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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2010): Child welfare - UK

Abandoned babies and absent policies

J. Mueller and L. Sherr

Health Policy, vol. 93, 2009, p. 157-164

Although infant abandonment is a historical problem, we know remarkably little about the conditions or effects of abandonment to guide evidence-driven policies. This paper briefly reviews the international evidence-base with reference to potential mental health considerations before mapping current UK guidelines and procedures and available incidence data. A systematic search found that no specific UK policy relating to baby abandonment exists, either nationally or institutionally. This is compounded by a lack of accurate UK abandonment statistics. National policies on recording and handling of baby abandonments are urgently needed, and future efforts should be targeted on establishing clear data collection frameworks to inform understanding, guide competent practice and enable interventions.

Children's rights

Joint Committee on Human Rights

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 318)

Surveys by UNICEF and others of the well-being of children and young people have found that the UK is ranked lower than almost all other industrialised countries. The Committee has previously considered children's rights in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which the UK ratified in 1991. This report follows up some of the issues that have been raised previously in the light of the latest Concluding Observations of the UN Committee which monitors compliance with the UNCRC. The Committee recommends that there should be a UK plan for implementation of the recommendations of the UN Committee on the UNCRC, with annual reports on progress. The UN Committee found that there was a general climate of intolerance and negative attitude towards children in the UK, which the Joint Committee would like to see addressed. A large number of discrimination issues were also raised by witnesses and should be addressed by the UNCRC implementation plan. It is also recommended that the Equality Bill be amended to extend protection from age discrimination to people regardless of their age in relation to the provision of goods, facilities and services, except where the discrimination can be justified. The Committee looked at the situation of a large number of children from vulnerable and marginalised groups being in the criminal justice system and the growing number of offences for which children can be charged and convicted. The Committee welcomes the withdrawal of the UK's reservation to Article 22 of the UNCRC, which related to immigration, but they question why this has not led to changes in policy and practice.

Children's rights and the developing law. 3rd ed.

J. Fortin

Cambridge: CUP, 2009

Following the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998, awareness has increased that we live in a rights-based culture and that children constitute an important group of rights holders. Now in its 3rd edition, Children's Rights and the Developing Law explores the way developing law and policies in England and Wales are simultaneously promoting and undermining the rights of children. It reflects on how far these developments take account of children's interests, using current research on children's needs as a template against which to assess their effectiveness and considering a broad range of topics, including medical law, education and youth justice. A critical approach is maintained throughout, particularly when assessing the extent to which the concept of children's rights is being acknowledged by the courts and policy makers and the degree to which the UK fulfils its obligations under, for example, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Fears for children's welfare as cuts put leading adoption agency out of business

R. Bennett

The Times, Dec. 21st 2009, p.13

The Manchester Adoption Agency which has been in operation for more than 40 years looks set to close in February. Agencies such as this offer relatively low cost adoption services to local authorities, often specializing in the placement of siblings. They make up shortfalls in income by fundraising, but this has been hit by the recession.

The future of foster care

N. Westland

Foster Care, issue 139, 2009, p. 10-13

Foster carers in the UK are not given the recognition that they deserve. The Fostering Network has launched a campaign to get foster carers recognised as equals by other professionals working with a child, respected as child care experts whose views must be considered, and paid adequately for the work they do.

Investing in parenting education: a critical review of policy and provision in England

H. Churchill and K. Clarke

Social Policy and Society, vol. 9, 2010, p. 39-53

The last decade has seen substantial investment in parenting education by New Labour governments as a means of addressing social exclusion. A belief that improved parental practices are the key to solving social problems is a recurrent feature of social policy in England. This paper maps the increasing focus on parenting of New Labour's policies on social exclusion, and the research evidence on which it rests, in order to examine the adequacy of the current strategies.

Legislative scrutiny: Child Poverty Bill

Joint Committee on Human Rights

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 1114)

The Child Poverty Bill is intended to enshrine in law the Government's commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020; to define success in eradicating child poverty; and to create a framework to monitor progress at both a national and a local level. It appears to provide a mechanism for the progressive realisation of children's right to an adequate standard of living under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Joint Committee welcomes various specific aspects of the Bill, including:

  • the use of targets, in this case relating to income, to bring about the realisation of a human right
  • placing the Government's commitment to tackle child poverty on a statutory footing
  • mechanisms for parliamentary accountability
  • the Government's positive engagement with guidance from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on using international human rights law as a framework for poverty reduction strategies
  • the establishment of the Child Poverty Commission
  • the availability of judicial review in limited circumstances, for example where the Secretary of State refuses to draw up a child poverty strategy or where the evidence is incontrovertible that the targets will be missed.

The Committee recommends that the Bill should be amended to place the Secretary of State under a duty to implement the child poverty strategy, so that there is an additional mechanism for holding the Government to account by judicial review. They also consider that the duties to consult children about the preparation of child poverty strategies are imprecise and recommend further amendments to the Bill.

Living in a gangsta's paradise

T. de Castella

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 19th-25th 2009, p. 18-19

Gang violence impacts on the lives of many young people in the Lozells area of Birmingham. This article introduces the Young Disciples Project, which seeks to tackle the problem through music, film and sport education targeted on young black people.

Managed networks and integrated children's services: case study of Devon

R. Chugg

Journal of Integrated Care, vol.17, Dec. 2009, p. 37-45

Joint agency teams for children with special needs have been established throughout Devon. The teams bring together a range of professionals including social workers, occupational therapists, learning disability nurses, special school nurses and community nurses. Educational psychologists and community paediatricians have dedicated time set aside to work with the teams. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have also been added to the joint agency service. The integration of children's services in Devon has already produced benefits for children and families in the county.

MPs blamed for 'stupid' vetting system

T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 15th 2009, p. 4

The chairman of the Independent Safeguarding Authority has placed the blame for flaws in the new vetting and barring scheme for those working with children or vulnerable adults on Parliament which passed the law. The scheme remains under criticism for being over-prescriptive, vulnerable to false accusations, and liable to abuse by over-zealous schools demanding that individuals be vetted when the law does not require it.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Dec. 14th 2009, p. 2; Daily Telegraph, Dec. 11th 2009, p. 19)

Sharp rise in criminal checks on children

M. Beckford and T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 7th 2009, p.1 + 2

The number of children forced to undergo Criminal Record Bureau checks has doubled in recent years due to the expansion of the Labour government's anti-paedophile vetting regime. More than 125,000 teenagers are now having their backgrounds checked each year, even if they are merely helping younger pupils at school or volunteering as sports coaches. Young people whose parents are childminders must also be checked, as must some students on social work courses.

Whose call is it?

L. Pollock with additional reporting by R. Holmstrom

Foster Care, issue 139, 2009, p. 14-16

Foster carers know the children they look after better than anyone else. Yet many report that they spend their lives seeking permission to make the smallest decisions, such as whether or not a child should have a haircut. There is however a growing recognition across the UK that foster carers need more delegated authority to make decisions. This article looks at progress across all nations of the UK.

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