer and get involved in sports. Volunteering is a key part of the DofE. The young people carried out a total of 6,000 hours of volunteering in Merton over the last year. Examples of their volunteering included helping at primary schools, fundraising for charity and helping at a hospital. Sports included rowing, Tae Kwon Do and football. The young people developed skills such as debating, playing the violin, singing and playing chess. A major part of the awards at each level is the expedition. Bronze expeditions include trips to Kent and the South Downs and excursions to the Brecon Beacons and Yorkshire Dales were part of the silver and gold awards.
Earlier in April a group of the borough’s Duke of Edinburgh award achievers visited St James’s Palace to meet the Duke of Edinburgh. One of those who met the Duke was Rebecca Marett (picture above) outside St James’s Palace with Seo-Yeon Lee and Amabel Watkins), who completed her bronze, silver and gold awards in Merton. The former Ursuline High School pupil is now working as a part time youth worker at the Open Award Centre, helping others to take part in DofE.
Anyone wishing to apply to be part of the DofE award scheme should contact Carol Curtis, DofE Manager by email email@example.com or call 020 8274 5828 or call in at the Open Award Centre on a Tuesday evening (Term time only) between 7-9pm at John Innes Youth Centre, 61 Kingston Road, SW19 1JN.
Merton young people debate mental health – and win!
A group of young people from Merton, supported by the borough's Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service, took part in the London Debating Mental Health programme led by South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust. This is a brand new London based initiative aimed at about empowering young people who have used mental health services, to speak out about the mental health issues that matter to them. The programme culminated in a debate competition event against other teams of young people from London, hosted by Facebook UK, which the Merton team – ‘the Merton Hawks’ – won!
The programme supported the young people to learn debate skills through a 12-week course, led by English-Speaking Union mentors. Sessions were based on a combination of games, informal and formal discussion and were each centred around key oracy skills.
Once they had received the full round of training, Merton’s young people and teams from other London mental health services came together at an event, with key mental health decision-makers, to have honest and open discussions about mental health and the things that matter to them.
Forty young people took part in five debates on topics voted for by them. The motions were: Celebrities have a responsibility to talk about their own mental health; Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy and; Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health.
The ‘Merton Hawks’ first debated ‘Opposition’ on ‘Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy’. They were then ‘proposition’ (decided by a coin toss) in the final: ‘Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health’. During both debates, the team also had to respond to questions from the ‘floor’ (audience), which they handled with skill and confidence. Congratulations to the team, on their success.
Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: "Young people’s mental health is an ongoing and ever growing area of discussion and debate, in which we must ensure young people participate. Offering young people the opportunity to explore and unpack arguments surrounding the mental health agenda helps them to further understand the complexities of this issue. This was an excellent piece of work and a significant opportunity for our young people to generate their own thoughts and arguments from both sides. We are incredibly proud of their win and we look forward to broadening the conversation around young people’s mental health in Merton”.
London Debating Mental Health is a partnership between South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust, London and South East Children and Young People IAPT Learning Collaborative, the English-Speaking Union and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. The organisers are confident that this partnership will continue to grow to support young people.
For more information about London Debating Mental Health contact Laura Tyrell South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merton says NO MORE domestic violence or abuse
During a week in mid May (2017) Merton Council raised awareness of the national campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.
Merton was one of the first London boroughs to join the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, which aims to engage communities to take a stand against domestic abuse and sexual assault. The initiative is a partnership between London-based charity Hestia and NO MORE in the United States.
One of the faces of the week-long campaign, was Zoe Gallen, the Council’s strategic lead for domestic violence and abuse, who was chosen to appear alongside comedian Eddie Izzard.
The UK SAYS NO MORE flag flew outside Merton Civic Centre in London Road, Morden, to show support for the campaign. Inside the Civic Centre, information was displayed throughout the week on services available in the borough to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Also, we carried out some awareness training with a GP surgery.
Domestic violence is not just physical. Perpetrators can be controlling, isolate their victims from friends and family; control their money; invade their privacy, for example by reading their emails or monitoring their calls or restrict their freedom by telling them where they can or cannot go.
Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “We must end the silence around domestic violence and sexual assault and say: ‘No more’. There is no excuse for anyone, child or adult, to be subjected to physical harm or mental abuse in their own home by their partner or another member of the family.
“We are proud that Zoe Gallen is one of the faces of such an important campaign and we want to raise awareness of the support available for anyone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse.”
The One Stop Shop, a confidential service for anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse in Merton, is open on Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays) from 9.30am – noon at Morden Baptist Church, Crown Lane, Morden SM4 5BL.
For more information call 020 7801 1777 or visit our website www.merton.gov.uk and search for ‘domestic violence’.
Merton ‘OSCA’ goes to teacher who set up student support group
A teacher at Ricards Lodge High School has been presented with a Merton ‘OSCA’ for her exceptional support for students.
The OSCA – or Outstanding Service for Children Award – was given to Angelina Di Passio in recognition of her leadership and support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Questioning group at the Wimbledon school where she teaches history.
Ms Di Passio is a volunteer staff member of the school’s Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural Working Group made up of students and staff.
She has played a key role in supporting students who have identified as LGBTQ+, helping to set up a support group which meets fortnightly after school and regularly attends to help students discuss a number of LGBTQ+ issues.
Ms Di Passio has supported the group to plan and deliver assemblies as well as arranging LGBQT+ film nights.
Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “Teenage years can be difficult for students who have identified LGBQT+ and the support that the group set up by Ms Di Passio gives them the chance to meet and talk about issues in a safe and friendly environment. She thoroughly deserves to receive Merton’s Outstanding Service for Children Award.”
The OSCA comes soon after Ms Di Passio was hailed as London’s Inspirational Teacher of the Year in the Evening Standard School Awards supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Merton celebrates Foster Carer Fortnight
Merton Council hosted a series of roadshow events around the borough during Foster Care Fortnight for people to find out more about becoming a foster carer.
This year's Foster Care Fortnight ran between 8-21 May. Merton Council delivered information events in town centres with the aim of recruiting new foster carers who can provide a vulnerable child with safe and secure place to live. A team of experts offered advice and guidance for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer. including information about the assessment process, training, financial allowances and the comprehensive support provided by Merton Council for foster carers.
Whatever your age, ethnicity, marital status, sexuality or personal circumstances, fostering could be for you. To become a foster carer, you need to have a spare bedroom and some experience of young people. Time, patience, resilience and understanding are essential qualities for fostering a child. You will also need people in your family or community who will be able to provide practical help and emotional support. Fostering is about more than just parenting – it is a team of people working with parents and social workers to care for children.
There is currently a shortage of foster carers for children of all ages in Merton, but particularly for teenagers and sibling groups.
Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “Fostering is a way of providing a family life for a child who is unable to live with their parents and can be incredibly rewarding. The roadshows we have organised to mark Foster Care Fortnight are a great opportunity for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer to ask questions and find out more about how they can provide a safe and loving home for a vulnerable child.”
To find out more about fostering a child, visit: www.merton.gov.uk/fostering
Call: 0800 073 0874 or 020 8545 4070 or email email@example.com
Are you looking after someone else's child?
All professionals are legally required to alert Merton's children’s services of children who are being privately fostered so that an assessment can be undertaken to ensure that the child’s welfare is being promoted and the child is safeguarded.
A privately fostered child is one who is:
- Living away from home
- Under the age of 16 years (under 18 if disabled)
- Cared for by someone for more than 28 days who is not a parent or close relative (stepparent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle).
How to Notify?
If you are aware of a child or young person living in a private fostering arrangement please notify MASH on 020 8545 4227.
For more information visit