How should we measure living standards in the UK?

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Dr Demi Patsios, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Health and Social Care, discusses findings from a recent Nuffield Foundation project that examines the importance of using multidimensional indicators to improve the measurement of living standards.

Living standards in the United Kingdom are typically measured using household income or expenditure. Past research focuses on how they have changed over time, the extent to which there are in inequalities within different groups, and the impact of the recession on living standards Subjective indicators such as the personal evaluation of life circumstances, have however often been neglected or dismissed in social policy research as unreliable.

There has been little research that combines monetary and non-monetary indicators to inform living standards in the UK, both objectively and subjectively measured, for different household compositions and family types. Combining information on material and social living standards with how people feel about different aspects of their lives provide both a fuller picture on how different family types are faring in society and a broader picture of well-being, which can be used by policymakers to improve welfare and redress inequalities.

Our project The distribution and dynamics of economic and social well-being in the UK used data from three UK national surveys

  • Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (PSE) 2012
  • Family Resources Survey (FRS) 2006/7 – 2016/16
  • UK Household Longitudinal Study – “Understanding Society” (USoc) 2009-11 – 14-16

In our research, living standards are defined as the total of individual/family welfare using both objective and subjective indicators of individual/family welfare, which fall under three broad domains: ‘What We Have, ‘What We Do’ and ‘Where We Live’. This conceptual framework was originally applied to the 2012 Poverty and Social Exclusion survey (PSE2012) data

What We Have

  1. Economic resources
  2. Material good
  3. Financial situation
  4. Personal and social resources
  5. Physical and mental health

What We Do

  1. Paid and unpaid work
  2. Social and political participation
  3. Social relations and integration

Where We Live

  1. Housing and accommodation
  2. Local area/neighbourhood
  3. Local services

Key project findings

  • The research confirms previous research that certain family life-course types, e.g. single adults of working age and single parents, had been affected most (monetarily and non-monetarily) by the economic downturn and subsequent recovery.
  • The same family life-course type differences and trends across the recessionary period are found in both objective and subjective indicators of resources (e.g. income, financial situation and mental health).
  • The analysis showed the importance of the nature of the measures and indicators used when trying to establish changes in trends in both objective and subjective indicators and the relationship between them over time.
  • The associations between objective and subjective indicators of economic resources are most closely aligned when individual measures or indicators of living standards are highly congruent in both measurement and operationalisation.
  • The findings also confirmed the importance of income as a key resource in living standards and the scientific validity of material deprivation items used in PSE, FRS and USoc surveys.
  • Satisfaction with income, satisfaction with financial situation, and satisfaction with life can be used as valid and reliable subjective indicators of living standards and how they change over time.

So why use subjective indicators of living standards?

Our research shows that a small set of subjective indicators (satisfaction with income, satisfaction with financial situation, and satisfaction with life) can be used to monitor changes in living standards over time and between different household and family types.

Subjective indicators can corroborate objective indicators such as income and material deprivation, which are not collected consistently across surveys or over time. These could be useful for smaller charitable and voluntary organisations working with individuals and families who do not have the capacity to collect in-depth survey data on income/resources.

Subjective indicators can help track changes in living standards across time and across family life-course types because their variation is explained mostly by what people have rather than who they are, where they live and what they do. By going beyond objective indicators of resources, we can capture a fuller and more nuanced picture of living standards in the in order to identify groups (specifically, single adults of working age and single parents) that require further policy attention (monetary and non-monetary), particularly during periods of economic downturn.

Find out more about the project.

International Women’s Day 2019

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Dr Emma Williamson discusses the current political and societal landscape regarding gender equality and how the Centre for Gender Violence Research continues to fight for justice for the victims of domestic violence.

The last year has been a mixed one for women’s rights.  The consequence of the Trump election has seen many of the hard-fought rights for women being reversed in the US, from challenges to women’s reproductive rights – access to contraception and abortion – to changes to the definitions of domestic and sexual violence.  These latter changes make it difficult for victims of psychological abuse and manipulative coercive control to get justice and support.

Globally, political and social shifts to the right through nationalist political parties also mean that women’s rights have been challenged from Hungary, where women’s studies centres have been closed, to the decriminalisation of domestic violence in Russia.

Alongside these challenges we have also seen the development of the #MeToo movement which has changed the social landscape of how we talk about abuse, and how we respond.  This movement is not a magic bullet however, we need to both prevent abuse happening as well as responding appropriately when people disclose it.  We still have a long way to go on both fronts.

