Ann Potter and Ian Coutts – Sense and sensibility?

Event Date: Friday 5 November 2010, 9.30am – 5pm,

Sandra Burslem Building, Manchester Metropolitan University,

Manchester M15 6BH


Childhood and violence: international and comparative perspectives

Seminar 3: Aesthetics, ethics, politics: representations of violence against children

This seminar looks at violence and the visual in relation to childhood. It explores the different ways in which non-governmental organisations, the media and anti-war campaigns represent childhood suffering in the context of violence and how these representations intersect with discourses on childhood innocence to prevent the circulation of particular images of violence. It brings contemporary debate about the aestheticisation of suffering and the ethics and politics of representing “the body in pain” to the study of childhood.

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Ann Potter and Ian CouttsSense and sensibility?

Ann Potter works for Barnardo‟s as a Safeguarding Consultant. Ian Coutts is a Family Court Advisor with Cafcass.

Barnardo‟s provides assistance to children and young people who are dealing with a constellation of adversities. The organisation‟s origins lie in residential provision: rescuing children from the „unacceptable‟ conditions in which they lived. More recently the emphasis has shifted to working with and building the resilience of children within their families and communities. Within this context Barnardo‟s relies on the media to,

raise the profile of its work, attract support both financial and through volunteering, influence public perceptions and attitudes, assist in its campaign for changes in social policy agendas.

“Cafcass” stands for “Children and Families Court Advisory Service and Support”. Family Court Advisors see children and their parents in public and private law proceedings and advise courts on an appropriate course of action. Courts cannot usually remove children unless there is reason to believe that they either have been significantly harmed, or are at significant risk of harm, physically, developmentally or emotionally. In a considerable proportion of public law proceedings, domestic violence is a feature. This is also true of private law proceedings, where the dispute is between parents and where Cafcass is involved. We may be the first to uncover that significant harm is also occurring.

The removal of children from their parents, when this occurs, is itself a draconian act.

The identity of children and their parents involved, whether in public or private proceedings, has historically been protected. For example, unlike criminal matters and most other civil cases, the names of the parties are not publicly available in the court listings. Even though the reporting rules in family law proceedings have been relaxed it is not normally possible for the names, photographs or any identifying details to be published. Cafcass, Children‟s Services and Adoption Agencies are all mandated and take care to avoid divulging the names and details of the children and young people they are seeing unless it is directly to do with their welfare. This protects the children and young people‟s identities.

However, it makes it harder for Cafcass, for example, to publicise positively the work it does on behalf of children and young people and their needs, partly because the media like to have named examples and partly because even giving details about unnamed children can lead unwittingly to the identity of the child becoming known or revealed. We do not need to attract funds for our work but it might benefit children generally if our work was able to be more transparent and recognized.

The paper will explore the challenges inherent in taking both these agendas forward. It will invite scrutiny of the level to which the media is able to truly attend to the lived experiences of children and young people, or whether its representations of children and family are differentially driven: whether some children are perceived as more deserving than others, and to what extent the actual violence that is done to somechildren is seen to offend sensibilities and attack toleration levels. A composite case study will be used to illustrate some of the contradictions.

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talk:

*note: ‘Ian Coutts’  contribution could not be recorded for legal reasons

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questions:

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accompanying images:

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