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

50 injuries, 60 visits - failures that led to the death of Baby P

D. Campbell, S. Jones and D. Brindle

The Guardian, Nov. 12th 2008, p. 1, 4 &5

Government ministers have ordered an urgent nationwide review of child protection procedures following the death of seventeen month old 'Baby P' at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and another man. The case echoes that of Victoria Climbié, who was killed in the same London borough, Haringey, eight years ago, and whose death prompted reforms to child welfare. Baby P suffered more than 50 injuries during an eight month period in which he was seen 60 times by social and health workers, including a visit from a paediatrician who allegedly failed to spot that the boy had a broken back two days before he died.

(See also The Independent, Nov. 12th 2008, p. 6 & 7, The Independent, Nov. 12th 2008, p. 12 & 13; The Times, Nov. 12th 2008, p. 1, 6 & 7, The Times, Nov. 13th, 2008 p.10)

Antidote to the no ball games culture.

R. Watson

Children & Young People Now, Nov 6th-12th 2008,p.15

The signs saying 'play priority area' that are being used to fight back against the 'no ball games' culture that is hampering children's play is the start of a cultural revolution. The signs are not a quick fix solution, as changing the 'no ball games' culture will take a fair bit of training and a shift in perception but they are a starting point.

Are we there yet? Improving governance and resource management in children's trusts

Audit Commission


Report found considerable local uncertainty over what trusts are required by law to do. More than a third of directors of children's services said that trust partners were unclear about the functions of local arrangements. The report claims that central government is partly to blame because evolving policy has spawned inconsistent guidance. Consequently, children's trusts have neither improved outcomes for children and young people nor delivered better value for money for children's services. The report also found that many representatives on children's trust boards lack power to commit their organisation's resources and that reporting back decisions to partners is rarely systematic.

Care leavers special report

J. Lepper and B. Willis

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 30th - Nov. 5th 2008, p. 17-19

A survey by consultants QA Research has shown that care leavers are still not getting the support that they need with housing, money management, employment and education, parenting and substance abuse. Young care leavers crave normality, but are given little or no freedom to make choices about where to live or whether or not to claim benefits.

Caring for children with complex needs in the community

J. Teare (editor)

Oxford: Blackwell, 2008

The book provides an overview of the key factors relating to caring for children with complex and continuing care needs. Despite its frequent and increasing use, complex care needs is a term without an agreed definition. This shortfall of knowledge is addressed in this book through critical discussion of evidence-based research and current health, social and education policy. It brings together the latest knowledge into one text providing practitioners with the crucial information needed when working with this diverse and broad group of children. The book explores caring for technology-dependent children who require respiratory assistance; caring for children who require home enteral tube feeds; and caring for children with complex disabilities. It looks at multi-agency care, respite care for families, social service support and educational support of children with complex needs.

The change enforcers

B. McKitterick

Community Care, Oct. 23rd 2008, p. 18-19

In 2006 the government and the council set up a strategic partnership to support Plymouth's failing children's services department. The contract between the council and the partnership specified outcomes, key tasks, success criteria and performance indicators. Sixteen external, experienced managers were jointly appointed by the council and the partnership programme director. The greatest effort was invested in raising standards of practice and leadership, which increased the capacity of all staff. This gave them the confidence to demand support from both colleagues in other council departments and external agencies.

Changing children's services: working and learning together

P. Foley and A. Rixon (editors)

Bristol: Policy Press, 2008

The book focuses on the fundamental changes to children's services associated primarily with the drive towards increasingly integrated ways of working. It critically examines the potential for closer 'working together', its effectiveness and its impact on children, parents and children's services as a whole. It also explores the role of learning in this changing environment. This book contributes to debates about the knowledge and skills that are seen as essential for work with families in childcare, health, social care and educational children's services.

Child support: the brave new world

N. Wikeley

Family Law, vol.38, 2008, p. 1024-1027

The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act (CMOPA) 2008 includes the framework for a new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to replace the Child Support Agency. It also makes a host of changes to the Child Support Act 1991, making it even more of a patchwork quilt than before. According to ministers, there are four main themes running through CMOPA 2008: delivering child maintenance in a new way through the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, encouraging parents to make their own arrangements for child maintenance without recourse to the courts, simplifying the rules governing the child support calculation, and enhanced collection and enforcement procedures. This article explores the first three themes in detail.

Childminders up their game

B. Cooke

Children & Young People Now, Nov. 6th-12th 2008,p.24-25

Despite declining numbers and slipping standards, childminders are a crucial element of early years provision offered by local authorities. The benefits of childminders are numerous, but funding for them to study for Level 3 qualifications is not granted by all the councils. Provision of funding for childminders to study for Level 3 qualifications and establishment of childminding networks are ways in which councils can boost the quality of childminding. The network can help the childminder to access training.

