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

Ageing foster parents 'herald care crisis'

R. Bennett

The Times, May 11th 2009, p. 14

A report conducted by the Fostering Network has indicated a possible crisis in the fostering system since two thirds of foster parents are near or beyond retirement age. The average age of a foster mother has risen from 46 to 53 in ten years. The Fostering Network said that much more must be done to encourage younger people to take up fostering.

Attorney general to review Baby P sentences

A. Travis

The Guardian, May 28th 2009, p. 4

Baroness Scotland has asked the Court of Appeal to increase the 'unduly lenient' sentences given in the Baby P case following complaints from child welfare charities.

(See also, The Times, May 28th 2009, p.5)

Child maintenance arrears still £3.8bn

D. Brindle

The Guardian, May 11th 2009, p. 10

According to analysis of the £3.8bn debt that the Child Support Agency has failed to collect, more than 50,000 men in Britain owe at least £30,000 each in maintenance arrears for children of former relationships. The agency brought in private debt collectors to try to enforce some of the outstanding arrears but they have only succeeded in obtaining 6% of the overdue monies they were asked to pursue. The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), which last year took over responsibility for the CSA, admits that most of the accumulated debt is probably uncollectible but has no power to close cases without the agreement of the parent with children. Pressure groups are calling on the commission to sort out the debt mountain of 1.1m cases into those still worth chasing and those that offer little or no prospect of any payment.

Child protection: the statutory failure

B. Wilkinson

Family Law, May 2009, p. 420-424

Current child protection legislation provides only a vague definition of 'significant harm'. There is a similar poor quality of definition of the 'child in need'. This means that social workers and other professionals face significant difficulty in determining whether grounds for applying to the courts for a child protection order exist, and which order is best suited to address a particular problem.

Child social work: policy and practice

D. Kirton

London: Sage, 2009

The book offers an authoritative overview of child care policy and practice in the UK. It covers assessment and family support services, understanding child maltreatment and protection, the care of looked after children, including the contribution of adoption, foster and residential care, services for those leaving care and barriers facing disabled children and their families. It reflects the complexity and nature of children's needs, rights and interests and relationships between family and state. It analyses relevant debates and research and highlights practice issues and dilemmas. Readers are also directed to sources of further information on topics they may wish to explore in more depth. At the end of each chapter, there is guidance for further reading, resources for practice and questions for discussion.

Children in jail: lottery of justice is revealed

R. Verkaik

The Independent, May 12th 2009, p. 2

The jailing of children in England and Wales has become a postcode lottery where child custody rates in some parts of the country are five times higher than in others according to league tables. The figures show that children who appear before the courts in some parts of the Home Counties face a one in 10 chance of being jailed - often for motoring offences and other non-violent crimes. In contrast, children living in inner-city Newcastle stand just a one in 50 chance of being detained. The Youth Justice Board has now written to local authorities 'naming and shaming' those who are not doing enough to keep young people out of custody.

Children's database launched amid leak concerns

D. Turner

Financial Times, May 19th 2009, p. 4

Contact Point, the new database which holds details on every child in England, is now being used by approved government and voluntary sector workers in the North East. It will be rolled out across England in the coming months, despite fears over data security.

Community work goes compulsory

J. Mahadevan

Children and Young People Now, Apr. 23rd-29th 2009, p. 11

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown has signalled that he hopes to set a 'clear expectation' that all young people undertake at least 50 hours of community service by the age of 19. The scheme would be integrated into the plan to raise the school leaving age to 18 from 2011.

Council lawyers admit Baby P could have been put into care

P. Butler and S. Laville

The Guardian, May 22nd 2009, p. 1-2 and p.4

Lawyers working for Haringey council have told an independent serious case review inquiry investigation that there was probably enough evidence to support taking Baby P into care days before he was killed, but advice given by a locum lawyer inexperienced in child protection was 'flawed and not clearly expressed'.

Detain children in hospital if you suspect abuse, doctors are told

S. Lister

The Times, May 6th 2009, p.16

The British Medical Association has published recommendations to its members which examine the role of doctors in dealing with children who may be at risk from abuse. The recommendations include detaining children whom doctors expect to be at risk, against the wishes of their parents. Significant concerns were raised about the extent to which these guidelines might encourage the over-reporting of cases and make innocent parents apprehensive about bringing an injured child into A&E or to visit their GP.

