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

Back on track after Baby P

J. Cooper

Community Care, Mar. 4th 2010, p. 20-22

Report of an interview with Peter Lewis, appointed head of children's services in Haringey following the Baby P scandal of 2008, in which he describes how safeguarding has been improved thanks to better training and supervision of social workers.

Busy yes, but are today's children happy?

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 26th 2010, p. 11

Dr Maggie Atkinson, the new Children's Commissioner for England, has said in her inaugural speech that some parents provide their children with technology and keep them occupied through after-school activities, but are too busy to talk to them. Families may be putting too much pressure on children to succeed, at the expense of their happiness. The Commissioner also warned that schools were putting pupils' creativity at risk as examinations turned them into 'little bundles of measurable outputs'.

Catholic adoption agencies can refuse to use gay couples

M. Moore

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 18th 2010, p. 10

A provision was inserted in the legislation that ensured that gay charities could not be sued for discrimination for not serving heterosexuals because their stated aim was to support homosexuals. The adoption agency Catholic Care has sought to take advantage of this loophole by applying to the Charity Commission to write an explicit reference to heterosexuality into its constitution. It argued that it could then refuse gay couples on the grounds that the stated aim of the charity was to provide services to people of a particular sexual orientation. The Charity Commission refused Catholic Care's application, but has now been ordered to review its decision by the High Court.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and the Child Support Agency's operational improvement plan

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10; HC 118)

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) was established by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 and took over responsibility for the functions of the Child Support Agency (CSA) on 1 November 2008. The CSA's Operational Improvement Plan was a three year plan launched in 2006, costing 320 million, designed to address many of the Agency's longstanding operational problems. The Report finds that CMEC has made substantial progress through the Operational Improvement Plan in clearing the backlog of child maintenance cases, reducing the time taken to process new claims and improving accuracy and customer service. However, the Report notes that, whilst CMEC has made progress in other areas too, success has been more qualified. As of September 2009, 27 per cent of non-resident parents were still paying no maintenance at all, and, whilst it has stemmed the increase in maintenance arrears, CMEC missed its targets for collection of arrears in 2008-09 and is struggling to meet targets for 2009-10.The Report also finds that CMEC has experienced a rapid increase in the number of cases that cannot be managed by its IT systems and have to be dealt with clerically. IT problems beset the CSA from its inception, and, despite the investment of 107 million in upgrading the system over the course of the Operational Improvement Plan, the number of cases being managed "clerically" had risen to 75,000 by September 2009. The Report expresses concern that the additional costs of this clerical administration are "mounting alarmingly'. A new statutory scheme will be introduced in 2011, and, up to 2014, CMEC will effectively be operating three different child maintenance schemes using three different IT systems, as cases from the old and current schemes are closed and customers either move onto the new scheme or opt for private arrangements. The Report expresses concern at the effect of the ballooning clerical caseload on CMEC's ability to manage this transition period and successfully launch the new scheme for calculation of child maintenance.

Children in need

P. Frampton

Roof, Mar./Apr. 2010, p. 38-39

There is strong evidence that the current system of foster care in the UK is inflicting lasting damage on children. The author calls for the reintroduction of large residential children's homes based on the success of the German system, where most care placements are residential.

Computer says 'Misery'

D. Ince

Professional Social Work, Mar. 2010, p. 12-13

The Integrated Children's System (ICS) chronicles the interaction of a social worker with a child in need and has been subject to major criticisms. Unfortunately the system was originally designed to provide management information and is not suitable for frontline social work, as it only allows staff to access data in bite sized chunks instead of as a narrative. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has issued guidance on how to improve the system, but the document does not countenance the major changes needed.

How unqualified and inexperienced nannies get on the childcare register

R. Bennett

The Times, Mar. 22nd 2010, p.11

Flaws in Ofsted's new childcare register have come to light following steps taken by a nanny agency angered at the number of unqualified 'Ofsted-registered' nannies attempting to get on their books. The chief executive of the London Nanny Company and Family Match went undercover and applied for Ofsted registration. Despite having no childcare qualifications, no first-aid skills or childcare experience, she was registered immediately, purely on the basis of passing a CRB check.

