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8 OPINION COMMENT

Despicable theft from charity should concern us all OCIETY regards those who steal from charities as the lowest of the low, as Stephen Whittaker is about to discover. The 37-year-old befriended the family of a dying baby to plunder their charity appeal. He also stole from Barnardo’s and the Christie Hospital. He hid behind a mask of caring altruism and deceived decent people. In an age when it is all too easy to be nonchalant about some crimes, actions such as this still have the power to shock. They are an affront against common decency and basic civil behaviour. We wonder how somebody could steal money graciously donated to a worthy cause. It is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. What Whittaker did was inexcusable and unforgivable. It also raises a worrying issue. When someone lines their own pockets with money intended for charity it undermines our faith in the whole process and the very notion of giving. The people of Manchester have a deserved reputation for generosity, particularly towards local organisations. That should not change because of disappointing stories such as this. When we put cash into a charity box or agree to sponsor an individual, we offer our funds with a degree of trust. We believe the money we have pledged or actually handed over will be delivered promptly and in good faith. Charities can only survive and thrive if they have the confidence of the public. They must do all they can to guard against abuse. Robust vetting procedures should be vigorous enough to identify those who are not worthy to represent their cause. But it’s not just charities who must assume responsibility. All of us should take steps to ensure our donations are not squandered or stolen. It’s a regrettable reflection on elements of our society but, whilst offering as much support as we can, we must all be vigilant when parting with our charity pound.

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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012

M.E.N.

Children want someone to listen to them ... they really appreciate that A conference in Manchester on Tuesday discusses how to mend so-called ‘Broken Britain’, and much will be said about early intervention to stop unhappy youngsters growing up to live chaotic or criminal lives. Could one solution already be at work in a handful of primary schools in Manchester and Salford? Paul Taylor reports HERE is a letter box at “It can be just talking, or it can be the door of a special play activity,” says Dempsey. room in Claremont “They have a range of things that Primary School, Moss younger children, who can’t express Side. Into it go slips of themselves, might play with. paper from pupils “They may want to tell their requesting ten or 15 story or their feelings through minutes with a trained puppets or pictures as well counsellor. as talking.” ‘It sounds so “It can be anything from Claremont is one of ten falling out with friends to simple, but schools in Manchester and something more serious often children Salford running this servabout what’s going on at don’t get that – ice through the charity The home – parents splitting Place2Be. up, for instance,” says someone who The idea is to help chilPauline Dempsey, head of will sit down dren through unhappiness Claremont. which may otherwise dis“Usually, it’s about tran- and listen to tract them from their sitions – moving to high them’ work, even lead to truancy, Pauline Dempsey school, or moving from inwhich can in turn be the fants to juniors.” start of a slippery slope into crime Once inside the Place2Be room, and other ills. whatever the child says to the counThat makes The Place2Be a good sellor is confidential, though some- example of early intervention – a times the child may use more than concept likely to loom large in a conmere words to convey his or her un- ference, Tackling Broken Britain: happiness. Building a Stronger Society at Man-

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CASE STUDY: ADRIANA ADRIANA was extremely unhappy and showed high levels of psychological distress. Her attendance had dropped to around 70 per cent, and she was being bullied. She had recently been homeless and had witnessed violence and discrimination towards her parents in her home country of Slovakia. 

Adriana was supported by her counsellor to talk through her past trauma and to think about what she needed to support her in the present. At the end of her counselling, her attendance was 94.4 per cent, and there were no concerns regarding her behaviour or academic achievement.

chester Conference Centre on Tuesday. If, indeed, Britain is “broken”, could we mend it by giving help to children when signs of damage first start to show? Pauline Dempsey is in no doubt: “It sounds so simple, but often children don’t get that – someone who will sit down and listen to them. They really appreciate that.” A project manager runs The Place2Be in the school, and there are half a dozen trained counsellors working on a voluntary basis. The total cost to the school budget, says Dempsey, is less than the salary of one teacher. Some children require more intensive one-to-one weekly coun-

selling sessions. There are also group therapy sessions, and The Place2Be’s work may even extend to counselling parents. “We have a large amount of data stretching back over many years which shows that when you intervene early with a child in school, you increase that child’s chances of attaining academically,” says Keith Harvey regional manager of The Place2Be. Dempsey adds: “A lot of the research is saying that one in five children require professional support,


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FEATURES 9

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012

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TELLING IT THEIR WAY The Place2Be offers the opportunity for children to relate their story by talking, or through puppets or pictures

CASE STUDY: SIMON SIMON came to Place2Be because his dad was sent to prison for killing a close family friend in a fight outside a pub. Simon was devastated by his dad’s actions and sudden disappearance from the family home. He had one-toone counselling for over a year and gradually thought about the meaning of death and its effect on his family. He mourned the loss of his dad and also the death of the man he had called ‘uncle’. Simon would often play with figures of adult men, telling stories with them that included themes of wrongdoing, extreme punishment, redemption, and reintegration into everyday life.

and yet fewer than one in ten get it. “But four out of five who show behavioural problems at age five will go on to demonstrate more anti-social behaviour. later on. “We keep talking about early intervention, but we need to get earlier and earlier. That’s when you make the most difference.”

CASE STUDY: LENNOX LENNOX was referred for Place2Be counselling in Year 5 due to concerns about his behaviour. Perceived as highly intelligent, he had poor concentration, low self esteem, poor attendance and was at risk of exclusion due to his aggression. Before Place2Be interven-

tion, Lennox scored level 2 in maths and literacy. The eldest of eight children, his mother was separated from his natural father, and there was a history of domestic violence, substance and alcohol abuse by the adults in the family. Lennox was the main carer, his

absences from school caused by lack of clean clothes and his mother’s need for him to do the shopping, cooking, changing and care of his younger siblings. Following one-to-one counselling with The Place2Be, his maths and literacy scores improved to level 4 and

his attendance improved. The Place2Be project manager also worked with Lennox’s estranged father who was given parent counselling and support. He wanted custody of his son, but felt overwhelmed. With counselling, he arranged for Lennox to live with him.


Manchester Evening News article