Developing policy in the provision of parenting programmes: integrating a review of reviews with the perspectives of both parents and professionals

J. Law and others

Child: Care, Health and Development, vol. 35, 2009, p. 302-312

This research was commissioned to help two local authorities develop parenting support programmes. It takes the novel approach of integrating the findings of a summary of 20 systematic reviews of parenting programmes with those from a series of focus groups with parents and professionals. The reviews demonstrated that there is a wide range of parenting programmes available with the potential to benefit families afflicted with a range of problems including adolescent substance abuse and behavioural difficulties. However, the findings of the focus groups reveal that the success of these programmes will depend in part on how they can be tailored to fit the social context of the families targeted.

Easy for child traffickers to operate in UK, say MPs

R. Booth

The Guardian, May 11th 2009, p. 1 & 2

The chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into human trafficking has warned that child traffickers are targeting the UK because of the ease with which they can move victims through British ports and local authority care homes. Keith Vaz, head of the Home Affairs Select Committee ,said he and colleagues were 'very concerned' about low levels of funding for law enforcement agencies to fight trafficking, and he has called on the government to hold an urgent review of the number of foreign children missing from local authorities. Cautious estimates suggest five suspected victims of child trafficking go missing from care around ports and airports in the UK every week.

Electronic sharing of information on children: the Scottish and English experiences

I. Freeman

Journal of Integrated Care, vol. 17, Apr. 2009, p. 22-26

In both Scotland and England using technology to share information about children to support early intervention and child protection has emerged as a key focus of the modernising government agenda. Different approaches have been adopted which demonstrate different ways of tackling questions of confidentiality, privacy, security and proportionality.

Ethical implications of child welfare policies in England and Wales on child participation rights

C.A. Evans

Ethics and Social Welfare, vol. 3, 2009, p. 95-101

Legislative and policy developments in England and Wales are placing more emphasis of children's rights to participate in decisions which affect them. However, the commitment to implement the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child has differed in the two countries. This paper identifies three barriers to participation opportunities for children. These are adopting a paternalistic duty of care, a lack of explicit rights-based language concerning participation rights in policy documents, and a view of childhood as a golden age bereft of responsibility. The ethical implications of the English and Welsh child welfare policies on children's participation rights are discussed in relation to the perceived risks associated with participation opportunities such as Family Group Conferences.

Evaluating Sure Start: inter-professionalism and parental involvement in local programmes

N. Malin

Journal of Management and Marketing in Healthcare, vol.2, 2009, p. 161-173

Sure Start was targeted on children under four and their families in deprived areas and was a cornerstone of the New Labour government's strategy for ending child poverty by 2020. Sure Start Local Programmes aimed to transform the life chances of young children in deprived areas through better access to family support, health services and early education. This article examines key findings from Sure Start Local Programme evaluations in the North East of England, focusing on how professionals sought to engage with families and how different types of professional found ways of working together constructively. It is concluded that Sure Start Local Programmes laid a solid foundation for Sure Start children's centres through the development of good working practices.

Foundations feel the squeeze

M. Little

Children and Young People Now, Apr. 30th-May 6th 2009, p. 18-19

Children's and youth organisations in the UK rely heavily on charitable foundations to help fund their work. This article investigates the extent to which this financial support will be cut back as the recession takes hold.

Healthy lives, brighter futures: the strategy for children and young people's health

Department of Health [and] Department for Children, Schools and Families

London: Department of Health, 2009

This strategy attempts to lay out a cohesive approach for children's services, integrating contributions from the NHS and local authorities in order to improve the quality and delivery of all services up to age 19. The key messages are that:

  • Children's centres are to become a universal service for all families and the pivot for the delivery of preventative services
  • There is a commitment to increasing the number of health visitors
  • The Healthy Schools programme will be strengthened
  • Individual care plans will be provided for all children with complex needs by 2010
  • The Family Nurse Partnership Programme for vulnerable first-time mothers will be expanded
  • A Healthy Child programme for 5- to 19-year-olds will be developed.

(For comment see Community Practitioner, vol. 82, May 2009, p. 32-33)

Helped to stay as a family

J. Stephenson

Children and Young People Now, May 7th-13th 2009, p. 18-19

More than 30 councils in England and Wales offer support to vulnerable families by providing short spells in temporary foster care for children. The service is usually aimed at families where children have emotional or behavioural difficulties or where there are alcohol or drug abuse problems. Placements may be a weekend each month, a fortnightly overnight stay or an after-school session. Participation in the scheme can help prevent children from being taken into local authority care.

How to improve foster care?

