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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2009): Child welfare - UK

Joint area review: Haringey Children's Services Authority Area: review of services for young people with particular reference to safeguarding

Ofsted, Healthcare Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

2008

This report following the death of Baby P at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger found a catalogue of failures by Haringey Social Services, the NHS and the police, including:

  • Failure to identify children and young people at immediate risk of harm
  • Agencies involved in child protection tending to work without effective co-ordination
  • Poor gathering, recording and sharing of information between agencies
  • Lack of supervision by senior management
  • Failure to talk directly to children at risk
  • Poor child protection plans

The report recommends:

  1. earlier intervention to allow agencies to assess children at risk in good time
  2. managers and staff should be accountable for their decisions in child protection cases
  3. integration of agencies involved in child protection
  4. establishment of clear lines of communication between social services, the NHS and the police
  5. appointment of an independent chair to all local safeguarding children boards.

(For summary and comment see Daily Telegraph, Dec. 2nd 2008, p. 4-5)

£235m for children to play in safety

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 10th 2008, p. 10

Reports that ministers are to unveil a £235m strategy to build or refurbish up to 3,500 outdoor play areas after admitting that many public spaces are no longer child-friendly. More 20mph speed zones will also be created to encourage children to play. The current lack of opportunities to play outside is said to be harming children's social and physical development and encouraging obesity.

Annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2007/08

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08: HC 1114)

The report covers the first full year of Ofsted's wider remit - inspecting and regulating education, childcare, social care, children's services, adult learning and the skills sector. The main message is that too many children and young people are receiving services that are 'patently inadequate', despite broad improvements across schools, children's services and further education. The full report contains three substantial thematic sections. The first, 'Improving life chances: outstanding education and social care', examines the means by which providers achieve excellence and, in so doing, make significant improvements in the life chances of the most disadvantaged children, young people and adults. The second section entitled 'Safeguarding children', reports on the progress that has been made in ensuring children grow up safe from harm and neglect, and with the personal skills needed to enter adult life successfully. The final thematic section reports on the quality of the provision that seeks to enable learners to acquire the skills needed for successful working lives.

Baby P and the lessons for the children's workforce

R. Smith

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 20th-26th 2008, p. 8-9

Unlike the case of Victoria Climbié, the death of Baby P did not reflect failure of information sharing between professionals. Fundamentally, the problems in this case lie in poor practice and the failure of social workers to detect signs of abuse or maintain a healthy scepticism when engaging with parents.

Baby P case could worsen social worker shortage

J. Sherman

The Times, Dec. 10th 2008, p. 28

A workforce survey from the Local Government Association shows that councils find it more difficult to recruit social worker's specialising in the care of children than any other council staff. The poll indicated that 65 per cent of councils find it difficult to recruit social workers and 40 per cent find difficulty in retaining these staff. Council chiefs fear that the Baby P case will only worsen the situation.

Balls 'was irresponsible' to promise Baby P case will not happen again

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Dec. 12th 2008, p. 17

Council chiefs have accused children's secretary Ed Balls or being 'irresponsible' in his response to the death of Baby P. The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), has suggested that the 'good' inspection result Haringey achieved just weeks after baby P's death could have been the product of the pressures of Ofsted's systems.

Boarding pass

A. Taylor

Community Care, Dec. 4th 2008, p. 18-19

This article introduces the the government's Boarding Placement Pathfinder initiative launched in 2006. The scheme, originally run with 12 councils and then expanded to 16, offers children on the verge of being taken into care the opportunity to go to boarding school. The hope is that the structured environment will help keep them out of the care system, enable them to maintain contact with their families, and have the opportunity to do better in education.

Call to end abuse cycle as Balls prepares to act on Baby P report

S. Jones

The Guardian, Dec. 1st 2008, p. 8

A coalition of politicians, child experts and family organisations has called on the government to launch an inquiry into how to stop children growing up to become abusive parents. The call comes in the wake of the Baby P case and the jailing of the father who made his two daughters pregnant 19 times.