Closer to home, many of the research projects from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research have come to fruition.  The Justice project ended officially in May last year and we continue to disseminate the findings through our partnerships.  Several academic papers are in press looking at faith-based responses to abuse, police responses, issues with protection orders, child sexual abuse, sex with third parties, as well as methods papers and one looking at the secondary trauma impact of this type of work on researchers.  We have a London based event in May to further disseminate this work, and we are working with Research in Practice to offer training to social care practitioners across England and Wales over coming months.  This training is based on the findings from the Justice and DRIVE projects.

This year saw the publication of the second annual report from DRIVE.  This project has been evaluating an innovative approach to disrupting the behaviour of high-risk domestic abuse perpetrators using multi-agency intervention.  The findings so far are positive and show that using this approach (enshrined in the Istanbul Convention) has had positive outcomes for the safety of victims/survivors, ensuring a robust response from the criminal justice system.

In December we held the final event for our Global Challenges Research fund project looking at gender and displacement in the UK and Iraqi Kurdistan.  We welcomed colleagues from Kurdistan, but the visa process was itself enlightening.  Twelve colleagues intended to travel to Bristol but five had their travel visas denied and as a result six decided not to apply (the process is extremely costly).  Most disturbing was the fact that unmarried women were deemed not to have strong enough social ties in their home country to mitigate their flight risk.  This was ironic given that our project was looking at the ways in which gender impacts on experiences of displacement!

Most recently Professor Marianne Hester with Professor Evan Stark (a previous Benjamin Meaker Fellow at the Centre) provided expert testimony to the successful Sally Challen appeal case.  This landmark appeal brings coercive control into focus as a potential mitigating factor in cases of murder/manslaughter where diminished responsibility is at stake.  That case will go to re-trial and we anticipate our work in this area featuring in that new trial.

Finally, the only non-Brexit item in the government legislative package this year has been the new Domestic Violence Bill.  We engaged with a wide range of activities relating to that consultation, including presenting to four Westminster events, and meeting directly with the Home Office to discuss the findings from the Justice Project – the most up to date data on protection orders and Criminal Justice System responses.  With the political uncertainty in Westminster at present we do not know when that Bill will be taken forward but whatever happens, the process of being able to share our findings with service providers and policy makers has been extremely rewarding, both to us and to those who took part in the research.

What all of this work shows us is that victims and survivors are still seeking justice for their experiences of gender based violence.  Having spent much of the last year immersed in survivors’ testimonies, we know how crucial victim’s rights (predominately women) are in protecting them and their families from abuse, but so too is the way that society and communities within society respond.  Victims and survivors want recognition, they want to be heard, and they want the perpetrator to be held to account.  These are simple messages which we can apply to our own individual, institutional, and social interactions when addressing issues of abuse.  They are also clear messages we can take forward, in the year which marks the centenary of some women’s suffrage, challenging both the individual and structural barriers which exist to prevent women from achieving their human rights.

Working with volunteers in social care for older people

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Dr Ailsa Cameron, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Health and Social Care and a Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, discusses findings from a recent project looking at how we can best support volunteers in social care settings.

Encouraging people to volunteer in social care for older people has been a key part of practice in the sector for many years, but in recent times the significance of volunteering has grown, particularly in light of the funding cuts faced by the sector.

We know volunteers can do a huge amount to enhance the care and support that older people receive. They can bring a new energy to settings and give older people an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with people other than paid care workers. Volunteers can also do a lot to reduce the loneliness and isolation that many older people experience.

There are also benefits for those who volunteer in social care themselves – opportunities to develop new skills, gain experience of different work contexts and enhance their own wellbeing, or just an opportunity to give something back.

During our research on Exploring the Role of Volunteers in Social Care Settings (ERVIC), we heard about many settings where volunteers were making an important contribution to older people’s care and support. We learnt about volunteer-run exercise programmes and befriending services in residential care, organising and running lunch clubs, and volunteers giving extra support at day centres and visiting people recently discharged from hospital.

However, reliance on volunteers to deliver care and support for older people brings new challenges to the sector. Volunteers are not a ‘free service’ – to be effective, they need training as well as ongoing support. This is particularly important given the vulnerability of many older people who receive social care services. Volunteers have much to offer, but they also need to be clear of the boundaries and limits of their role, and they need to know what to do if they have concerns about an older person.

Several of the settings we visited told us they were struggling to recruit and retain volunteers. Changes to retirement law, as well as growing numbers of older people looking after grandchildren or caring for their partners or friends, means that fewer people have the time or flexibility needed to volunteer. On top of that, delays in DBS processes and burdensome training programmes were thought by volunteer coordinators and managers to put some people off of volunteering in the sector.