'If the social worker had called at least it would show they cared': young care leavers' perspectives on the importance of care

C. Gaskell

Children and Society, vol. 24, 2010, p. 136-147

The UK government's Care Matters Green Paper represents an acceptance of state failure in corporate parenting. The widening gap between outcomes for looked after children and those for all children is acknowledged as unacceptable and in need of urgent attention. In order for reforms to be effective, changes must take into account the expressed needs of looked after children. Drawing on qualitative, empirical data, this study explores young care leavers' experiences of care. The main framework through which young care leavers understood their welfare needs and service use was that of a perceived lack of care. This appears to be due to:

  1. their experience of failure by adult carers prior to their entering the system
  2. interpretation of barriers to building trusting relationships and the instability of service provision as stemming from a lack of care.

Lengthen school day to help latchkey kids, charity urges

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Mar. 3rd 2010, p. 16

A report by the charity Action for Children, Deprivation and Risk, recommends that the school day should be lengthened to help 'latchkey kids' who are left alone after school while parents work. Thousands of older children are left alone between 3pm and 7pm with nothing to do and are at risk of turning to delinquency, the report argues. The Government's attempt to solve the problem with after-school clubs has failed because many older children refuse to attend the voluntary activities on offer.

No place like home: improving adoption services in England

J. Groves

Policy Exchange, 2010

Many councils are failing to use voluntary adoption agencies due to 'misconceptions' about the costs involved. They are balking at paying a one-off fee of about 24,080 to agencies, instead leaving children in care at an annual cost of 25,000. Council reluctance to use the voluntary sector is leaving agencies struggling to survive. Two-thirds of those surveyed by researchers had seen a decrease in purchasing by councils and four in 10 said that their future financial viability was in doubt. The report calls for the introduction of variable fees, with higher charges for difficult cases, such as placing older children from minority ethnic groups, and for more partnership working between local authorities and the voluntary sector agencies.

No shame in seeking help

C. Pemberton

Community Care, Feb. 18th 2010, p. 18-19

The difficulties many adoptive families face in the years after a placement can be hidden. A significant proportion of the children currently being adopted are older, have been in care, and are damaged by early experiences of neglect and abuse. However access to support, particularly mental health services, remains inconsistent across the country.

Professional regulation and the integration of children's services in the UK: maintaining standards while promoting disability equality

C.H. Sin

Journal of Children's Services, vol.4, Oct. 2009, p. 14-24

This article assesses the relevance for children's services of findings from the Disability Rights Commission formal investigation into the impact of professional regulation on disabled people studying and working in three professions in Britain: nursing, teaching and social work. Many professional regulations include varied and vague requirements for 'fitness'. These are interpreted and implemented differently, often informed by unexamined negative assumptions around disability. Disabled people, particularly those with 'hidden' disabilities, can be discouraged from disclosing their conditions. This deprives them of the support and adjustments they need to enable them to practise safely. Professional regulation can thus induce a false sense of security.

Recession fallout takes its toll on workforce morale

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 9th-15th 2010, p. 8-9

A survey of 50 workers from youth justice, early years and youth work settings found that 74% of respondents were concerned about losing their jobs due to the impact of the 2009 economic recession on funding. Apart from job worries, all 50 respondents expressed concern about the impact of the recession on services, with 64% doubting they would have adequate resources to deliver all the services needed in 2010/11. Eighty per cent of respondents claim not to have received any guidance from central government or local authorities on how to prepare for expected cuts in funding.

Risk factors for severe child poverty in the UK

M. Magadi

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 39, 2010, p. 297-316

Despite the recent decline in overall child poverty in the UK, there is evidence that children from the very poorest families remain a legitimate concern. This study examines the risk factors and extent of severe child poverty in the UK, based on the 2004/05 family resources survey. Results show significant regional variation in severe child poverty rates, ranging from 3% of children in South East England to 10% in London. The multinomial logistic regression results conform to expectations, showing relatively high risks of severe poverty among children: with workless parents; whose parents have low levels of education; in large families; from ethnic minority groups; and in families with one of more disabled adults. However, results with respect to benefit receipt and lone parenthood do not conform to expected patterns. The overall risk of severe poverty is lower for children of lone parents compared to those of similar background characteristics in two-parent families. Non-receipt of benefits in the family is also associated with higher likelihood of experience of severe child poverty, an issue which requires policy attention.

