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

Are looked after children socially excluded?

N. Axford

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 32, no.4, 2008, p. 5-18

This article defines social exclusion and then examines whether and in what sense looked after children might fit the definition, covering residential care, foster care, and adoption from care. It is concluded that being in care does not automatically lead to social exclusion, but exclusion often precedes the care experience, or is an unintended consequence of well-intentioned actions. In order to reduce the risk of looked after children being socially excluded, policymakers and practitioners need to:

  • ensure that children's links to their family and community are maintained
  • engage them with education
  • give them more choice and control over their lives; and
  • avoid interventions that make the child's situation worse.

The best laid plans? Obstacles to the implementation of plans for children

G. Roach and R. Sanders

Adoption and Fostering, vol.32, no.4, 2008, p. 31-41

Planning is vital to ensure the delivery of positive outcomes for children in need and their families. Failures in planning can not only lead to poor emotional, social, educational and health outcomes but also to continued abuse and neglect. This article describes a study of the obstacles to the implementation of plans for children in need of protection in a South Wales local authority. There were three main reasons for obstacles resulting in delay: the quality of the plans; the non-compliance of parents and carers; and lack of inter-agency co-ordination in the provision of external services.

Carer banned over Muslim girl's conversion

M. Moore

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 9th 2009, p. 8

A foster mother has been sacked by her local council after a Muslim girl in her care converted to Christianity. The carer has been banned by her local authority for failing to prevent the girl from being baptised, even though she was 16 and made up her own mind to change religion. The ruling has increased concerns that Christians are becoming victims of discrimination in Britain.

Child protection: crisis management or learning curve?

R. Gardner and M. Brandon

Public Policy research, vol.15, 2008/09, p. 177-186

Reforms to the English child protection system introduced following the death of Victoria Climbié have largely concerned frameworks, reporting systems and quality control through targets, inspection and self-audit. The associated administrative burden has been at the expense of direct work with families. The authors state the case for concentrating resources on improving the amount and quality of contact professionals have with children and their parents.

Co-production and Sure Start Children's Centres: reflecting upon users' perspectives and implications for service delivery, planning and evaluation

S. Pemberton and J. Mason

Social Policy and Society, vol. 8, 2009, p.13-24

There has been a recent re-awakening in the UK of interest in the co-production approach to involve users in the delivery and planning of modernised public services. The Sure Start programme has been recognised as exhibiting a form of co-production involving 'user co-delivery of professionally designed services', where professionals dictated service design and planning but users and community members delivered the service. This paper explores the nature and level of involvement of service users and communities in the co-production of service delivery, service planning and monitoring and evaluation activities in the case of Sure Start children's centres on Merseyside.

Coping with court

J. Foulds

Professional Social Work, Feb. 2009, p. 12-14

Taking vulnerable children into local authority care requires a court order and is a challenging process. Social workers can expect to be rigorously cross-examined by legal counsel in contested cases. The new Public Law Outline launched in 2008 brought a number of changes in court practice, and has introduced a period of delay to allow parents more time to address concerns. There is also concern that social workers' evidence is given less weight than that of other professions by the courts.

Detaching youth work to reduce drug and alcohol related harm

A. Fletcher and C. Bonell

Public Policy Research, Vol. 15, 2008/09, p. 217-223

The UK now has the highest prevalence of young drug users in Europe, and young people in Britain are also drinking their European counterparts under the table. The current focus of youth services on individual case work and centre-based projects is largely unsuccessful in tackling the problem. A detached approach to youth work is likely to be a more effective and appropriate means of harm reduction because of its focus on working with existing peer groups and its greater reach and flexibility.

Early childcare and child development

K. Hansen and D. Hawkes

Journal of Social Policy, vol.38, 2009, p.211-239

A study of 4,800 children whose mothers had returned to work by the time they were nine months old compared those who had been looked after by grandparents (35%) with those who attended a nursery (23%) and those who were looked after by childminders (17%). The mothers were interviewed when the children were three years old. Those who had been looked after by grandparents were found to have more difficulty with relationships with peers, with boys the worst behaved. They also recorded lower scores in their understanding of letters, numbers, shapes and colours. The researchers conclude that grandparents are unable to provide the social and educational stimulation that children need. It is recommended that grandparents should be given training and tax breaks to enable them to become formal carers for their grandchildren, and so improve their social and educational development.

From policy to practice: the implementation and negotiation of technologies in everyday child welfare

S. Peckover, C. Hall and S. White

Children and Society, vol. 23, 2009, p. 136-148

In order to improve child welfare services in England following the death of Victoria Climbié, the government introduced measures to improve information sharing among professionals, including a national children's database and a common assessment framework. This study examined the implementation and use of these technologies in everyday child welfare practice. The results show differential implementation of these systems at local level and variable practices associated with engaging with them. This raises questions about their future development as national standard systems.

A Good childhood: searching for values in a competitive age

R. Layard and J. Dunn

Children's Society, 2009

This report, based on interviews with 35,000 children, parents and professionals, finds that British children are less happy than those in almost any other developed country. This lack of well-being is attributed to adult selfishness and the aggressive pursuit of individual success. The 'me-first' attitude of adults is said to cause family breakdown, competition in education, a growing gap between rich and poor, unkindness among teenagers and premature sexualisation by advertisers. To improve children's well-being, the report calls on government to:

  1. provide extra support for those with mental health problems
  2. train teachers in specialised personal health and social education skills
  3. ban advertising aimed at children under 12
  4. scrap SATS tests
  5. make greater efforts to end child poverty.