On Thursday 21 March 2019, in partnership with Voscur, we will host a workshop at the Southville Centre to present our findings from the ERVIC project and exchange ideas about the challenges and opportunities associated with working with volunteers in social care settings for older people.

This event is aimed at volunteer coordinators, commissioners of adult social care and providers and managers of social care organisations and will involve a Voscur-led workshop called Measuring the Value of Volunteering, plus discussions about how volunteers are contributing to social care, the challenges of involving volunteers and how best to work with volunteers.

If you’re connected to social care, volunteering or services for older people, or you’re just curious and would like to find out more, we hope to see you at the Southville Centre next month. Book your place for the workshop.

Winter months, loneliness and isolation amongst older men.

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Dr Paul Willis and Alex Vickery from the Centre for Research in Health and Social Care introduce findings from their recent project looking at older men at the margins.  

Watching the early February snow fall outside my office window is a beautiful sight but it can also be a stark reminder that snowfall in the UK means many things to different people – for some a frustrating barrier to their daily routine or journey, for others a (hopefully) opportune moment to enjoy time off from work or school. For some people who struggle with feelings of loneliness day-to-day and experience social isolation daily, adverse weather conditions in winter can be another reminder of their solitude and disconnection from others and present a further obstacle to leaving the home, both mentally and physically.

Loneliness is a natural and widely experienced emotional response to our desire for increased social contact with others and it’s something we all experience across our lifetime. Feeling lonely is an important social cue that tells us we need to reach out and connect with friends, family members or other people in our neighbourhood or local community. In a lot of cases these feelings are temporary and serve a short-term purpose in getting us socially mobilised. For some people however, loneliness can become an ongoing and persistent ache for other people’s company that is not easily alleviated. It is increasingly defined as a social problem requiring a healthcare and social policy response and, in the UK, this has recently accumulated in the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness and the release of a cross-departmental strategy on tackling loneliness by the UK Government.

Winter is often associated as a difficult time for people living with long-term loneliness and experiencing social isolation, with shorter days and longer nights and adverse weather conditions that undermine attempts to meet and connect with other individuals in person. National campaigning organisation Age UK runs an annual campaign, ‘No one should have no one’, to bring attention to seasons such as a winter and festivities like Christmas as particularly difficult times for older adults who may be socially isolated. Age UK estimates that currently around 1.4 million older people (50+) living in England are ‘often lonely’. We know that a greater percentage of older women report loneliness in comparison to older men in the UK but that men can also struggle with discussing and disclosing emotionally sensitive topics such as loneliness.

As part of a two-year research study on older men, social isolation and loneliness, we’ve been speaking to 111 men from different social groups and circumstances about the ways in which they experience loneliness and how they alleviate these feelings and keep it at bay. We’ve interviewed men (65-95 years) about their experiences from five different groups: older men who are single or living alone in rural and urban areas; older gay men who are single or living alone; older men with hearing loss; and, older men who are carers for significant others (such as family members, partners). The project is funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research to April 2019 and in collaboration with Age UK.

Across our interviews with different groups of older men, a common thread has been the challenges of combating loneliness during colder months, and winter and night times as being tough times to manage, particularly when on one’s own. The older men in our study talked of ‘winter blues’ that can make them feel particularly isolated and how with the dark nights and winter illnesses they can have trouble socialising and engaging in activities. Over half the men we interviewed lived alone which also complicated efforts to connect with others daily.

I suppose it’s the what, regrettably, is the long nights. We change the clock, the night comes in that much quicker, and daylight hours are shorter.
It gives the general feeling of claustrophobia, then.
[M83, 75, single/ living alone]

Sitting here, probably not feeling very well, which is when it hits, in the depths of the winter, when it’s dark. I’m doddering on my legs, and I have to be careful not to go out when it’s icy these days, because you don’t want to fall over and break your hip. That can be very serious. [M7, 72, single, gay]

For men who are caring for significant others such as partners or adult children, night times were difficult not because of the season but more as the first moment of the day they were alone and not in the company of the person they were routinely caring for. This could be experienced as a moment of necessary solitude but also a reminder of their isolation from others within the caring relationship.

Despite experiencing periods of loneliness, this does not mean these men were socially isolated from others. This is where it is important to recognise the difference between loneliness and social isolation. Most men we spoke to had regular contact with friends and family members in their social networks and all were connected to and participated in groups in their local community. Many men told us about how they valued contributing to and being actively involved in running groups and the importance of having a role and purpose which made them feel valued and regarded by others. With Age UK, we are currently in the process of developing good practice guidance for service providers on what men value about groups and some of the considerations that need to be given to running groups.

