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

Both parents should work to end child poverty - minister

A. Gentleman

The Guardian, Sept. 11th 2009, p. 1-2

Stephen Timms, the financial secretary, has said that in future, under the government's anti-poverty strategy, both parents in families living below the poverty line will be encouraged to find work. This change reflects recent research findings that one parent earning the minimum wage will not usually be paid enough to keep his or her children out of poverty.

Care system starts to buckle under strain

G. Carson

Community Care, Sept. 3rd 2009, p. 4-7

Latest figures from Cafcass show that it received 755 applications for section 31 care and supervision orders in July 2009, 270 more than in the same month last year and only just below June 2009's record of 774. This dramatic increase may be due in part to the recession and in part to the publicity over the Baby Peter case. This article assesses the possible costs to councils and Cafcass if this upward trend continues and investigates the impact on the courts and frontline care services.

A champion for children: evaluating the Children's Commissioner for Wales

N. Thomas and A. Crowley

ChildRight, issue 258, 2009, p. 21-23

The office of the Children's Commissioner for Wales has been the first to be evaluated in Europe. The evaluation took place from 2005-2008 and was directed by a group of 10-15 children working with professional researchers. The results show that many professionals have a limited understanding of the Commissioner's work, that those who do understand it are concerned that his work is being dominated by individual case work which could be done by other agencies, and that most children are unaware that they have a Commissioner at all.

Child database to limit adults' rights to appeal

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Sept 14th 2009, p. 10

Some applicants barred from working with children or vulnerable adults by the new Independent Safeguarding Agency will be allowed to appeal against the ban, but only on the grounds of legal or factual errors. Those convicted of serious sexual or violent offences will have no right of appeal. If an appeal fails, adult applicants will have to wait 10 years to have their cases reconsidered. When making a decision to bar an applicant, case workers can take into account newspaper stories, tip-offs from the public and the person's beliefs and private life. This raises the prospect of careers being ruined by malicious allegations.

The child placement handbook: research, policy and practice

G. Schofield and J. Simmonds (editors)

London: British Association for Adoption & Fostering, 2009

The last 30 years have seen significant investment by successive governments in providing a research evidence base for child placement and in making connections between research, policy and practice. Research in child placement plays an important part in informing and supporting the complex roles and difficult decisions of social workers, thus increasing the likelihood that professional judgements will lead to better outcomes for children and families. In this book authors from research and practice set out and evaluate the evidence; its strengths, its limitations, and implications for future policy and practice. The first section sets the scene in relation to the role of research in child placement, child placement policy in an international context, the developmental consequences of abuse and neglect and a key issue for all practice in child placement - listening to children and young people. The second section covers not only a range of placement options, but also some key issues relating to each, such as contact after adoption and fostering adolescents, which extend and complement the core chapters. The final section looks at placement issues in relation to meeting the specific needs of children, such as health and education; in relation to certain groups of children, such as disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children; and in relation to specific issues, such as leaving care and access to information

Child-safety plan to vet 11 million adults put under review

A. Travis

The Guardian, Sept. 15th 2009, p. 6

The government is to look again at the details of its scheme to vet the 11 million adults in regular contact with other people's children, after an outcry that it could jeopardise 'perfectly safe and normal activities'. The children's secretary, Ed Balls, has announced he has asked the head of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which will run the vetting, to check the government has 'drawn the line in the right place on this issue'.

(See also The Independent, Sept. 15th 2009, p. 1 & 2; Daily Telegraph, Sept. 15th 2009, p. 1 & 2)

Children, families and social exclusion: new approaches to prevention

K. Morris, M. Barnes and P. Mason

Bristol: Policy Press, 2009

The government has placed the prevention of the consequences of social exclusion at the heart of its ongoing policy reviews, and, as a result, this area remains of direct relevance for all those engaged in child welfare policy and practice. The book incorporates the results of the National Evaluation of the Children's Fund which paid particular attention to the needs and experiences of groups of vulnerable children: disabled children, black and ethnic minority children, gypsies and Travellers, and refugee and asylum-seeking children. It further develops its findings to provide a broader discourse of exclusion, need, and effective policy and practice. The book also explores preventative services and partnerships that are currently improving support for those social groups seen to be most at risk of social exclusion.

Come out from behind that law

E. O'Hara

Professional Social Work, Sept. 2009, p. 22-23

Professionals cannot effectively protect a child from abuse without sharing information from and with a variety of people and agencies who are either working with or responsible for children. Unfortunately professionals and agencies are frequently unwilling to share information out of misplaced fear of breaching data protection legislation.

