Ascension : Social Work Visit December 2010 Submitted by The Islander (Ascension Island Government) 04.08.2011 (Article Archived on 18.08.2011)
(The following article was prepared by Fay Howe after her visit to Ascension in December 2010. Fay recently visited the island in July for two weeks.)
ASCENSION ISLAND GOVERNMENT
Social Work Visit December 2010
(The following article was prepared by Fay Howe after her visit to Ascension in December 2010.Fay recently visited the island in July for two weeks.)
I have been social work manager/trainer based on St Helena for fourteen months.As part of my terms of reference, I visit Ascension Island twice a year with a remit to support the community and other professionals as required.This support includes training, developing policies and direct work with families.On this my third visit to Ascension in November/December I spent some time finalising a draft Children’s Welfare Ordinance which it is anticipated will be ready to be discussed by the Island Council when they are elected next year.
Ascension, as a very different island community to St Helena, does not have the same social problems as its sister island.As I commented in an article that I wrote in my last visit here in June, the children living on Ascension have a relaxed lifestyle in which there is relative safety for outdoor pursuits and a climate which is conducive to the same.The number of welfare issues is significantly less than on St Helena (and substantially less than in the UK) but that does not mean that we should be complacent about the health and safety of the children living here.One of the issues which continue to be raised is that of children being in clubs after ten at night.From talking to various people; parents, teachers, police, health etc it is clear that this is an area on which there is a division of opinion.
On the one hand there are those who believe that taking children and young people to bars and clubs is not a problem and that as the parents are also there, then this is an acceptable practice and not dissimilar to that which is practiced in some other countries of the world (though late nights for children usually goes hand in hand with the custom of an afternoon sleep or “siesta” ensuring that they get enough rest overall).However it is not such common practice in either St Helena or the UK which is why some parents have concerns about it being accepted as part of the culture here and are objecting to it.
From a child development point of view it is obviously good practice to get children into a regular routine, which includes a habitual bed time.If the normal bed time is disrupted by weekly, or more, late nights (i.e. beyond ) then this is likely to have an adverse effect on this routine resulting in children being tired at school.In the past teachers have commented that they believed that some children were being affected in this way and that this was having a negative impact on their school studies – a tired child simply cannot learn and can fall behind other children. Most practitioners advise that school age children should get 10 hours of sleep a night; lack of sleep is cumulative so the effects become magnified with every night a child has less than the optimum amount of sleep. Adults know they can survive one night of broken sleep but after a 2 or 3 days their ability to work properly is severely effected.
An occasional late night for a special family event is, of course, acceptable, and indeed important that the child takes part, but a weekly late night out until one and two in the morning is more likely to be for the convenience of the parents rather than for the benefit of the child.On St Helena if parents are wanting a night out then there is a tendency to do this on their own or if children are with them then it is only for the early part of the evening.I suppose it is easier on St Helena to find someone to look after the children, because of extended family nearby.However it must be possible on Ascension to find suitable people who would be willing to babysit if parents want to stay out until the early hours. For example, I know a number of families have developed a babysitting circle where parents ‘trade’ babysitting duties amongst the group.
There are several potential concerns if children (and I’m referring to any child from a young baby in a pram right through to a sixteen year old) are in premises where alcohol is being served until the early hours. Some of these are listed below.
Young children becoming tired and needing their beds; children’s behaviour is often affected by their levels of tiredness
Babies or toddlers being left alone to sleep in a car whilst their parents are in the club, which could mean that if the baby wakes up it can become unnecessarily stressed if its parents are not near at hand to hear what is happening
Adults are more likely to be inebriated later in the evening and it is a poor role model for children and teenagers to witness drunken behaviour first hand
Inebriated adults may be less in control of their emotions and there is a potential for fights or aggressive arguments to break out which would not be acceptable for children to witness.
The consumption of alcohol lessens inhibitions and therefore teenage girls are at more risk of possible sexual exploitation from men who are in the clubs and bars in the early hours of the morning and who presumably have been drinking for several hours
Even if a parent/carer has taken their child/teenager to the bar or club, it is not possible to keep close supervision on that person all night and there are dark areas around the clubs which are potentially dangerous to young girls in particular.
Loud music such as that which is played in the clubs is hazardous to young people and can permanently damage their hearing in later life.
Parenting is a very personal process but most parents would agree that taking a child to a bar or club beyond , apart from an exceptional occasion, is not good practice.My concern that those who will disagree with this are those who want to enjoy themselves without the responsibilities of finding a babysitter, or parents who are not able to argue with their children who want the freedom of staying out until the early hours of the morning.
And I know that this could be controversial, but I thought it was worth raising the issue in the newspaper, as it has been a consistent bone of contention on each of my visits here.I know it is of concern to others on the island, for example I know the Headteacher has stated that he will follow up with families where children are not in a fit state to be in school through tiredness.I would welcome if those of you who have strong views on this matter, both for and against children being in clubs and bars after 10pm would contact me either through an open letter to the newspaper, or if you prefer via the Administrator’s Office, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, as I think that more debate can only be beneficial in our ultimate aim of safeguarding children here on Ascension Island.
Social Work Manager
(Note: If parents are interested in the details of the current babysitting circle please contact the school, tel. 4432, and they will pass on the details.)