Childcare policies and the politics of choice

J. Lewis

Political Quarterly, vol. 79, 2008, p. 499-507

Governments have intervened in two basic ways on childcare provision, reflecting the debate on how young children should be raised. Firstly, they make available paid parental leave through legislation, which allows parents (mainly mothers) to take time off work to care for their children at home. Secondly, they make available state funded or subsidised childcare services, which enable mothers to return to employment. This article traces the development of parental leave and childcare services under the New Labour government, and asks how far the policies put in place since 1997 allow parents a real choice about whether to continue in paid work or to remain at home to care.

Child support: carrots and sticks

N. Wikeley

Family Law, Nov. 2008, p. 1102-1106

The maintenance scheme established by the Child Support Act 1991 failed both to offer incentives to parents with care to co-operate with the Child Support Agency in claiming financial support from ex-partners and to shame non-resident parents into paying for their children's upbringing. The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will replace the failed Child Support Agency. This article looks at the range of incentives and sanctions placed at its disposal by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 and associated reforms which are intended to encourage a culture of compliance. The main carrot is the increased maintenance disregard for parents with care who are on means-tested benefits. The sticks are a whole new range of weapons added to the Commission's collection and enforcement armoury.

Children's rights: UN Committee points to UK failures

D. Bascombe

ChildRight, issue 251, 2008, p. 11-14

On October 3rd 2008, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published its observations on the state of children's rights in the UK. The Committee raised concerns about lack of respect for children's rights in the fields of civil rights and freedoms, provision of alternative care for children unable to live with their families, rights to education, leisure and cultural activities, and the juvenile justice system.

'The failures are the same'

R. Stone

Community Care, Nov. 20th 2008, p. 18-19

The death of Baby P has raised questions over the effectiveness of the reforms of child protection services that followed failure of professionals to prevent the murder of Victoria Climbié by her aunt. The author argues that the reforms paid insufficient attention to putting in place systems to support social workers in reflecting on and making sense of evidence and coming to sound decisions in child protection cases.

The hundreds of children missing from care homes

R. Verkaik

The Independent, Dec. 10th 2008, p. 8

A survey of 172 local authorities in England and Wales who care for 28,000 children found between 376 and 389 young people were missing and councils did not know where they were. The true figure is probably higher because six authorities said they did not keep records of missing children. Information disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act showed children at 41 authorities had gone missing without a trace. The children are mainly from authorities in London and South-east England.

Improving care proceedings: can the PLO resolve the problem of delay? Part 2

J. Masson

Family Law, Nov. 2008, p. 1129-1131

This article looks for answers to the question of whether the Public Law Outline (PLO) can resolve the problem of delay in care proceedings by critically examining the new approach in the light of the findings of the recent Care Profiling Study conducted by the author for the Ministry of Justice.

In from the margins and back again: 25 years of policy: young people, sexuality and gender

B. Oliver

Youth and Policy, no. 100, 2008, p. 153-163

This article outlines the development of specialist youth work services for girls and young women, boys and gay, lesbian and bisexual young people from the late 1970s. It traces the erosion of developmental groupwork based on gender and sexuality under both the Thatcher and New Labour administrations and the transfer of the focus of youth services to at risk young people and combating social exclusion.

Investing in children: policy, law and practice in context

C. Piper

Cullompton: Willan, 2008

This book brings together insights from a range of disciplines, including law, sociology, criminology and history, to identify and explain the complex and inter-related factors which help or hinder the state in 'investing' in children and young people. This book is divided into three parts. The first part of the book examines the 'intangibles' - the ideologies, social constructions and moral precepts - which obstruct or encourage the passage and full implementation of legislation, policy and practice which hope to improve the lives and prospects of children and young people. The second part of the book focuses on the difficulties in practice of implementing policies aimed at investing in children's lives and futures. The final chapters examine the results of research so far done on selected programmes in the Every Child Matters, social inclusion and Youth Justice Board policy agendas. They both identify promising developments and warn of the dangers and difficulties involved.

Joint area review: Haringey Children's Services Authority Area: review of services for young people with particular reference to safeguarding

Ofsted, Healthcare Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

2008

This report following the death of Baby P at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger found a catalogue of failures by Haringey Social Services, the NHS and the police, including:

  • Failure to identify children and young people at immediate risk of harm
  • Agencies involved in child protection tending to work without effective co-ordination
  • Poor gathering, recording and sharing of information between agencies
  • Lack of supervision by senior management
  • Failure to talk directly to children at risk
  • Poor child protection plans

The report recommends:

  1. earlier intervention to allow agencies to assess children at risk in good time
  2. managers and staff should be accountable for their decisions in child protection cases
  3. integration of agencies involved in child protection
  4. establishment of clear lines of communication between social services, the NHS and the police
  5. appointment of an independent chair to all local safeguarding children boards.