Rural runaways: rurality and its implications for services to children and young people who run away

M. Franks and H. Goswami

Children and Society, vol. 24, 2010, p. 123-135

This article debates options for service provision to young rural runaways in the UK. Rural refuges, systemic advocacy and mobile services for young runaways are considered in the light of data drawn from two national surveys and follow-on qualitative studies. Evidence suggests that both young runaways' services and young runaways themselves are particularly visible and at risk of stigmatisation in rural areas. It is concluded that in this context, add-on services to generic provision may offer a solution.

Securing a sustainable future for children and young people

Z. Renton and J. Butcher

Children and Society, vol.24, 2010, p. 160-166

This article explores the policy context in England relating to children and young people and sustainable development and asks whether enough is being done by central government to secure a more sustainable future for them. It begins by providing an outline of what sustainable development means and why it matters for children and young people. It then explores current relevant policy frameworks to identify the extent to which sustainable development principles are being put at the centre of children and young people's policy, and children at the centre of efforts to live sustainably.

Social work reforms could put children at more risk - councils

R. Williams

The Guardian, Mar. 10th 2010, p. 16

Council leaders have warned that the cost of implementing child protection reforms recommended in the wake of the Baby Peter case will run into tens of millions of pounds, and new rules and targets have left social workers overloaded and could put vulnerable children's safety at greater risk. A study by researchers at Loughborough University, commissioned by the Local Government Association, has found that nearly two-thirds of social workers reported an increase in their workloads in the past six months, with child protection workers now dealing with an average of 14 cases at a time. Social workers also said they were spending up to three-quarters of their time completing paperwork rather than seeing families.

The social work trailblazers

T. de Castella

Children and Young People Now, Feb.25th-Mar. 1st 2010, p. 16-17

Six local authorities are involved in a pilot to test whether independent organisations of social workers employed under contract can provide greater continuity and stability for children in care. This article looks at how the pilots are being structured. (See also Community Care, Feb. 25th 2010, p. 18-19)

US-style summer camps for poorer children

R. Garner

The Independent, Mar. 15th 2010, p. 2

One of the plans being considered by the Sutton Trust, as a means of reducing the cost of the UK's low level of social mobility, is the introduction of American-style summer camps for disadvantaged young people which would combine learning with leisure activities. A study published by the education charity looks at how much more disadvantaged young people would earn if their income was brought up to the national average and estimates that failure to improve in this area currently costs the UK 14bn a year.

Youth service leadership takes shape

R. Watson

Children and Young People Now, Mar. 2nd-8th 2010, p. 11

The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has funded leadership and management training courses to train youth workers to deliver effective, integrated services for young people. The training was first pledged in the government's 10-year youth strategy, Aiming High for Young People.

Fractured families

J. Stephenson

Children and Young People Now, Mar. 2nd-8th 2010, p. 16-17

This article introduces the work of Family Intervention Projects which work with some of the most challenging families in the UK, helping them to break free of antisocial behaviour, drug abuse and poverty. Key workers remain involved with the family long term, and provide counselling, group work, parenting support and referral to specialist help.

From Head Start to Sure Start: reflections on policy transfer

J. Welshman

Children in Society, vol. 24, 2010, p. 89-99

This article explores policy transfer by tracing the history of the debates over the US Head Start programme (1965), Early Head Start (1994) and the UK Sure Start initiative (1998). The first part looks at debates over Head Start in the US, and the UK response, including the establishment of Education Priority Areas, the 1972 education White Paper, and Keith Joseph's cycle of deprivation. The second section traces scepticism about US poverty models and doubts about the benefits of Head Start. The third part covers Early Head Start and the establishment of Sure Start in the UK from 1998. The final section traces the transformation of Sure Start from 2004 and the way that the publication of the interim evaluation was incorporated into debates about social exclusion.

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