The consequences of caring: skills, regulation and reward among early years workers

P. Findlay, J. Findlay and R. Stewart

Work, Employment and Society, vol. 23, 2009, p. 422-441

The persistence of gendered pay inequality some 30 years after its formal prohibition in the UK raises questions over what sustains it. Recent research highlights the role of low skills visibility and undervaluation in the persistence of pay inequality in predominantly female occupations. This article examines the skills and rewards of early years workers, the institutional processes through which their skills are measured and the institutional and organisational influences on pay and grading systems. It concludes that, while the application of more systematic forms of skill and job measurement has improved the rewards of nursery nurses, gendered constructions of their caring skills lead to an undervaluation of their educational role such that problems of low pay persist.

ContactPoint hangs in electoral limbo

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Sept. 10th-16th 2009, p. 8-9

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to the ContactPoint database which will hold information about all 11 million children in the UK. In the light of the fact that a change of government at the next general election is highly likely, this paper speculates on possible alternative approaches to improving communication between professionals involved with vulnerable children.

Diverging family policies to promote children's well-being in the UK and the US: some relevant data from family research and intervention studies

P. Cowan and C.P. Cowan

Journal of Children's Services, vol. 3, Dec. 2008, p. 4-16

In response to perceived negative consequences for children of family change in the past century, governments in the UK and the US have devoted substantial public funds to programmes to strengthen families. However, the focus of intervention in the two countries has moved in opposite directions. In the UK, financial support has moved away from interventions to strengthen the relationship between couples to parenting programmes, while in the US it has gone in the opposite direction. This review article summarises studies relevant to these policy choices. The data support the hypothesis that interventions focusing on strengthening couple relationships may have a move positive impact on families and children than interventions focusing on improving parenting skills.

Effective multi-agency partnerships: putting Every Child Matters into practice

R. Cheminais

London: Sage, 2009

This study of multi-agency work combines essential information, theoretical background and practical applications. It offers practical advice and guidance on how to establish and maintain effective multi-agency partnerships and how to meet the Every Child Matters outcomes for children and young people. It clarifies the skills and knowledge required to form productive partnerships, and provides the following: useful checklists; examples of best practice in multi-agency working; a range of activities to support team building; reflective questions; practical tools for evaluating the impact of multi-agency working; and, photocopiable materials to use with each chapter of the book.

Family life in the 21st century: the implications for parenting policy in the UK

J. Walker

Journal of Children's Services, vol. 3, Dec. 2008, p. 17-29

The ever increasing diversity of family forms has raised concerns in the UK about the impact of family instability on children and has produced a raft of policy initiatives aimed at strengthening families and supporting parents. This article explores the changes and continuities in family life and their implications for parenting and family policy. Evidence from research suggests that there are increased pressures on parents, but that it is the quality of family relationships that is most important for children's well-being rather than the family structures in which children are raised. Policy should emphasise the development of more holistic programmes of support, which do not stigmatise families, particularly as the challenges of the recession affect family life.

Fostering information gap puts families at risk

G. Carson

Community Care, Aug. 27th 2009, p. 10-11

A survey by the Fostering Network shows that many councils do not provide carers with full information about the young people placed with them. This situation persists in spite of two landmark judgements which stated that Essex County Council could be sued for failing to meet its duty of care towards a foster family.

Halfway there: working towards eliminating child poverty in the UK

C. Szurlej and others

ChildRight, issue 258, 2009, p. 16-18

In 1999 the New Labour government pledged to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020. The government has launched a number of initiatives to eliminate child poverty, but much still needs to be done, especially as increases in welfare benefits in the 2009 budget were meagre. However, implementing the Child Poverty Action Group's recommendations for eliminating child poverty might enable the government to reach its goal by 2020.

Hidden agendas

N. Valios

Community Care, Sept. 10th 2009, p. 18-19

One factor common to the Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter child abuse cases was the ability of each child's carers to mislead social workers. This behaviour is known as disguised compliance, and involves those with parental responsibility failing to admit to their lack of commitment to change and working subversively to undermine the process.