(For summary and comment see Daily Telegraph, Dec. 2nd 2008, p. 4-5)

The making of leaving care policy 1971-2008

M. Stein

Youth and Policy, no. 100, 2008, p. 241-251

This article tells the story of the main developments in leaving care policy in England and Wales from the introduction of social services departments in 1971 to the passage into law of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, including the impact of the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.

Most UK toddlers 'cared for out of home'

R. Garner

The Independent, Dec. 11th 2008, p. 20

A childcare revolution has meant the majority of toddlers in the UK are for the first time cared for outside the home before they reach the age of one, according to a report by the children's charity Unicef, The Childcare Transition. As a result, children from poor homes are likely to face a 'double disadvantage' - their parents unable to afford quality childcare or resist the economic pressures to seek work so soon after their child is born. The report warns that children need the attention of a caring adult more in their first year than at any other time of their life if they are to develop communication skills. It also warns that poor childcare could increase the gap in performance between the haves and have-nots in later life.

Officials who failed Baby P are forced out

R. Bennett

The Times, Dec. 2nd 2008, p. 1

Two members of Haringey Council resigned yesterday and three senior social workers were suspended and placed under review. Sharon Shoesmith, the director of Children's Services for Haringey is currently under suspension on full pay. It has been announced that Ofsted will conduct annual unannounced spot-checks on every local authority in the country as part of a set of measures to prevent future catastrophes.

(See also The Guardian, Dec. 2nd 2008, p 1, 2, 4 & 5; The Independent, Dec 2nd 2008, p. 1 & 2; The Independent, Dec. 3rd 2008, p. 8)

One in 10 children suffer abuse, say experts

S. Boseley

The Guardian, Dec. 3rd 2008, p. 1, 2, 12 &13

A series of papers written by child abuse experts and featured in the Lancet medical journal, reveal that one in ten children suffers physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect. Those on the at-risk register, like Baby P, are only the tip of the iceberg, while most maltreated children are not even referred to the authorities.

Planning for the future

Anon.

Labour Research, Dec. 2008, p. 17-18

The youth work profession is going through a period of enormous upheaval that involves pooling youth work with other youth support services. The government has urged local authorities to set up integrated youth support services through a succession of initiatives. There is concern that the new integrated service could result in youth workers losing their educational role. All authorities are now required to provide 'positive activities', but it is unclear if this means a continuation of the informal education youth workers have traditionally provided, or if it simply means that the main focus of youth services will be to provide leisure activities.

A popular but outdated system

A. Mickel

Community Care, Nov. 27th 2008, p. 16-17

The Scottish children's hearing system is designed to help under-16s who have offended or who have care or protection needs. Any person can report concerns about the welfare of a child to a reporter, who will investigate the case. However the system has been swamped by a doubling of its caseload over the past ten years and has also become highly bureaucratic. The Scottish government now wants to streamline the system by merging the panels, advisory committees, safeguarder panels and the Children's Reporters Administration into a single body. It hopes this will reduce bureaucracy.

Poverty puts children at higher risk of accidents

S. Boseley

The Guardian, Dec. 10th 2008, p. 2

Research from the World Health Organisation has revealed that children from poorer families are far more likely to die or be harmed than their better off counterparts. Those born in deprived areas of the UK to parents who are out of work, die in greater numbers from road, fire, falling, poisoning and drowning accidents. Child injury rates in some parts of the UK are as high as those in Kazakhstan.

Pre-proceedings in the context of child care reforms

Children Law Department, Fisher Meredith LLP

Family Law, Nov. 2008, p. 1112-1116

A plethora of changes were introduced in the care proceedings system in England and Wales in 2008 by the Public Law Outline. This article looks at important changes to the way in which children's services departments work with families pre-proceedings. It considers in detail:

  1. The Letter Before Proceedings (LBP) which will be sent by the local authority setting out concerns and the work which has been done with the family to improve matters. The LBP states that if failings are not made good quickly, the local authority will begin care proceedings.
  2. The pre-proceedings meeting convened by the local authority, which will seek to address problems and find solutions.

