Community care minister Stephen Ladyman was recently asked about
the importance of “Modern Methods of Construction” for builders of
Extra Care Housing Units. Ah, said Ladyman, recalling that these
guidelines came from the deputy prime minister’s office: “As health
minister, I don’t give a stuff about how they are built.” So much
for joined-up government then.

Food, glorious food. It seems that children’s social workers
have become overwhelmed by the spirit of Jamie Oliver’s school
dinners campaign. At the recent annual 4Children conference in
London, food analogies abounded ad nauseam. Children’s trusts were
described as “onion-shaped” by a Department for Education and
Skills official, while one children’s centre manager disagreed,
claiming his service “was more like a Toblerone”. While the
ubiquitous TV chef Oliver got a glowing mention, Association of
Directors of Social Services president Tony Hunter was entirely
swept away by the culinary theme and showed bemused delegates
pictures of soup and salad to illustrate the new children’s
services arrangements.

MPs are not famed for their ability to be down with the kids but
reassuringly at least one of those involved in debating the Drugs
Bill is brushing up on youth lingo. Labour MP Stephen Pound added
this valuable contribution during the second reading of the bill:
“I know little of magic mushrooms. To be honest, I thought they
were a cartoon invention. I did not realise that there were such
things as what my teenage son calls ‘shrooms’.”

Newly appointed children’s commissioner Al Aynsley-Green showed his
close affection for one of the greatest children’s comic heroes of
all time at the recent 4Children conference. He showed delegates a
picture of Dennis the Menace and Gnasher to illustrate his speech.
“Here’s Dennis, about to have an Asbo imposed on him,”
Aynsley-Green joked. “And while some people in the media describe
me as a ‘poodle,’ I would like to say that [pointing to Gnasher] is


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