Tackling loneliness at any time of the year is the focus of many voluntary and third sector organisations. Bristol Ageing Better is one locally-based programme that is commissioning groups and interventions aimed to reducing loneliness and isolation for older people. The UK Men’s Shed Association is another initiative targeting the interests and needs of older men, with Sheds running across the UK. While the UK Government’s Strategy on Loneliness is a welcome policy response on this important issue, there remains further scope for tackling the wider, more complicated problem of social disconnection and the social distances older people, amongst other groups, experience between themselves and the wider communities in which they live.

Further information: Findings from the study, along with the practice guidance, will be launched on Monday 29th April 2019 at Age UK, Tavis House, London WC1H 9NA. To find out more about the launch event please contact alex.vickery@bristol.ac.uk

Funding disclaimer: ‘This blog summarises independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR SSCR, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.’

Assessment of Vulnerable Children and their Families – is there a ‘quick fix’?

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Dendy Platt, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies, discusses the challenges currently facing professionals involved in the assessment of the needs of children and the increasingly difficult environment in which they operate.

Children in need and child maltreatment can be emotive topics.  A constant question that lurks at the backs of the minds of those of us involved professionally with assessments of the needs of children, is that “someone, somewhere must know more about children and young people than I do”. And that whoever these experts are, they “must surely have the answers to the assessment dilemmas regarding the children I am working with”.

This nagging search for solutions becomes even more acute in the context of the years of austerity measures currently facing the range of services for children.  UK politicians will claim that overall spending on children’s services has gone up in recent years.  However, the greatest part of this increase has been absorbed into funding the growing numbers of children in the care system.  Yet at the same time, and probably contributing to increases in number of children in care, has been a hidden, but very serious decrease, estimated as a 60% spending reduction, in preventive services for children and young people in need (for example, youth services and children’s centres) . Alongside this wholesale withdrawal of support for children in need, child poverty rates have been increasing.  So, with fewer services and more children in need, it is unsurprising that numbers of children in care have been going up.

Whilst local authorities are trying to grapple with the vicious cycle created by this mismanagement of policy, it is also unsurprising that hard-pressed professionals working with children and families would like a ‘quick fix’.  Unfortunately, children and families are complex, and the magical short-cut to accurate decision-making has yet to be identified.  There are, however, some things that professionals might like to think about in this context:

  1. Maintaining a focus on the child is a long-standing principle. Time spent, on understanding the lived experience of the child you are assessing, can lead to better, more thoughtful decisions which save time in the long run.
  2. If you’re looking for a questionnaire or measurement scale, such tools can be helpful, but it is well accepted that they will only contribute to part of the picture. They must not be treated as providing final answers and should only ever be used in conjunction with good professional judgment.
  3. Using professional judgment means making space for thinking.
  4. Slowing down is all well and good in theory, but what if there is too much work? Overwork is a management problem, and ought not to be a problem for the individual professional.  “Some hope”, you might say.  Consider, however, that good, careful thinking and analysis lead to better decisions. And good decision-making means that those decisions stand the test of time.  Decisions that frequently have to be revisited, revised and revamped actually create additional work.

In the new edition of The Child’s World, which I recently co-edited with Jan Horwath, we cover the many different aspects of the assessment of vulnerable children, and professional judgement is a theme which we return to throughout.  It has been written with busy practitioners in mind so that they can dip in to the chapters and quickly access summary information on specific topics, such as Parents with Learning Difficulties, Child Sexual Exploitation, and assessing Family and Community Support.  Easily accessible information such as this can be a useful tool when there is little time for detailed background research.

Visit the JKP website to read an extract from the latest edition of The Child’s World.

The Child’s World launch conference is taking place on 18th March in York and has been designed as a collaborative learning event. Reduced conference fees for students and BASPCAN members are available and all participants will receive a free copy of The Child’s World (3rd edition).

The Cox Report and Westminster: Better justice for ALL those bullied

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Dr Lis Bates, Research Fellow within the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, responds to recommendations from the recent independent inquiry into harassment and bullying within Westminster.

In a blog post in April reflecting on the Newsnight exposure of a culture of bullying and harassment in the House of Commons, I asked:

“How can there be confidence in the system if those who are widely known to have transgressed are still allowed to get away scot-free? There needs to be proper investigation and justice for those who have already suffered. Recent criminal investigations have shown that, even in historic cases, perpetrators can and should be held to account for their actions. Should Parliament and the political parties not now do the same?”