Put children at the centre of services

N. Walker

Health Service Journal, Dec. 18th 2008, p. 16

A consistent message from parents, children and young people using public services is that they want seamless delivery. Yet in practice, separate budgets, reporting structures and professional tribalism can make this difficult. Many organisations need to join up and communicate to promote healthy development for children and support early intervention when required.

Safeguards 'still not in place to prevent repeat of Baby P case'

R. Bennett

The Times, Dec. 11th 2008, p.15

The way in which Ofsted assesses councils on their children's services has come under scrutiny following the Baby P case. Ofsted had given Haringey Council top marks in its assessment exercise in April 2007. Caroline Gilbert, Ofsted's chief inspector, underwent a two hour cross-examination by members of the Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee. During the session it emerged that some of the data that Ofsted had been given by Haringey Council was false, but that Ofsted's policy of destroying evidence three months after the assessment meant that it was now impossible to trace the source of the false information.

(See also The Independent, Dec. 11th 2008, p. 4)

Service use by looked after children with behavioural problems: findings from the England survey

P. Vostanis and others

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 32, no.3, 2008, p. 23-32

This article presents the findings of a secondary analysis of data from the England Survey of Looked After Children. The aim was to establish patterns of service use by children with behavioural problems (conduct disorders) and to explore whether contacts with agencies were associated with other types of concurrent disorders, namely emotional and hyperkinetic. It concludes that looked after children and young people with behavioural problems are likely to require access to a range of services, but these should be clearly defined and coordinated, with local care pathways and referral criteria, in order to maximise use of resources. Looked after children with mental health or developmental disorders underlying their behavioural problems would particularly benefit from specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services input.

Thousands of children at risk in failing councils

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 18th 2008, p. 10

Reports by Ofsted on the quality of child protection in every council in England found eight to be inadequate, up from four in 2007. In addition, the annual performance assessments for 2008 found that four councils had inadequate children's services departments, which cover education and health as well as social services.

Vetting man: Sir Roger Singleton explains the Independent Safeguarding Authority

D. Bascombe

ChildRight, issue 251, 2008, p. 29-32

Report of an interview in which Roger Singleton, Chair of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, introduces its work. The Authority will decide who is unsuitable to work or volunteer with vulnerable groups. It will base its decisions on information pulled together from various agencies, central government departments and the Criminal Records Bureau.

Where next for social work?

L. Davies

Professional Social Work, Dec. 2008, p. 10-11

The author explains the failings of the current child protection system in England that led to the tragic death of Baby P. Problems are arising from emphasis on family support as opposed to child protection, the abolition of the Child Protection Register in April 2008, and the diversion of the police to investigation of crimes and away from joint investigation with social services of actual or likely significant harm.

Who's making the decisions?

S. Gillen

Community Care, Nov. 20th 2008, p. 20-21

This article presents an analysis of current problems within child protection services in the wake of the death of Baby P. Crucial decisions are too often taken out of the hands of frontline staff in contact with families and made by managers. Poor practice is also fostered by excessive paperwork and over-emphasis on following procedures and meeting deadlines to hit centrally imposed targets. This leads to social workers failing to engage properly with families.

Young people, central government and youth work

T. Wylie

Youth and Policy, no. 100, 2008, p. 91-99

This paper explores the development of youth policy in England between the Thompson Report of 1982 and Aiming High: the Government's Strategy for Young People published in 2007, comparing and contrasting the approaches of New Labour and earlier Conservative administrations.

Youth policy in Wales

J. Rose

Youth and Policy, no. 100, 2008, p. 55-63

In 1999 the youth service in Wales was delinked from that in England and it has since developed independently. If it now aims to become an integral part of the Assembly Government's ambition to make Wales a learning country, it needs to demonstrate the value of its non-formal education approach undertaken with the voluntary involvement of young people. Its strategic purpose is to create a discrete organisation capable of delivering outcomes for young people in the way identified in the 2007 National Youth Service Strategy. It also needs to both effectively match its purpose, principles and values to government policy initiatives and to become more active in contributing to policy development.

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