UK Agony Aunts rally behind Kids in the Middle

20 October 2008

UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL 00.01 HOURS, MONDAY 20 OCTOBER

PHOTO CALL WITH ED BALLS: 12 noon, Monday 20 October, DCSF: Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, SW 1

 

Ed Balls hears call for children to be priority as national online survey reveals nearly 70% of children rate their experience of parental separation as ‘bad’

Twenty of the nation’s leading agony aunts will today meet Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls to make the case for better support for children and parents facing family breakdown.

Led by the Sun’s Deidre Sanders, the agony aunts will deliver the results of the Kids in the Middle national online survey – believed to be the biggest of its kind – which gathered the experiences and views on separation of more than 1500 children and families across the UK.

What the survey says

The survey reveals that:
• Nearly 70% of children rate their experience of parental separation as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’
• 92% of parents and 93% of children believe more should be done to support children who are going through a separation
• 92% of parents believe more should be done to support adults who are going through a separation
• 98% of parents agree that children should be a priority when parents are managing a separation
• 82% of children feel they aren’t encouraged to talk about their parents’ separation
• 72% of children felt they needed someone to talk to about their feelings

Deidre Sanders said: “More than one in four of the 12 million children in this country have separated parents – and this survey highlights the suffering and distress it can cause when not properly handled. Using the responses, comments and suggestions we’ve had from the survey, we are now calling on government to make changes to the system that will make a very real difference to these families.”

Ed Balls said: “I am really pleased to be meeting agony aunts – they know better than anyone the heartache that parental separation can cause children and adults. I hope this will be a chance for us all to discuss ways in which we can support separated families better. We know how important family relationships are to the well-being of both adults and children. That is why we made a pledge in last year’s Children’s Plan to do more to support those affected by family breakdown. Government is already doing much to support couple relationships and stable, positive family relationships. We are now exploring what more to do to prevent family breakdown and mitigate the negative impact of conflict where it occurs.”

The Agony Aunts and Uncles

Agony Aunts and Uncles are coming together for what is thought to be the first time to back three proposals in the Kids in the Middle report Children and Parental Separation: Managing conflict, Rethinking support, launching today.

They are: Deidre Sanders (The Sun); Denise Robertson (This Morning); Jane Butterworth (News of the World); Bel Mooney (Daily Mail); Zelda West-Meads (Mail on Sunday, YOU magazine); Dr Miriam Stoppard (Daily Mirror); Jane O’Gorman (Daily Star, Daily Star On Sunday, Sunday Express); Irma Kurtz (Cosmopolitan); Lesley Garner (Daily Telegraph); Dr Tanya Byron (The Times); Virginia Ironside (The Independent); Sally Brampton (Sunday Times magazine); Linda Blair (Psychologies, Guardian, Junior); Ingrid Millar (Chat); Michael Mellis (Company); Suzie Hayman (Various); Gill Cox (Bella); Dr Pam Spurr (MSN); Susan Quilliam (That’s Life); Christine Webber (Woman Magazine); Lucy Tobin (Bliss).

What Kids in the Middle wants

The three proposals from Kids in the Middle are:

  • Solutions for separating families which make court battles unnecessary: Help for parents in conflict at an earlier stage could reduce the number of cases that end up in court, as well as reaching the 90 per cent of parents who, at the moment, struggle along on their own without any court intervention.
  • Counselling in schools, and other support services working directly with children: Children whose parents are separating need opportunities to discuss their feelings in a neutral atmosphere and with expert counsellors qualified in engaging with children. To deliver this, and minimise the negative impact of separation on children, properly funded counselling services accessible to all children must be provided in schools, community settings and other support services.
  • New models for delivering relationship support to parents in conflict: A ‘seedbed’ of ten properly funded and evaluated pilots to develop and test effective and affordable ways of reaching families dealing with separation and its aftermath, designed to reduce parental conflict and to focus on the needs of their children.

Kids in the Middle was launched 3 months ago by charities Relate, Families Need Fathers, One Parent Families|Gingerbread and the Fatherhood Institute.

Claire Tyler, Chief Executive of Relate, said: “The unprecedented nature of the coalition demonstrates just how important this issue is. It is clear that more help is needed for separating mothers and fathers to help them steer clear of continuing conflict which can be so damaging for their children. And help is also needed for children themselves. By backing our recommendations Government can make sure that kids are top of the agenda. ”

Ends

Notes to editors

• A photocall involving the Agony Aunts and Ed Balls will take place at 12 noon on Monday 20 October at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT

• For a PDF copy of Children and Parental Separation: Managing conflict, Rethinking support, a Kids in the Middle survey summary or to arrange interviews with Deidre Sanders, spokespeople from One Parent Families/Gingerbread, Relate, Families Need Fathers or the Fatherhood Institute – or case studies of individuals who responded to the survey, please contact: Melissa Milner melissa@dhacommunications.co.uk,                020 7793 4035         or                07976 636 228        

The calls are:
1. Solutions for separating families which make court battles unnecessary
Court battles about children are the tip of the iceberg to do with conflict between parents after separation. Help for parents in conflict at an earlier stage could reduce the number of cases that end up in court, as well as reaching the 90 per cent of parents who, at the moment, struggle along on their own without any court intervention. By expanding existing mediation, therapeutic, contact and other practical support services, and ensuring that these also address, as necessary, debt management, child maintenance, finance, health and legal matters, parents affected will get support in a non-confrontational atmosphere where they can focus on the needs of their offspring and more easily consider ways in which both parents can provide substantial support to their children.
2. Counselling in schools; and other support services working directly with children Children whose parents are separating need opportunities to discuss their feelings in a neutral atmosphere and with expert counsellors qualified in engaging with children. To deliver this, and minimise the negative impact of separation on children, properly funded counselling services accessible to all children must be provided in schools, community settings and other support services.
3. New models for delivering relationship support to parents in conflict A ‘seedbed’ of ten properly funded and evaluated pilots to develop and test effective and affordable ways of reaching families dealing with separation and its aftermath, designed to reduce parental conflict and to focus on the needs of their children. Well-resourced contact centres available in every part of the country.

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