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

The Bercow report: a review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs

J. Bercow


This report reviews services for children with speech, language and communication needs. Proposals include a national year of speech, language and communication, the provision of information on the subject for all parents, and the creation of a Communication Council to monitor and implement strategy. It recommends that all children should be monitored by local authorities and primary care trusts to identify potential speech, language and communication needs. It also proposes that speech, language and communication are prioritised by all children's centres, and that the government produces a joint framework for commissioners, including children's trust and schools, on the commissioning of specialist services. Finally, it recommends that speech, language and communication needs should be covered in all qualifications for the children's workforce.

(For summary and comment see Children and Young People Now, July 16th-22nd 2008, p. 14)

The best reward

M. Brown

Foster Care Magazine, issue 134, 2008, p. 10-13

Male foster carers say that they are either stereotyped as objects of suspicion and demonised as a potential risk to children, or treated as supporting partners in a foster family where the mother is the main carer. This means that the actual and potential contributions of men to foster care are overlooked.

Child care crisis as minders quit jobs

J. Bingham

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 21st 2008, p. 8

More than 8,000 child minders in England have quit over the past four years, a fall of more than 10%, according to figures released by Ofsted. Many blamed increased regulation and paperwork, low pay and changing lifestyles. There was no evidence that the introduction of the controversial Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum was to blame.

Children at risk of violence after failures by family courts

R. Bennett

The Times, Aug. 1st 2008, p. 5

The results of an Ofsted inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) which was set up by Tony Blair in 2001 suggests that the operation is failing children. Ofsted has found that Cafcass is prioritising public law cases such as adoption and that cases of residency and parental contact were subjected to long delays. It has been argued that these delays put children at greater risk of domestic violence and neglect.

Ethnic minority participation in an East Midlands Sure Start

M. Avis and S. Chaudhary

Community Practitioner, vol. 81, Aug. 2008, p. 28-31

This study was commissioned as part of the local evaluation of an inner city Sure Start programme in response to the staff's perception that take up of services among ethnic minority families was low. A sample of 34 ethnic minority parents, six Sure Start outreach workers, and four community workers in allied local agencies was interviewed in 2006. The interviews revealed an unexpected disparity between the views of the majority of the workers and those of local, Sure Start eligible parents. The workers felt that the main factor discouraging participation was too little emphasis on multiculturalism. However, parents focused on practical barriers, such as transport problems, concerns about age, and the perceived indiscipline of some Sure Start families. Parents generally saw their own culture as being compatible with Sure Start values. Most workers viewed minority communities as having homogeneous needs, while parents emphasised that there is no single 'black culture' and regarded ethnic identity as being highly fragmented.

Evaluating the early impact of integrated children's services: round one summary report

P. Lord and others

Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research, 2008

This research focused on 14 local authorities across the country and analysed the outcomes that integration produces for three vulnerable groups of children: looked-after children, children under 12 with autistic spectrum disorder, and children in key stage 3 with a record of over 20% absence from school. The research found that integrated care improved the emotional and physical well-being of these children. They appeared more confident and sociable and school attendance had increased. Parents also welcomed integrated care, gaining a greater awareness of local resources and knowing exactly where to go for help. However, the research also found that standards of integrated care varied across the country. In local authorities that were more confident in delivering integrated services, communication between all agencies was key to their success. It became clear that one of the main challenges was ensuring that staff worked collaboratively and shared responsibilities and resources. Problems were arising from lack of sign up from agencies such as schools and GP practices.

The final pieces

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, July 16th-22nd 2008, p. 20-21

Local authorities are entering the third and final stage of the ambitious programme to create 3,500 children's centres by 2010. Experts in the field offer advice on how to achieve a successful rollout.

Grand parenting: the growing influence of grandparents

A. Buchanan

ChildRight, issue 248, 2008, p.14-16

With changing families, increased life expectancy, growing numbers of dual worker households and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents now play an increasing role in their grandchildren's lives. This article reports the results of the first national study of young people's views on their relationships with their grandparents. Results showed that a grandparent's active involvement was significantly associated with better adjusted adolescents in all families and particularly in those from broken homes. The policy implications of these findings are considered.

Guidance, policy and practice and the health needs of young people leaving care

J. Goddard and S. Barrett

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.30, 2008, p. 31-47

During the past ten years, there has been a growing interest in the health needs of young people leaving care in England and Wales. As well as examining aspects of legislative and policy change with respect to the health needs of young care leavers, this article presents the results of a wide-ranging survey of the healthcare experiences of young people leaving care in one local authority in England. Survey participants wanted increased levels of support, more information, access to counselling, and more training and activities, seeing the general care leaving experience as the main issue, rather than healthcare as such.