The publication this week of Dame Laura Cox QC’s independent inquiry into Westminster culture has decisively answered: Yes, they should!

The recently-introduced Complaints and Grievance Scheme for parliament must be amended, she says, to allow complaints about ‘historical’ allegations. This would remove the arbitrary cut-off point of June 2017, before which allegations cannot currently be investigated because (the Commons leadership argued), to do so would be to judge Members under a different standards scheme to that in place at the time.

Not true, says Dame Laura: the standard was the same. That the complaints scheme governing that behaviour was deficient (as is widely agreed), does not mean that the minimum standard of behaviour was lower:

“There may not have been written policies in place expressly prohibiting such conduct, but it is obviously not the case that such conduct was acceptable among the Parliamentary Community in the past and will now be rendered unacceptable by the new Scheme.”

She goes further. Examining these older cases is vital to achieving culture change in Westminster and moving forward:

“some, at least, are extremely serious cases. Consigning them to oblivion is not at all consistent with restoring confidence, rebuilding trust and changing the culture. An important part of that culture change for the future should be examining, acknowledging and learning from the failures of the past.”

As well as this unequivocal recommendation that historic allegations be looked at, Cox calls for the establishment of a fully independent process to investigate and rule on claims of harassment and bullying.

Establishing independent oversight – and removing adjudication from the parliamentary Standards Committee, made up of MPs – is, she says, the only way to move beyond the perception and the reality that MPs are still ‘marking their own homework’.

She also is excoriating about the current parliamentary leadership, going so far as to say that she has doubts that change can happen while the current senior management are in post: “I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration”.

In April’s post, I wrote that what victims of bullying, harassment and abuse want in terms of justice is: to be listened to, the perpetrator to be held accountable, and to be given voice and choice in what happens.

I know this to be true both from personal conversations in the last year with a number of friends and former colleagues in the House, but also from the research we do here in the Centre for Gender and Violence Research with victims/survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.

The Cox report underlines again how crucial these aspects are in achieving justice. The 200 individuals (70% of them serving employees) who spoke to the inquiry told her that the most important elements were “being listened to and taken seriously, having choice and a voice in the decision-making about their case”.

So often we hear of victims/survivors of abuse, harassment and bullying being blamed, discredited and undermined – Christine Blasey Ford just being the latest in a long line.

Dame Laura has changed this narrative. She has done more than just allow them to speak – she has explicitly weighed and vindicated their accounts. Bringing to bear her many years’ experience in forensic examination, she explicitly finds those who came forward to be credible, consistent and considered:

“Throughout this inquiry I have been struck by the professionalism, care and thoughtfulness of those who contributed. These were not people set on revenge or out to malign either individuals or the reputation of the House itself. Those present or former members of staff who came forward care very deeply that the place regarded as the heart of our democracy is failing to live up to the standards to be expected of any 21st century workplace.”

Through this inquiry, Cox has raised these voices up – listened with respect and taken them seriously. Those who spoke with her can feel that their accounts and their voices meaningfully have been heard. Let’s hope that parliament can now do the same.

Lis Bates is an ESRC Research Fellow in the School for Policy Studies, and a former clerk in the House of Commons.

The hidden reality of sexual assault in Iran

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Atlas Torbati explores what sexual assault means in Iranian society and how discursive practices influence individuals’ perceptions and definitions towards sexual assault.

“Every time I go to the bazar I’m concerned about my outfit. I make sure that I wear something loose and conservative and not to wear too much make up”. Said Bahareh, 25, a student inTehran.

Sexual assault is a hidden phenomenon in Iran. There is hardly any academic research or official data or report on the number of victims and conviction rates. Media tries to avoid publishing reports and cases of sexual assault due to the strict censorship existed in Iranian society. Research into the prevalence of sexual assault is difficult for various reasons. Firstly, people avoid reporting such incidents to the police since they fear it jeopardises the honour and reputation of the family. Secondly, some forms of sexual assaults such as verbal abuse have become socially accepted to the extent that some women turn the blind eye towards it, resulting in an increase its acceptance and its frequency. Thirdly, in order to protect public morality, the government does not publish reports on sexual assault cases. Therefore, there are no official statistics on the number of reported incidents or related conviction rates.

