Thursday, 24 October 2013

Music again

Music again

Regular readers of this blog will know of my somewhat torturous relationship with music - stemming from my music teacher at primary school telling me to mime rather than sing; finding myself at grammar school being second from bottom in music although I loved music; singing with my daughter in the monthly family choir at her primary school; being taught to read music in 5 minutes flat by my daughter who also introduced me to playing piano; finally taking piano lessons and then some singing lessons and joining the Manchester Community Choir. Lots of tears on the way, some of pain some of release and joy.

This week at piano lesson we were re-visiting one of my favourites ‘Over the rainbow’ and I expressed a desire to sing it and of course my teacher encouraged me but I also expressed a desire to play and sing and the same time. I am maybe not technically ready for this just yet but the thought of bringing my piano laying and signing together and with this song is pretty overwhelming and exciting too! Watch this space!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

At Quaker Meeting and weeping

At Quaker Meeting and weeping

Went to Quaker Meeting this morning for the first time in ages and found myself weeping. This was not that unusual and the great thing about it was no-one especially noticed so I didn’t have to deal with people’s reactions to my tears. Sometimes I want people to react sometimes not. Today this was between me and my Creator. I was thinking about my forthcoming retirement (in two years time but I am a Capricorn so I plan ahead!) and realising that I don’t want to vegetate; that I will want something to put my heart and soul into. This is what I do (at least some of the time!) at the University of Manchester. Sometimes my work their matters too much to me but better that than the other way round.

In 1999 I was in a support group for my friend Alex Wyldwood who was giving an important Quaker lecture called the Swarthmore Lecture. I met with his team of supporters some of whom were quite frail. One of them was sitting supporting herself with a walking stick and speaking a lot of sense. I asked myself about this in the Quaker silence and heard the reply, ‘She is frail because she is using herself up’.

So I want to use myself up until I am ready to die, hopefully not for many years yet! I do need to retire’ from the University of Manchester in Autumn 2015 – that will be 20 years there! But my work will go on. I am currently Visiting Professor at UCLan (University of Central Lancs) and who knows - my work there might well grow and develop and continue past my Manchester retirement. If not other things will present themselves, God willing. And of course I can and do put my heart and soul into other things beside my paid academic work. (Family, friends, piano, choir, creative writing etc) I am looking forward to having more time for this too.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Automatic Child Protection Co-ordination

Automatic Child Protection Co-ordination

In 1971/2 I worked in-house as a computer programmer for the Royal London Hospital and one of the programmes I wrote sorted clinical lab tests overnight. These results were then made easily available to the medics the following day. It was cutting edge stuff back then and the programmes were used elsewhere including in Yorkshire.

There has been two more high profile child abuse deaths in the news in Britain in the last month and in both cases the lack of contact between the various agencies involved has been highlighted as one of the reason why effective action was never taken along with the ussual ‘over worked over stretched professionals’.

Now we could spend more money and employ more professionals though I suspect that would not necessarily totally deal with the problem. Although it would help and our children are worth it surely.

I have another thought. It goes like this. Write some software that searches the electronic records of the various services involved. Think how quick and far reaching software engines now are. So any police, teaching, social work, CAMHS, GP and A & E etc records relating to all our children are regular scanned looking for flagged evidence of concerns expressed. Each local authority would a have a designated child protection officer whose job would be to receive and act on emails alerts electronically generated by this software. The most urgent ones would be flashed up on their computer screen when they switched it on and they would be expected to act immediately. The slightly less urgent ones would be monitored more closely and more actively visited than they are currently getting.

There are some problems with this idea. Confidentiality issues - but we are talking child protection here and presumably some of this is already happening?. Also there may be differing forms of records/procedures for recording the information in the differing agencies. So we might need some form of record standardisation. But think about it - once in place it does not rely on busy people having to contact each other, the software does it.

It needs a working group representing the agencies with an experienced team of software designers to do the work. This work would not put out to tender but hand picked people would be appointed.

The Guardian newspaper did not choose to print a brief letter based on this idea last week. I emailed the NSPCC last week but no reply as yet. Friends and colleagues I have spoken to about this idea like it. My problem is that I am no longer a software expert and I am not a child protection expert. Just a parent and grand parent who wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about these things.