Improving inter-professional collaborations: multi-agency working for children's wellbeing

A. Edwards and others

London: Routledge, 2009

Inter-professional collaborations are invaluable relationships which can prevent the social exclusion of children and young people and are now a common feature of welfare policies worldwide. Drawing on a four year study of the skills and understanding required of practitioners if they are to establish the most effective interagency collaborations, this comprehensive text:

  • Gives examples from practitioners developing inter-professional practices
  • Emphasises what needs to be learnt for responsive inter-professional work and how that learning can be promoted
  • Examines how professional and organisational learning are intertwined
  • Suggests how organisations can provide environments which support the enhanced forms of professional practices revealed in the study
  • Reveals the professional motives driving the practices as well as how they are founded and sustained

It's the 'why' that's missing

A. Taylor

Community Care, Sept. 3rd 2009, p. 18-20

Serious case reviews are carried out when a child dies or is seriously injured through suspected abuse or neglect. They are supposed to identify lessons for the improvement of child protection services in a no-blame environment but fail to adequately analyse practice and to identify why incidents occur. The Department of Health is consulting on revised guidance on the conduct of serious case reviews. This calls for reviews to be more focused on learning lessons which could improve individual and interagency working.

A lift to Scouts? You'll need to be on database

T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 11th 2009, p. 1 + 2

Parents involved in any formal arrangement with organisers to ferry children to and from sports and social clubs such as Scouts will face prosecution if they are not vetted by the new Independent Safeguarding Authority. Anyone who fails to register and have their background checked for paedophile activity faces a fine of £5,000 and a criminal record. Anyone who is paid for their efforts will be charged £64.00 to register.

Nurseries win 'nappy curriculum' opt out

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 14th 2009, p. 14

Steiner schools, which follow the philosophy of not beginning many elements of formal education until children reach the age of seven, have won an exemption from the targets imposed by the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum for children under five. This precedent will make it more difficult for civil servants to refuse similar requests.

Parents fail to protect children against online threats, say police

S. O'Neill

The Times, Sept. 7th 2009, p.21

Jim Gamble, the head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, has indicated that parents are not acting on the advice available to them which informs them about child safety on the net.

Public attitudes and law reform: extending the legal framework for child contact to unmarried fathers, grandparents and step-parents

F. Wasoff

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.31, 2009, p. 159-172

Non-traditional forms of partnership and parenthood and sexual relationships outside marriage have become more socially acceptable and less stigmatised. There is more cohabitation, less marriage, greater visibility of same sex partnerships, more cohabiting couples with their own children, more single parent families and non-resident fathers, more stepfamilies and more family breakdown. Unmarried fathers, grandparents, and step-parents are increasingly demanding contact with children following relationship breakdown. These social changes have prompted rethinking of family law across many jurisdictions. This article examines how changes in public attitudes to family arrangements influenced the provisions of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. It compares the direction ultimately taken with public opinion, using evidence from a family attitudes module of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

Rethinking residential child care: positive perspectives

M. Smith

Bristol: Policy Press, 2009

Residential child care is a crucial, though relatively neglected area of social work. And yet, revelations of abuse and questions of effectiveness have led to increasingly regulatory and procedural approaches to practice and heightened political and professional interest. This book provides a broad and critical look at policy and practice and the ideas that have shaped the development of the sector. The book sets present day provision within historical, policy and organisational context, and discusses a range of practice issues. The importance of its personal relationships in helping children to grow and develop is highlighted. Other traditions of practice such as the European concept of social pedagogy are also explored to more accurately reflect the task of residential child care.

Safeguarding children: a shared responsibility

H. Cleaver and others

Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009

The book covers the essentials of all work with children and families, and offers guidance on the process of safeguarding children. It guides professionals through the processes of identifying and reporting child abuse and the details of what happens at each stage. It:

  • Focuses on the methods of identifying children at risk
  • Presents a fully multi-disciplinary approach to how professional groups and services should cooperate to safeguard children
  • Accompanies the training courses run by the Department of Health and NSPCC for professionals working with children

The spoilt generation

A. Sigman

London: Piatkus, 2009

The author claims that young people are growing up unprepared for the realities of adult life as parents, teachers and the police have lost their power to discipline them. The sense of entitlement now enjoyed by children is contributing to increased crime, binge drinking, under-age pregnancy and obesity. The book calls on government to pass laws that would curtail young people's rights and reassert the authority of adults.

Vetting will not guard young from foreign offenders

T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 16th 2009, p. 8

Reports that background checks by the new Independent Safeguarding Agency will not pick up offences against children committed abroad because of poor information sharing between countries. This means that foreign criminals can slip through the new vetting system and be cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults in the UK.

The young inspector calls

J. Stephenson

Children and Young people Now, Sept. 3rd-9th 2009, p. 18-19

This article introduces the Youth4U Young Inspectors programme which is establishing 36 schemes across England. It is recruiting and training young people aged 13-19 to inspect and report on youth services. There is an emphasis on recruiting disadvantaged or vulnerable young people, who will report back on core themes such as how welcoming a service is and whether young people are involved in decision-making.

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