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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2008): Child welfare - UK

Best laid plans

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Feb. 1st-7th 2008, p. 18-21

The new Department for Children, Schools and Families has been given the task of bringing together school-age education and children's social policy. This article critically appraises its policy Bible: the ten-year Children's Plan. It finds a tension in the Plan between two competing policy approaches: the 'standards agenda', which aims to improve academic results for all, and 'the children's agenda', which aims to improve the general well-being of the poorest, partly by turning schools into centres for social services.

Big hearts and business meetings

K. Hilpern

Foster Care, issue 132, 2008, p. 10-13

Fostering has moved from being a charitable act to being a highly specialised and demanding role within the children's workforce, while seeking to retain its core generosity of spirit. This article explores the dilemmas that professionalisation brings to foster carers in terms of status, training, authority and payments.

The child in mind: child protection handbook. 3rd ed.

J. Barker and D. Hodes

London: Routledge, 2007

All public sector workers in contact with children and families, both in health care and allied services, need access to clearly written information about what to do if they are concerned about the safety and welfare of a child. Ensuring the safety and promoting the welfare of children who are at risk of harm is not an easy undertaking. It is sometimes difficult to assess the significance of information about a child, to gauge its seriousness or decide what to do next. This book aims to help health service workers negotiate the complexities of child protection practice, with the aim of preventing abuse and neglect and protecting children from further harm once it has occurred. The book covers all the key aspects of abuse, including: risk assessment, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, the child protection conference and the legal framework.

Childhood: services and provision for children

P. Jones and others (editors)

Harlow: Pearson Education, 2008

The book provides an important contribution to the field of childhood and youth studies. It offers, within a critical framework, a discussion of a broad range of services, ideas and themes, and debates the impact of these on children's lives. The book takes a multi-disciplinary perspective, reflecting the wide-ranging experience and backgrounds of the authors and contributors. It contains a wealth of real case study material and reflective activities within each chapter which help to develop the evaluative tools and critical skills essential for an understanding of the complex social, political and environmental issues surrounding childhood today.

Childhood wellbeing: qualitative research study

Counterpoint Research

Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008 (Research report: DCSF-RW031)

This research surveyed parents and children in an attempt to discover what they believed to be the key issues undermining childhood happiness in 21st century Britain. Major factors identified include:

  • Political correctness gone mad, which is damaging education and destroying the identity of English pupils. The 'all must have prizes' mentality is leading to talented children not being stretched or encouraged.
  • An obsession with health and safety, which is undermining competitive sports in schools
  • Limited opportunities for quality family time because both parents are working to give their children a better standard of living
  • Adverse effects of the modern cult of celebrity, especially on girls
  • Growing materialism

Children, family responsibilities and the state

C. Lind and H. Keating (editors)

Journal of Law and Society, vol. 35, 2008, p. 1-187

This special issue explores the way in which the state polices, and ought to police, families failing in their responsibilities. The articles consider some of the swiftly developing government policy in this area and reflect on increasing social science research and growing legal system involvement in the problem of failing families. Subjects covered range from the state's attempts to foster responsible parenting, by training parents and punishing them and their children for the latter's anti-social behaviour, to its enthusiasm for creating frameworks for better substitute parenting through fostering and adoption.

The Children's Plan

Department for Children, Schools and Families

London: 2007

This plan consolidates previous education and health guidance and policies for England. Largely centering on education, it includes themes of play, development, disabilities, inequalities, health and behaviour. It is a ten-year plan with five overarching aims:

  • Supporting parents in bringing up their children
  • Enabling all children to achieve their potential, particularly with regard to academic attainment
  • Providing children with a stimulating and enjoyable childhood to prepare them for adult life
  • Designing all services around the needs of the child, and withdrawing professional barriers in order to enable seamless partnership working
  • Preventing crises rather than dealing with them once they have happened.

Developing responsive preventative practices: key messages from families' experiences of the Children's Fund

K. Pinnock and R. Evans

Children and Society, vol. 22, 2008, p. 86-98

The Children's Fund was launched in 2000 with the aim of supporting multi-agency collaboration in the development of preventative services for children at risk of social exclusion in England. Local programmes were planned and managed by partnership boards consisting of representatives of statutory, voluntary and community organisations. This article discusses children's and families' experiences of Children's Fund preventative services based on qualitative research in 16 case study partnerships. It identifies key responses and practices valued by children and parents. These include: specialist support tailored to individual needs; family-oriented approaches; trusting relationships with service providers; multi-agency approaches and sustainability of services.

Every Child Matters? A critical review of child welfare reforms in the context of minority ethnic children and families

A. Chand

Child Abuse Review, vol. 17, 2008, p.6-22

This paper critically reviews some key government documents which provide the foundation for child welfare reforms in England and Wales, including support and preventative services for children and their families. The author sought to evaluate whether these documents made sufficient reference to improving policies and practices for minority ethnic families involved in the child welfare system, given research evidence from the 1990s suggesting that such families may experience disadvantages and discrimination when accessing services. The paper concludes that more needs to be done under the Every Child Matters agenda to both acknowledge and address the needs of minority ethnic children and their families.

The expectations of families and patterns of participation in a Trailblazer Sure Start

M. Northrop, G. Pittam and W. Caan

Community Practitioner, vol. 81, Feb. 2008, p. 24-28

This case study evaluates the impact of an innovative Sure Start programme in the East of England. The evaluation addressed the expectations of parents for themselves and their children, and the extent to which Sure Start contributed to their achievement. An exploration of the utilisation of services over time and consumer engagement with services showed that the programme became more effective at engaging families. The role of community practitioners in the promotion of Sure Start became apparent. Certain entry points, such as a home visit by a health visitor, were associated with more contacts, and more sustained pathways through the programme. Families that were actively engaged with Sure Start identified a range of benefits, especially greater social inclusion

Forced to leave home at 18

M. Hunter

Community Care, Feb. 21st 2008, p. 18-19

Under current legislation, local authority fostering services are not required to provide placements for young people in care beyond the age of 16. The Children and Young Persons Bill, currently before the House of Lords, proposes raising the cut-off age to 18. Many foster carers feel let down by this, as the government had promised in its Care Matters green paper to provide for young people to stay with foster carers until they were 21.