L. Tickle

Community Care, May 14th 2009, p. 18-19

There is a shortage of foster carers able to look after the most disturbed children. Recruitment could be improved by paying foster carers a fee separate from allowances designed to cover the costs of looking after a child, giving them more autonomy, authority and respect, and requiring them to be formally registered

Identifying families with multiple problems: possible responses from child and family social work to current policy developments

T. Spratt

British Journal of Social Work, vol. 39, 2009, p. 435-450

Current New Labour social policy based on the Third Way thesis of Anthony Giddens focuses on the identification of populations which are likely to be high in lifetime costs to the state and targeting them with a series of investment strategies which join social and economic goals. In line with the principle of 'no rights without responsibilities', such investment strategies are characterised by both incentivised and punitive interventions. This has generated new interest in the population receiving the attention of child and family social workers, which includes families with multiple problems at risk of poor long term outcomes. The author calls on social workers to moderate their claims to protect children from present harm and abuse and focus more on the prevention of poor future outcomes through the provision of services.

Laming report: do the recommendations go far enough?

D. Bascombe

ChildRight, issue 255, 2009, p. 13-17

Lord Laming was asked by the Secretary of State for Children to carry out a review of child protection in England following the death of Baby P at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger despite the fact that he had been put on Haringey Council's 'at risk' register. This article explores some of the recommendations made by Lord Laming as a result of his enquiry and looks at what steps have been taken to implement them.

Looked-after children

Children, Schools and Families Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09: HC 111)

Previous programmes of substantial reform and investment have left outcomes for looked-after children still lagging unacceptably far behind those for other children. Inconsistency in practice and underperformance against current standards show that there are significant underlying challenges to implementation of the new raft of measures. The care system should not be seen as a sanction against failing parents, nor blight children's future prospects. Care must be an integral part of a continuum of effective support services for families under stress and not functioning well. This report examines the crucial elements of the care system:

  1. Relationships - stable reliable bonds with key individuals are fundamental to children's security and development
  2. Placements - are in short supply and local authorities need more support to increase availability
  3. The performance framework - the quality of decision-making, of relationships, and of children's experiences of care.

Three themes run through the Committee's conclusions:

  1. First is the importance of a well-trained, fairly-paid, well-supported workforce in delivering the care.
  2. Secondly is how local authorities can come to approximate more closely the care of birth parents.
  3. Thirdly, there is the voice of the child: more independent support is needed for children to express their views.

Multiprofessional communication: making systems work for children

G. Glenny and C. Roaf

Maidenhead: Open University, 2008

This book examines a series of case studies of multiprofessional work, in order to understand what works and why. In the successful case studies, the fieldworkers were able to reflect on the organisational contexts in which they were operating. This was achieved through a carefully managed series of feedback loops, which ensured that good quality information was shared at all levels. With an effective communication system in place they could resolve difficulties and evolve new ways of working together to improve their joint practice. The book draws on complexity theory to provide the analytical tools for exploring and developing the communication systems that underpin effective multiprofessional practice and argues that the effectiveness of work with children, young people and their families is crucially dependent on the quality of their relationships with fieldworkers.

Sealed off from scrutiny

A. Taylor

Community Care, Apr. 30th 2009, p. 18-19

Family court judges and magistrates take decisions on custody and access that can adversely affect child safety. However they sit outside the serious case review process. Serious case reviews take place every time a child dies due to abuse or neglect. They look at professionals' decisions and communication, with the aim of learning lessons for improvement. Opinion is divided as to whether crucial legal decisions about children's lives should remain outside of the serious case review process.

Sexualisation: myth or reality?

A. Gulland

Community Care, Apr. 23rd 2009, p. 22-23

Reports that Home Secretary Jacquie Smith has announced an inquiry into the increasing sexualisation of young girls to establish whether it is linked to violence against women. There is concern that these sexualised images objectify women, give girls the idea that looks are paramount and send worrying messages to boys and young men.

Warning to avert a leadership crisis

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, May 7th-13th 2009, p. 11

A recent report shows that around half of Directors of Children's Services (DCs) will retire or leave the profession in the next three years. However, only half of senior staff beneath them who responded to the survey said that they aspired to step into their shoes. Action is now being taken to avert a recruitment crisis through the development of leadership courses for current and aspiring DCs

Whatever happened to supervision?

M. Hunter

Community Care, Apr. 23rd 2009, p. 18-19

Lord Laming's 2003 report on the death of Victoria Climbié stated that all staff working with children should undergo regular supervision. However, recent survey evidence suggests that local authorities failed to implement the recommendation and that no improvements have been made.

Working together for children: a critical introduction to multi-agency working

G. Walker

London: Continuum, 2009

The book provides a factual and analytical introduction to the systems and processes of multi-agency work with children and families. Reflection on practice is a theme running throughout the book. To assist readers with this, there are two types of feature: information boxes, giving further factual details of particular areas related to multi-agency work; and reflective exercises containing case studies followed by questions designed to stimulate reflection on issues raised in the text.

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