Sunday, 2 November 2014

System Failures....

“Why Won’t People Adopt Siblings?” asks the Sky News article for the start of National Adoption Week. However, sometimes it’s the system that fails not the lack of prospective adoptive parents.

In 2006 my husband and I started our journey to become adoptive parents.  We decided we would like to adopt not only older children but siblings. We felt with our age and experiences we would be more suited to dealing with the issues around older children.  We also thought our lifestyle would better suit two or more children. 

The adoption process is painfully slow.  We made enquiries in October 2006.  It was March 2007 before we had our first appointment with a Social Worker.  July 2007 the application process started and in February 2008 we sat outside a council office waiting for the decision as to whether or not we would be allowed to adopt.  After a long wait the chairwoman of the adoption board came to see us and said our application was approved.

A few weeks after our approval a social worker daughter of some friends, said she knew of some children waiting to be adopted and she thought we would be a perfect match for the kids.  But she had encountered a problem – we weren’t showing on the list of approved adopters for siblings.

We contacted our Social Worker who said to be patient as we had our approval and the system just needed to be updated with our details.  The administrator had been sick and it could be a couple of weeks before she was up to date with her workload and we appeared on the system.

A few more weeks went by and we still weren’t on the system.  We contacted our Social Worker again and asked her to investigate.  This time she came back and said there was a mistake and we had not been approved to adopt siblings.  We were stunned.  For over 2 months we believed we had been approved as adoptive parents for siblings and we hadn’t.  Nobody knew why we had been declined.  As far as everyone was concerned we were approved it was just the written decision from the adoption board didn’t match the verbal confirmation they had given us.  We asked about appealing the decision and were informed there was nothing we could do.  We had to accept the decision.
I can’t help wondering how many other prospective parents have come forward to adopt siblings and encountered similar system failures.

We seem to have a system that fails not only the children waiting to be adopted but also the prospective parents.  It’s a system that has for too many years been admonished regularly by politicians but yet still fails to deliver the standard of service everyone needs or deserves.

As publicity starts for National Adoption Week my hope is that we get a system that works well for all concerned especially the venerable kids who just need a loving home.  My husband and I may not have been approved to adopt siblings but we were approved to adopt a child.  We now have a beautiful daughter who has been with us for six years.



Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Successful or Not.....

Victoria Beckham is a woman I admire. 

She worked hard and become a famous singer.  Not only famous but part of one of the most successful girl groups in history – The Spice Girls.  Victoria Beckham married David a very famous footballer.  They have a marriage that has survived for 15 years which is very unusual for famous couples.   Mrs Beckham changed careers and became an award winning fashion designer with an estimated £30 million business fashion empire and a couple of weeks ago opened her first store in London. Only last week she was made a special ambassador for the UNAIDS.  I think you can call Victoria Beckham successful.

Now let’s look at a woman I know who is 55 years old.  Her body is riddled with arthritis and she struggles with everyday activities.  Her doctors tell her she should be in a wheelchair but she refuses to use it or even a walking stick.  Instead, she pushes herself to live as normal a life as she can with daily walks and an exercise regime.  How many people would call her successful? 

The sad truth is not many. Yet this woman is very successful in her own right.

The dictionary states the definition of success is achievement.  The 55 year old has a goal to continue walking unaided as long as she possibly can.  Everyday she manages to walk is a day of achievement or success.  So why don’t we recognise this and call her successful?

Have we become so conditioned in society or blasé that we only recognise success if fame and wealth comes with it?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back. Look at all the successes around us and give genuine praise where praise is due.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Being A Landlord

Being a landlord is easy if you know the rules and regulations.  Twenty years ago if you owned a rental property it was simple to let it.  The landlord checked the roof didn’t leak, that it had four solid walls and a floor, set the rent level and found a tenant for life.  Then sat back and watched the money roll in but today the world of the landlord is changing.  Successive UK and EU governments have introduced so much legislation the landlord doesn’t know from one day to the next if the let on his property is legal or illegal.  Fines can be hefty.  Prison is a possibility.  Landlords can even lose the right to evict a tenant.  Here we look at some of the important legislation a landlord needs to comply with

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) – before any property can be advertised for rent it must have an EPC report.  The report must be shown in full to the prospective tenants before they make a decision about the property.  Fixed penalties of £200 are applied if the landlord fails to obtain one.

Gas Safety Certificates – All properties must have a current gas safety certificate which has to be updated every 12 months.  The Health and Safety Executive are able to prosecute or imprison any landlord found not having a valid certificate. 

Information Commissioners Office (ICO) – it seems reasonable enough that the landlord will want to know as much as possible about the person they will be letting the property to.  They will want to be sure the prospective tenant can afford to rent the property, will look after it and does not have a poor credit history.  But did you know as soon as the landlord starts asking this information under the data protection act they need to be registered with the ICO.  Fines can vary from 3000 euros to 500,000 euros for breaches of the data protection act.

Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) – if a landlord has a property that is classed as an HMO they will need to be licensed with the local council to be able to let the property.  Each council has it’s own licensing requirements and fees. Failure to register with the council can result in prosecution and fines up to £20,000.  If more people than the license approves live in the property another £20,000 fine, a further £5,000 fine for each breach of the license and the right to evict the tenant.  The landlord could also have to repay any rent collected.

Landlord Accreditation – many councils in the UK require the landlord to be accredited if they want to rent a property.  Accreditation is a test that ensures the landlord is up to date with current rules and regulations and continues to keep themselves up to date through continuous learning.  In Wales landlords are required to attend a one day seminar and pass a test.  In England accreditation depends on the local council.  Landlord Associations also run their own accreditation schemes.

Health and Safety – every property needs to be assessed to ensure it complies with Health and Safety rules.  This is an assessment the landlord can do themselves.  It ensures tenants cannot come to any harm while they occupy the property.  Follow up checks should be done to ensure the tenant does not cause any potential harm while renting the property.

Green Deal – with effect from October 2012 (in England) and January 2013 (in Wales) landlords need to demonstrate they are continually improving the energy efficiency of the property they are letting.  Green Deal is a scheme aimed at helping landlords fund improvements to their properties.  From 2014 any property with an energy efficiency report of G will no longer be allowed to be let.  The plan is that over the coming years only properties with a rating of A to D will be able to be let.

The world of the landlord is continually changing.  Keeping up to date with current legislation has never been more important.  But, if you know your rules and regulations letting a property in the UK is easy.