Hand of big business casts a shadow

S. Gillen

Community Care, Feb. 7th 2008, p. 16-18

Private equity companies have invested heavily in residential childcare provision and are now targeting fostering agencies. There is anecdotal evidence that quality of care is being adversely affected by their focus on meeting targets and maximising profits. Pinpointing exactly what works in social care is not straightforward. Managers with no sophisticated understanding of social care who are struggling to meet stringent financial targets may unwittingly make cuts which have disastrous consequences.

How well are they doing?


London: 2008

Based on a survey of 30 centres and 32 schools, the report concludes that children's centres and extended schools are serving families well but are doing too little to attract hard-to-reach groups such as fathers, ethnic minority families and those who live beyond the school's immediate neighbourhood. Few centres and schools are measuring the impact of their services systematically.

The national evaluation of Sure Start: does area-based early intervention work?

J. Belsky, J. Barnes and E. Melhuish (editors)

Bristol: Policy Press, 2007

Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) was a major strategic effort by New Labour towards ending child poverty. By changing the way services were delivered to children under four and their families, through targeting and empowering highly-deprived small geographic areas, SSLPs were intended to enhance child, family and community functioning. Following 5 years of research exploring the efficacy and impact of this experiment, the book pulls together the results of the extensive National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS). The book reviews the history of policies pertaining to child health and wellbeing which preceded and set the stage for Sure Start. It provides insights into how SSLPs were expected to function and how they actually operated, in terms of their strengths, weaknesses and costs.

One year on: perceptions of the lasting benefits of involvement in a parenting support programme

M.S. Zeedyk, I. Werritty and C. Riach

Children and Society, vol. 22, 2008, p. 99-111

The availability of parenting support programmes has increased significantly in the UK over the past two decades. However, most evaluations of these programmes have focused on short-term outcomes. This study attempted to gain a longer term perspective by interviewing parents who had completed a programme at least one year previously. It relates to the PALS (Parents Altogether Lending Support) programme which was introduced in Dundee in 1998. This programme involves parents meeting weekly in small discussion groups in local venues to work through a six-week course in which all participants begin by identifying their existing strengths as parents and go on to create action plans for facilitating change in their children's behaviour. The results show three main outcomes:

  1. the majority of participants felt they had been successful in maintaining skills that helped them to manage their children's behaviour
  2. their involvement in PALS had improved their support networks
  3. they strongly endorsed the provision of parenting programmes in meeting the needs of families and communities.

Space-oriented children's policy: creating child-friendly communities to improve children's well-being

T. Gill

Children and Society, vol. 22, 2008, p. 136-142

Children today in the UK spend much more time than previous generations under direct adult supervision and have less contact with people and places beyond their immediate family and school. It is likely that this change is having a negative impact on children's physical health, resilience and self-efficacy. This paper explores possible styles of public policy response, and argues that a space-oriented approach to creating communities where children can safely play out of doors unsupervised is needed.

Special guardianship: a missed opportunity: findings from research

A. Hall

Family Law, Vol. ????, Feb. 2008, p. 148-152

Special guardianship orders were introduced by the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to expand the range of options for permanency for children who cannot live with their birth parents. This paper presents the first known research findings on the implementation and special guardianship, and considers the extent to which it has fulfilled its potential. Special guardianship offers opportunities at two levels: first to meet the government's aims of reducing the number of children in care, and secondly, to reconsider traditional approaches to permanence planning. The findings suggest that so far both opportunities have been missed. Of the government's stated aims for special guardianship, the only one clearly met is its use by kinship carers. There is no evidence that special guardianship orders are being used for older children, asylum seeking children, or for religious/cultural reasons.

Sure Start plan 'failing to meet targets'

S. Womack

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 5th 2008, p. 16

Reports that a study of the impact of Sure Start has failed to find positive effects for families and children in more than five of 14 areas. The failed areas were: children's language development, negative social behaviour, fathers' involvement, maternal smoking, mothers' life satisfaction, maternal weight, and how a mother rated her area. Researchers looked at programme impact on more than 9,000 three-year-olds who were initially studied when the children were nine months old.

Welfare, law and managerialism: inter-discursivity and inter-professional practice in child care social work

J. Dickens

Journal of Social Work, vol. 8, 2008, p. 45-64

The study on which this article is based set out to explore the relationship between welfare and law, and its working-out in practice, by investigating the interaction between local authority social workers and lawyers in child care work in England. As the research progressed, it became clear that the role of the social services manager was crucial in shaping the social worker-lawyer relationship, reflecting the rise of managerialism. Welfare, law and managerialism co-exist in a state of 'uneasy interdependence'. The three discourses complement and challenge one another, coincide and contradict, in unstable configurations.

Working with unaccompanied asylum seeking children: issues for policy and practice

R. K. S. Kohli and F. Mitchell

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

The book explores the challenges and possibilities of working with asylum seeking children and young people, covering the different aspects of resettlement, and development and sustainability of good standards of practice. Drawing on personal accounts and other narratives of forced migration, the book considers:

  • How current UK policy and legal frameworks can work best for children experiencing forced migration
  • Resettlement as a political, legal and personal goal
  • A range of effective interventions, including group work, kinship care, foster care and the use of interpreters
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