On the other hand, the media and government try to relate sexual assault to women’s own behaviour and lack of observing cultural and religious norms and practices. In Iran, women are expected to conform with cultural and social norms such as wearing manteau – the medium-length light jacket and scarf,and are expected to be modest in order to protect the family honour. Therefore those who become the victims of sexual assault are blamed for lack of observance of these norms. Culturally any form of sexual assault, harm, or abuse to a woman’s reputation is considered disgraceful and shameful. This is due to the deep-rooted cultural and religious concept of honour and its related ethical values embedded in society.

Discourses such as shame and honour play a key role in the subservience of victims of violence. These discourses are entrenched in individuals’ everyday lives and preclude the victims of violence to talk about or report sexual assault since it is considered as a private matter and must be kept at home. The existence of such norms and practices results in ignoring the abuse and the creation of silence among the witnesses and the victims.

The term sexual assault does not exist in the Islamic Penal Law in Iran. The closest definitions to sexual assault are adultery (1) or physical assault (2). However, none of these definitions include sexual harassment or sexual verbal abuse. Also the notion of consent is missing in the later definition. The absence of a legal definition and the related guidelines have resulted in increasing the power of judges to use their personal view and their attitudes towards victims in determining the seriousness of sexual assault cases. The absence of a definition also has resulted in acts such as sexual groping, touching and sexual verbal abuse not being recognised as a form of sexual assault. The consequence of this inconsistency is that many women might be unsure whether the definitions would lead them to be qualified as a victim or not although it is against the public morality For instance, some women who participated in this study did not categorise themselves as victims and perceived groping, sexual touching and sexual verbal abuse as normal behaviours. The Islamic Penal Law does not therefore provide any protection for the victims of sexual assault. The paradoxical approach to sexual assault has resulted in repetition and hence normalisation of this form of violence.

Recently, sexual assault has been the focus of social workers, woman activists and Iranian filmmakers. Movies such as, ‘I am a mother’ and ‘Hush! Girls don’t scream’ have broken the taboo in Iranian film industry and showed the sensitivity and consequences of the subject. These movies that were produced and funded by the private sectors, mainly focused on issue of rape and the second one directed was about a girl who was continuously sexually assaulted by the security man in their residential building during her childhood. Therefore, more attention still needs to be paid to this issue through educating families and children, publishing the reports and cases in news papers and magazines, creating space in the media to break the stigma associated with sexual assault and holding public discussion where the victims can freely come and talk about their experience. Policy makers must provide high quality provision of counselling and advocacy and commit themselves to design the policies that promote gender equality and addressing shortfalls in criminal justice system. They must attempt to design a rigorous law that clearly defines what sexual assault is. The law must not only sanction discrimination by gender, but also must protect women instead of accusing them and define specific punishment for the perpetrators.

Atlas Torbati is currently studying for a PhD in Social Work at the School for Policy Studies.

 

[1] Adultery or ‘zena be onf va ekrah ‘ is defined as forcible male penile insertion into the female’s vagina or anus. If someone has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent and when she is drowsy, unconscious or drunk he is convicted of adultery and death penalty (Islamic Penal Law 2000)

[2] Verbal assault is defined as any verbal offence or indecent language towards women and children in public and a person who commits verbal assault in public is punished by three to six months of imprisonment or 74 lashes (Act 608, Islamic Penal Law 2000).

How far do faith communities facilitate justice for victims of domestic violence?

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Dr Natasha Mulvihill, a lecturer in Criminology and a researcher at the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, discussed the use of religious community mechanisms as a means of securing justice for victims of domestic violence.

For women (and men) who practice a faith, the imam, rabbi or priest may be among the first contacts in seeking support for domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Faith communities also have the power to annul a religious marriage or grant a religious divorce through religious tribunals, councils or courts. The experience of domestic abuse victims who use these religious mechanisms has received minimal academic attention in England and Wales.

The Justice Project

Since October 2015, members of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol, in partnership with University of the West of England (UWE), Cardiff University and Women’s Aid, have been working on an Economic and Social Research Council funded project looking at how ‘justice’ is understood, sought and experienced by victim-survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). Interviews were conducted with 251 victim-survivors and over 40 practitioners working to support them. The research team was particularly interested in exploring how different social identities and inequalities intersect with the perceptions and experiences of justice – including the influence of faith.

At the Justice Project findings conference at the University of Bristol on 15 May 2018, Dr Nadia Aghtaie, Dr Hilary Abrahams and I presented our respective analysis on how far Muslim Sharia Councils, the Jewish Battei Din and Catholic Matrimonial Tribunals afford ‘justice’ to victims of DVA. I highlight here some findings from interviews with Catholic practitioners, including Diocesan safeguarding officers, an NGO worker and a Canon Lawyer (Canon law is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the Catholic Church; it is not civilly binding in England and Wales).