Children's services face up to an uncertain future

D. Nicholls and others

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 23rd-29th 2008, p. 16-17

A group of experts offer their views on how the credit crunch will affect child welfare services, covering housing issues, child poverty levels, local authority, private and voluntary sector services, and the workforce.

Critical practice in working with children

T. Sayer

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

The book offers an analytical overview of contemporary child welfare. It introduces readers to vital skills including assessment, evaluation and critical thinking and considers the various strengths and weaknesses of both policy and practice. Comprehensive in its coverage, the book examines the core areas of child welfare practice, including child protection, youth justice and preventative interventions. The book also discusses the children's rights approach and makes suggestions about how it can be used to illuminate the ideological differences in approaches to working with children and young people.

Direct work: social work with children and young people in care

B. Luckock and M. Lefevre (editors)

London: British Association for Adoption and Fostering, 2008

Direct work with children and young people lies at the heart of effective social work. The book explores the commitment and skill involved in listening to, understanding and being there on a regular basis for young people of all ages living in care. It tackles the professional skills and techniques needed to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, the emotional and psychological world of the child in care and the wide range of different settings for direct work with children. The book covers:

  • differing perspectives on the care experience;
  • approaches to communication and engagement;
  • direct work in context; and
  • supporting the practitioner.

A framework for performance management of children's services partnerships

J. Dowler

Journal of Care Services Management, vol.3, no.1, 2008, p. 64-82

Many rural county councils in England have sought to integrate children's services through the formation of partnerships between themselves, district councils and primary care trusts. Local authorities with partnership arrangements need to adopt a robust performance framework to support the new integrated style of working. This article defines the requirements for such a performance framework and examines three models for a potential match against these requirements. The suitability of the models is discussed and potential barriers to implementation are identified.

Home, sweet home?

B. Evans

Professional Social Work, Nov. 2008, p. 20-21

This article introduces the work of the ROC Refuge for young runaways operated by Aberlour, a Scottish children's charity. Since it opened in July 2004, nearly 200 young runaways have stayed in the facility for about a week.

Improving care proceedings: can the PLO resolve the problem of delay?

J. Masson

Family Law, vol. 39, 2008, p. 1019-1023

The Public Law Outline together with the new statutory guidance to local authorities issued by the Department for Schools, Children and Families seek to tackle the twin problems of costs and delay in care proceedings, and to reduce the numbers of care cases in the courts. This article critically examines the new approach set out in the guidance in the light of the findings of the recent Care Profiling Study. It explores the impact of the new guidance on urgent applications, negotiation with parents to prevent proceedings, diversion to kinship care, and pre-application assessments.

Improving services for young children: from Sure Start to children's centres

A. Anning and M. Ball (editors)

London: Sage, 2008

This book sets out important insights gained from the National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS). The contributors present the effects of Sure Start from a range of perspectives and explore the successful and problematic aspects of the programme with its vision of improving the life chances of the most disadvantaged families. They also map and evaluate the progression of the programme into Children's Centres and Extended Schools. Each contributor provides an overview of their specialist area before outlining the findings from the study and its implications for developing children's services. These areas include:

  • Ethnicity
  • Childcare
  • Parents
  • Special needs
  • Maternity services
  • Domestic violence
  • Buildings and spaces.

The chapters set out the practical lessons learned from these areas for practitioners, professionals and policy makers in the field of children's services, as well as those involved in the setting up of Children's Centres and reform of multi-agency children's services.

Inquiry ordered into failures that doomed Baby P

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 13th 2008, p. 8

An Independent inquiry into the failings that led to the death of Baby P has been ordered by ministers. The child died in Haringey in August 2007 after being severely abused while in the care of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger. He was on the child protection register and had been visited 60 times by social workers, police and health professionals in the eight months before his death.

Moving stories

A.U. Sale

Community Care, Oct. 30th 2008, p. 18-19

Department for Children, Schools and Families statistics show that although the overall number of multiple placements had fallen across England in 2002/07, some looked after children moved ten times or more in 108 of 150 councils in 2007. Such findings are a cause for concern as stability can make a positive difference to children's lives. Placements can break down because of a mismatch between the child's needs and what the placement offers, and also because of councils seeking cheaper alternatives to residential care.

A psychosocial analysis of child homicide

J. Stroud

Critical Social Policy, vol. 28, 2008, p. 482-505

Child homicide has been a key influence on childcare policy and practice over the past 30 years, with a particular focus on the assessment, management and monitoring of situations where children are at risk and on associated interagency working. A psychosocial analysis of the pre-offence experiences of 68 adults (mostly parents or carers) who killed or attempted to kill a child identified complex, intricate and heterogeneous processes in respect of their interpersonal relationships, stress and mental health and the relationship of these factors to the offence. These findings suggest that the current focus on procedures and performance in safeguarding children may not successfully address the complex needs of adults who pose a risk to children.

Secure accommodation: out of sight, out of mind?

