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Global experts to gather in Leeds for conference on child welfare


By Luis Ortiz

EXPERTS FROM New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the UK are to come together in Leeds to reimagine a child welfare system for the 21st Century.

The three-day conference being hosted by Leeds City Council’s children’s service, will take place from November 23 to 25.

The aim of the conference is to share knowledge around three main topics: re-imagining the child welfare system for the 21st century, working restoratively with families affected by domestic abuse and working restoratively with families using family group decision making.

Restorative practice is described as a way to rebuild and maintain healthy relationships after families have experienced conflict and difficulties, by using effective communication skills to remove barriers and promote understanding.

Cath Ashley, chief executive of Family Rights Group and keynote speaker at the conference, said: “Leeds is child-welfare-2internationally well known for its work.

“It has been trying to work more collaboratively with families to keep them safe. There have been a number of different crises such as a big rise in domestic abuse, reduction in family help services and also the Baby P case which caused a fear for families to seek help due to unresolved problems.”

The conference follows a report published in September by Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales. In the report, he said the family court is facing “a crisis – and imminent”, due to the increasing number of child care cases.

He said: “If the figure of 14,713 were to increase at only 5 per cent annually for the next three years (probably the best we can hope for given the rise of 26 per cent between 2009‐10 to 2014‐15), by 2019-20 the figure will be a little over 17,000.

“If, on the other hand, the current rate of increase of 20 per cent were to continue for the next three years, by 2019‐20 the figure would have climbed to over 25,000.”

In order to tackle the problem, Cath Ashley said professionals are looking at a “different approach”, which is to focus on helping the whole family instead of the child alone.

There will be a variety of workshops, Q and A sessions, and keynote speakers.

Lemn Sissay, author and poet, will also be joining the dinner conference and will be the after-dinner speaker.

Delegates will be able to hear from keynote speakers from across the UK and the world including Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Prof Gale Burford, emeritus professor of social work at Vermont State University.

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