Legal proceedings fall after reform

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, July 16th-22nd 2008, p. 13

Launched in April 2008, the Public Law Outline aimed to cut delays in care proceedings and encourage councils to explore alternatives to legal action. Court services and councils are already reporting a decrease in proceedings. There are concerns that this drop may be for financial reasons or because children's services professionals are struggling to adapt, rather than because councils are finding better alternatives.

Little known facts

P. Stephenson

Community Care, July 17th 2008, p. 16-17

A serious review has to be launched by the local authority to find out what went wrong whenever a child dies due to abuse or neglect. However full reports of findings are seldom released externally, and an executive summary, which includes recommendations for action, is usually all that is available outside the local authority concerned. This means that invaluable lessons for practice are not shared, which has led to calls for the full reports to be released.

Not so special relationship

S. Gillen

Community Care, July 10th 2008, p. 16-17

Special guardianship was introduced in 2005 to give carers more responsibility for foster children and to encourage stable relationships. However problems are emerging because local authorities are only obliged to remunerate special guardians who were formerly foster carers for two years after the order is granted. Some councils are now withdrawing support on the basis of a financial assessment as soon as they no longer have a legal duty to provide it, leaving special guardians struggling.

Number of 'inadequate' childminders doubles in a year, say inspectors

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 27th 2008, p. 8

The number of childminders ranked as 'inadequate' has doubled in the past year, a report has revealed. The percentage of those rated at this level has risen from three to six per cent in the past year. Overall, 5,500 childminders have failed their inspections over the past three years. The situation is worse in the most deprived areas and key areas of failure were the ability to spot child protection concerns and to follow up on concerns if they were identified. In addition, many childminders did not have the basic training to effectively deliver first aid to children.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 27th 2008, p. 4)

Nurseries baffled by cost analysis

H. Gilbert

Children and Young People Now, July 23rd-29th 2008, p. 11

Since April 2006, three- and four-year-olds in England have been entitled to free early years education. However, 70% of private nurseries say that they are making a loss by providing free entitlement sessions. Local authority efforts to identify shortfalls in funding are confusing nurseries. Some have found the process so complicated that they have given up on taking part in it.

Peer mentoring: a shared vision for the future

J. Quinn

ChildRight, issue 248, 2008, p. 28-29

Until recently, anti-bullying policies and initiatives have tended to be reactive, designed to stop bullying behaviour when it occurs within an adult supervised setting, and to punish the bully. Such interventions are not curative. This article introduces an alternative approach developed by Beatbullying which involves changing behaviour through the application of rigorous peer to peer mentoring in schools.

Police to use child database to trace criminals

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 26th 2008, p. 1

The ContactPoint database will include the names, ages and addresses of 11 million children under 18 in England as well as information on their parents, GPs and support services such as social workers. The system was developed after the death of Victoria Climbié to improve information sharing among professionals involved in helping children. However it has emerged that police officers, council staff and others will search the records for evidence of criminality to help them prosecute those on the database.

Sparing the stigma: word 'obese' is too hurtful for parents

N. Hawkes

The Times, Aug. 5th 2008, p.16

Primary Care Trusts have been provided with instructions about how to communicate to parents information about their child's weight. The instructions, issued by the Department of Health (DoH), avoid the use of the word 'obese' to refer to dangerously overweight children amid concern that the stigma attached to the word will incite fear rather than a practical response to dealing with the problem. The DoH has been criticised by the Child Growth Foundation for being 'prissy' and by the Liberal Democrats for 'pussy-footing' around the issue.

(See also The Independent, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 7; The Guardian, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 4)

Still learning to walk

A. Taylor

Community Care, July 3rd 2008, p. 18-19

The Department for Children, Schools and Families was established in June 2007 to co-ordinate all aspects of child welfare policy, including youth justice and services to disabled children. The Department's performance in its first year and its emphasis on promoting the holistic wellbeing of children have been widely praised by campaigners.

Supporting informal kinship care

H. Saunders and J. Selwyn

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 32, no.2, 2008, p. 31-42

The Family Rights Group estimates that there are over 200,000 households where kinship carers (usually grandparents) are informally looking after children who cannot live with their parents. In the London Borough of Greenwich, this hidden population of 'children in need' has been targeted for extra support by a Kinship Care Team, which aims to enable children to remain within their family network and to reduce the risk of their entering public care. The authors report on their evaluation of this initiative.

Ups and downs at Cafcass

A. Taylor

Community Care, July 24th 2008, p. 16-17

More generous government funding for 2008-11 is enabling the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to improve its private law work. Improved risk assessments, case plans, case recording and direct work with children in private law are planned. It will also focus more on dispute resolution work, aiming to help families resolve conflicts at an early stage and come to an agreement which can be rubber stamped by the court. Cafcass has also introduced structural changes which it is hoped will bring about service improvements.

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