Read more…

This article was first published on the LSE blog on 25 June 2018.

How transformed is care?

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Dr Sandra Dowling, a lecturer in Disability Studies at the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies discusses deinstitutionalisation in the context of the Transforming Care Policy programme.

People with learning disabilities are still, in some circumstances, leading institutionalised lives – the Transforming Care programme has a long way to go, and we must not forget those people with learning disabilities with the highest levels of ‘need’ who are experiencing the highest level of separation from an ordinary life. Recent decades have seen significant changes in the lives of people with learning disabilities in the UK. Once routinely institutionalised, distanced from home communities or their Right to a life like any other, people with learning disabilities were relegated to the shadows of the everyday and had limited opportunity to effect change. This article suggests these issues might still be affecting too many people with learning disabilities in 2018.

Advocacy and activism amongst people with learning disabilities and their allies has been a powerful force in altering the opportunities available to some people. To be respected, to be heard, to have choice and to really have the chance of a life like any other have been common demands. For many people these demands, these requests, have to some extent been realised. In the UK today some people with learning disabilities live in a home they have chosen, some have a job, some have regular contact with family and friends and some feel part of their community. Too many do not.

The challenge to realise the fundamental human rights of this section of the population is ongoing. The urgency of the challenge is very much determined by personal position. If you are a person with learning disabilities or indeed an ally, these challenges are of course urgent. Although recent policy does commit to a transformation in social care for people with learning disabilities, urgency to transform this to practice is not consistently apparent.
Major policy initiatives and legislation in recent years have produced a convincing rhetoric to support ideas of individual autonomy, inclusion and a role in decision making about important life matters. The Care Act 2014, for instance, details guidance for adult social care which, importantly, includes the principle of individual wellbeing. In practice wellbeing involves people having control of their day to day life, living in suitable accommodation and being able to contribute to society. It is a requirement of The Act that local authorities take people’s views, wishes and beliefs into consideration, and that their efforts support what people themselves want to achieve in their own lives.

The Transforming Care Policy Programme produced a raft of reports, guidance and policy following the shocking abuse of people with learning disabilities residing in Winterbourne View Assessment and Treatment Unit. The overall aim of Transforming Care has been about improving health and social care services to enable people to live in the community, to have good support and to be close to home. It aimed to address the high numbers of people with learning disabilities living for too long in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATU), often at a long distance from their families and without adequate discharge planning. However, since the scandal broke in 2011, and following a robust policy response, little has changed. The numbers of people in ATU settings has remained stubbornly high, provision of sufficient support in the community has not met need and discharge remains an elongated process for many.

Narratives of Home, a study funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research, conducted within the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies (NFCDS), has interviewed 18 people with learning disabilities and three parents of people discharged from Assessment and Treatment Units (ATU) during the lifetime of Transforming Care. This narrative study has collected people’s stories of resettlement in the community following their hospital stay. Of those interviewed, 12 were male and 6 were female. Time spent in ATU settings ranged from 4 – 20 years. The legacy of institutional living clearly impacted on their resettlement experiences.

The factors which are identified as important to individuals are just what you would expect. Security, choice, a valued social role, friendships, fun and the opportunity to take pleasure in things which are important to you. But what is different is that the people that we interviewed, even though living in the community, still often live within parameters defined by others. Some described their attempts to ‘get out’ of the ATU by ‘doing what the doctors said’ or ‘just do what you are told, keep your head down, get through all the programmes and hope for the best’. These experiences travelled beyond the walls of the ATU into their now ’independent’ lives in the community. In interview people checked with present support workers whether they were saying the ‘right thing’, or whether it was ‘ok to say this’. Some were so heavily medicated that they could not remain awake throughout the interview.

Choice and autonomy was found in things such as choosing how to decorate your home, or what to have for a meal. A deeper sense of independence of thought and action though, remained elusive for some. Institutionalisation, just as a hundred, or fifty or twenty years ago produces the same results. It dis-empowers individuals, depleting independence of thought and sense of self. A good life happens at a deeper level than what can be seen on the surface of community living. The need to address issues of identity and equality remain pertinent. Deinstitutionalisation remains a goal.

Motivating Miles: Reflections on why The Daily Mile might be tapping in to children’s natural motivation.

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Dr Simon Sebire, Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, reflects on the success of the physical activity initiative, The Daily Mile.