C. Simmonds

Family Law, vol. 38, 2008, p. 1033-1037

Hundreds of looked after children who have committed no crime are being locked up for months or even years in secure accommodation for their own good or for the sake of others. These children represent the most difficult, disturbed and vulnerable group in the care system, who pose a particular challenge to the local authorities looking after them and to those who try to represent their interests.

Too risky by far?

S. Thorp

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 23rd-29th 2008, p. 24-25

Concern over compensation claims in the event of injury means that children are missing out on opportunities for risky play, which in turn has a negative impact on their development. This article offers advice on how to enable children to take calculated risks, while educating parents to accept that accidents may happen. Professionals advise that: children should be consulted about play facilities; play workers should be familiar with the safety features of equipment and surfaces; a risk assessment should be carried out; experienced play workers should be recruited; and parents' expectations should be managed.

Two reports, two responses

R. Rogers

British Journal of Healthcare Management, vol. 14, 2008, p. 456-457

Reports were published in 2008 in both England and Northern Ireland on services for children with speech and language disorders. The Bercow report in England was launched to excellent media coverage and the secretary of state for children, schools and families immediately announced that implementation of its recommendations would be funded. However the Northern Ireland report received little publicity and is less likely to be implemented in the midst of massive structural reforms of the health system.

Unit that rescued victims of child labour and sex trade is shut down

E. Dugan

The Independent, Nov. 10th 2008, p. 7

The Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Team will cease work next year because its budget has been withdrawn following the decision by the Home Office to cut its yearly funding for human trafficking investigations from £4m to £1.7m. The team, set up in March 2007, was designed to actively target gangs who bring women to the UK to work in the sex industry and children to work as forced labourers. It is now estimated that more than 4,000 people are currently in the UK as a result of trafficking. Politicians and trafficking experts have expressed anger at the Home Office's decision, saying it will leave a 'gaping hole' in the policing of the crime.

Vulnerable children still at risk as councils fail to learn from mistakes, says watchdog

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Nov. 20th 2008, p. 4

In the first report since it took responsibility in April 2007 for inspecting child protection services and assessing procedures, Ofsted has raised urgent concerns about the system of serious case reviews, which are launched in the worst cases of child abuse. The report says that despite such reviews, councils have systematically failed to learn from the mistakes made in dozens of the most serious cases of child abuse, while too many frontline staff in schools and health centres are still unable to recognise signs of abuse. Its verdict comes amid public concern over the case of Baby P who died from serious injuries, despite being in regular contact with child protection officers and medics.

What is John Hemming's problem?

J. Devo

Professional Social Work, Nov. 2008, p. 12-13

Report of an interview with Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, in which he explains why he thinks that social workers have been wrongly removing young children from their families in order to meet government adoption targets. Until their abolition in 2007, local authorities were offered monetary rewards for achieving targets.

Where are the same-sex adopters?

A. Taylor

Community Care, Nov. 6th 2008, p. 18-19

Lesbian and gay right groups and adoption agencies hoped that a change in the law three years ago would allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt a child in England and Wales, but figures show that only 80 lesbian and gay couples adopted children in England in 2007-8, down from 90 in 2006-7. The figures for heterosexual couples were 2,840 and 2,940 respectively. 'Agencies and councils are becoming more open to lesbian and gay applicants but the anxiety that one has is that they are still an under-utilised resource', says Jeffrey Coleman, Director of BAAF's southern division.

Where the UK falls short on children's rights

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 16th-22nd 2008, p. 16-17

The author examines the UK's failure to respect children's rights in the fields of youth justice, education and play, social care, portrayal by the media and exposure to poverty, as highlighted in the report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Who uses services for school age children: evidence from the national evaluation of the children's fund

T. Leone & I. Plewis

Children & Society, vol.22, 2008, p.440-457

Sure Start and the Children's Fund are two examples of programmes that address the issue of preventing the emergence of children's social and health problems. This article describes the characteristics of children and families that have used services of the type supported by the Children's Fund in order to evaluate whether they have reached their target groups. The overall impact of a service that is used by very few families and children is unlikely to be substantial even though it might make an important difference to those who do use it. Moreover, a service that is targeted at a particular vulnerable group in society but is actually used less by them than it is by more advantaged groups is also unlikely to achieve the aims set out for it. Whether or not the policy is successful will depend on a number of factors: whether the services are able to attract the expected numbers of clients; whether the services reach the kinds of children and families for whom they were intended; whether the services provide the help and support the children and families were looking for; and whether the services have an effect on the outcomes they were intended to change. Services cannot be expected to have an impact if they are not used at all, if they are not used by the intended recipients and if they do not provide what their clients want.

Young sex offenders

T. de Castella

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 23rd-29th 2008, p. 27-28

The number of sexual offences committed by young people is rising, but a severe shortage of rehabilitation services is thwarting treatment. This shortfall is due to lack of funding, an unsympathetic culture in young offenders' institutions, and reluctance of schools to accept rehabilitated young people back into the classroom.

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