Have data, will share

A. Mickel

Community Care, Feb. 12th 2009, p. 18-19

The ContactPoint database launched in January 2009 contains basic data on all 11 million children in England and contact details for parents, schools, doctors and social workers involved with the child. It will be accessible to about 390,000 practitioners, and is intended to improve communication between professionals, thus saving time and money.

Integrating children's services in England: national evaluation of children's trusts

M.O. Bachmann and others

Child: Care, Health and Development, vol.35, 2009, p. 257-265

Since 2003 national and local government in England have embarked on sweeping reforms of children's services which involved integrating health, education and social services into children's trusts. These trusts were piloted by 35 pathfinders. The study reported here compared the experience of integrating children's services in all 35 children's trust pathfinders. Local organisations had wide discretion in implementing the policy, leading to only the minimum compulsory requirements being met in some areas. Other areas made impressive changes and developed innovative integrated services.

Is social work in crisis?

R. Winchester

Labour Research, Feb. 2009, p. 9-11

Despite heavy investment by the New Labour government, children's social services remain under pressure. This is due in part to restructuring. Child protection services have been merged with education, and most directors of the new children's services departments come from an education background. The system is still dogged by cumbersome bureaucracy and lengthy form-filling, and has been fragmented, with funding diverted to new initiatives such as Sure Start.

Keep right and wrong out of sex education, parents told

L. Cockcroft

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 23rd 2009, p. 10

Government has launched a package of support encouraging parents to play a role in preventing teenage pregnancy. This includes a leaflet offering guidance to parents on how to talk to teenagers about sex education, including a recommendation not to touch upon moral values.

Keeping the faith

T. Philpot

Community Care, Jan. 22nd 2009, p. 18-19

On 31st December 2008, the 20-month breathing space given by the government to allow Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales to comply with the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 came to an end. They will now have to consider gay couples as potential adopters, which is against Catholic doctrine. Most have resolved the dilemma by severing formal links with the Church and reconstituting themselves as independent agencies.

Lesbian and gay fostering and adoption: out of the closet into the mainstream?

H.C. Brown and C. Cocker

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 32, no.4, 2008, p. 19-30

This article tracks debates over fostering and adoption of children by Lesbian and gay couples since 1979. It seeks to move away from the rights perspective which has dominated much of the debate regarding Lesbians and gay men assuming a parental role to one which emphasises the paramountcy of the child's welfare. It examines the detail of social work practice in this area, covering recruitment, assessment, placing children and matching, support to carers and safer care.

Majority of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work, says study

A. Gentleman

The Guardian, Feb. 18th 2009, p. 4

A new study, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that the majority of children in poverty have at least one parent in work but they are earning so little they are unable to shift their family above the poverty line. These findings run counter to the government's message that work is the best route out of poverty and are in contrast to research conducted five years ago which found that the majority of children living in poverty had parents who were unemployed. The study predicts that the government will fail to meet its promise to halve child poverty by next year unless another £4.2bn is spent on the problem.

Next steps for early learning and childcare

Department for Children, Schools and Families


This updated ten-year childcare strategy aims to provide free and flexible childcare in every community. All local authorities will have to produce action plans showing how they intend to meet their duty to secure sufficient childcare in their area. Local authorities will also be expected to make care and activities for five-to14-year-olds a strategic priority, encouraging more providers to register with Ofsted so that parents can use tax credit support to access them. A programme will be piloted to attract top graduates into the early years workforce, and the government will explore creating an advanced skills role in deprived areas to allow graduates to progress without having to move into management. A national comparison website will be launched to enable parents to compare childcare providers on quality and price of services. There will also be pilot schemes testing the feasibility of simplifying the childcare element of tax credits and of more generous support for families with disabled children. A contact centre will be established at national level to advise parents on childcare programmes, and to act as a single point of entry to the system.

Nursery staff will need to have A-level

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 28th 2009, p. 6

Reports that from 2015 all adults working in early years care, including childminders, nursery staff and playschool employees, will have to have an A-level or equivalent vocational qualification. There are concerns that the proposals could significantly raise the costs of childcare as providers increase fees to cover extra training and improved wages.

Ready for inspection

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 29th-Feb. 4th 2009, p. 20-21

Local authority children's services will be inspected under the new Comprehensive Area Assessment from April 2009. This system will focus on how organisations are working together to improve outcomes for users. The Audit Commission will gather evidence from seven inspectorates including Ofsted and will produce a final report, which will include red flags for failing services and green flags to highlight good practice.

Twenty years on: the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the United Kingdom

L. Payne

Children and Society, vol. 23, 2009, p. 149-155

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by the UK government in 1991. Implementation of the Convention by states parties is subject to a monitoring process overseen by 18 members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. After submitting an initial report to the Committee within two years of ratification, states must subsequently produce written reports on progress every five years. To date, the UK government has submitted three reports. This paper provides an overview of the Committee's recommendations in response to the UK's 2007 progress report.

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