Ten days ago I had the pleasure of being involved in the launch of The Daily Mile in Guernsey. The Daily Mile has been taken on by most schools on the Island in the last 9 months and Thursday 24th June was a celebration of the work here to date. Elaine Wyllie, the founder of The Daily Mile and John, Elaine’s husband, were in Guernsey to support the launch. This included a tour of Daily Miles at various schools around the island, a celebration mile and lunch and a special mile for some pupils around the beautiful Government House (the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor, the Crown’s personal representative in the Bailiwick of Guernsey).

It was whilst walking the mile around the Government House grounds (being lapped by happy, rosy-cheeked children in the process) that Elaine and I began discussing how my research on people’s motivation for physical activity and developing interventions could help explain why children and schools in Guernsey and around the world seem so taken by The Daily mile phenomenon.

Elaine explained her take on this by beginning the following conversation:

Elaine: Think of a happy memory you had as a child, but don’t tell me what it is.

Me: (thinking…)

Elaine: Now tell me, were you inside or outside?

Me: Outside

Elaine: Were you on your own or with others?

Me: With others

Elaine: Were you in the supervision of adults?

Me: Sort of … at a distance

(By the way, my happy memory was of when I was 7 or 8, a hot summer day, building a sand boat with family and friends to sit in as the tide rose up Port Grat beach in Guernsey. I was outside, with other children and parents were involved sporadically, but letting us play freely.)

In identifying a happy memory, Elaine had just revealed some of the core principles of The Daily Mile. These include a focus on having fun, being non-competitive, being outside and in nature, connecting with other pupils/teachers, being a simple intervention, being fully inclusive and owned by the children (i.e., jog or run at their own pace).

These core principles chime with the fundamental elements of much of my research into physical activity motivation. Using a psychological framework called Self-Determination Theory (or SDT) I have studied the foundations of and outcomes linked with high quality motivation for physical activity in children and adults. According to this approach, a person’s motivation is deemed to be high quality when it is autonomous, in other words when motivation stems from the enjoyment of being active, the satisfaction one gets from being active (or doing a mile), a feeling that being active is in harmony with a person’s sense of who they are, or that being active brings them personally valued benefits (e.g., meeting pupils in other year groups or getting fitter). People have these kinds of motivation for being active when they experience SDT’s core principles; Autonomy, Belonging and Competence (A, B, C).

Autonomy: Feelings of volition, freedom, choice, ownership and empowerment

Belonging: Feeling strong connections with others, included, understood and respected

Competence: Feeling capable, able to master a skill or task.

Importantly, according to the theory, we need to experience the A, B and C in our daily lives, interactions and activities to have optimal well-being, development and functioning.

In a number of studies (referenced below) over the last 10 years or so, my colleagues and I have found evidence to support the idea that when children and adults feel that their A, B and C is satisfied when thinking about being active, they experience high quality, autonomous motivation and that this is linked with greater physical activity. Common to all of these studies is the finding that motivation based on enjoyment and/or personal value is linked to physical activity, whereas motivation based on guilt or external pressure (such as rewards, or demands from others) is not. Accordingly, we have designed a number of physical activity interventions for children and adolescents with the A, B and C of motivation in mind.

When viewing The Daily Mile through this motivational lens, it is possible to see how the intervention expresses the A, B and C:

Of course, my retro-fitting of SDT principles to The Daily Mile is just one lens through which to study its broad appeal and apparent motivating effect on pupils. However, it is entirely possible for interventions which grow from the ground up to align in many ways with what is known from behavioural or psychological sciences even if they did not set out to do this from the start. Aligning the core principles of The Daily Mile with a framework such as SDT’s A, B, C may also allow the intervention to stay faithful to its design as it is adopted and potentially adapted in schools around the world.

I would argue that unknowingly, when implemented in line with its core principles, The Daily Mile could be tapping in to a well-known, evidence based and positive source of motivation for physical activity. At its core The Daily Mile is simple. Perhaps it is as simple as A, B, C.

Dr Simon Sebire is Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity & Public Health in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. He is also Interim Chief Executive of The Health Improvement Commission for Guernsey and Alderney.

References

  1. Are parents’ motivations to exercise and intention to engage in regular family-based activity associated with both adult and child physical activity?
  2. Testing a self-determination theory model of children’s physical activity motivation: a cross-sectional study.
  3. Predicting objectively assessed physical activity from the content and regulation of exercise goals: evidence for a mediational model.
  4. Examining intrinsic versus extrinsic exercise goals: cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes.
  5. What motivates girls to take up exercise during adolescence? Learning from those who succeed.
  6. Does exercise motivation predict engagement in objectively assessed bouts of moderate-intensity exercise? A self-determination theory perspective.