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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2011): Child welfare - UK

Adoption couples blocked by race barrier

R. Bennett

The Times, Jan. 24th 2011, p. 3

Thousands of families are being turned away when they first ask about adopting a child, with many being told that their ethnicity does not match the children needing a home. The issue of race and adoption is under review by the Government. In his new guidelines the Children's Minister has told social workers that race or cultural background 'should not be a barrier to adoption' and that local authorities' adoption rates will be scrutinised closely from now on.

Channelling the messiness of diverse family lives: resisting the calls to order and de-centring the hetero-normative family

J. Wallbank

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 32, 2010, p. 353-368

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 2008 amended the law to allow a non-biological lesbian civil partner to be recognised as the child's legal parent provided that the mother conceives via artificial insemination and not sexual intercourse. Civil partnership throws a mantle of protection around the two lesbian parents in much the same way that marriage does for heterosexual couples; thus mimicry of the heterosexual two-parent family is rewarded. Where same-sex couples choose not to formalise their relationships, the law reforms insist on the agreed parenthood conditions being fulfilled. The HFEA 2008 thus presents same-sex couples with a set of incentives and disincentives which encourage them to choose formal civil partnerships which mimic marriage over informal arrangements.

Cuts will force 250 Sure Start centres to close, warn charities

R. Ramesh and A. Gentleman

The Guardian, Jan. 28th 2011, p. 21

Hundreds of Sure Start centres face closure in 2011 and thousands of others are cutting services and have warned of job losses, according to a report by the families charities 4children and Daycare Trust. The closures and reduced services will see as many as 60,000 families lose their local centre. A separate survey of 25 councils by the Children & Young People Now magazine shows youth services and children's centres worst hit as cuts average 13%.

Focus on young children means teenage abuse is neglected, says Barnardo's

R. Bennett

The Times, Jan. 17th 2011, p. 8-9

The charity Barnardo's is concerned that social workers and child protection professionals are preoccupied with the safety of very young children and overlooking the grooming and sexual exploitation of teenagers and has called on the Government to take action. They are calling for a minister to co-ordinate knowledge and information on this problem, draw up guidelines for professionals and make it a serious child protection issue.

From Sure Start to children's centres: an analysis of policy change in English early years programmes

J. Lewis

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 40, 2011, p. 71-88

Sure Start was an early intervention programme, intended to bring together a range of services, including family support, health services and support for special needs, as well as childcare and education, in disadvantaged areas. It was launched in 1998 and expanded to create 530 local programmes (SSLPs) by 2004. Yet in 2003 it was decided to replace SSLPs with Children's Centres, which would cover the whole country, albeit with a limited set of services for better off areas. This paper examines the extent to which the transition to Children's Centres represents continuity or change and suggests that, while the policy was framed in terms of continuity, in practice extensive changes were made. In particular, governance underwent radical change and, while many elements of the Children's Centres' offer looked similar to those of SSLPs, the emphasis was rather different, particularly in the emphasis accorded to early years education and childcare.

Parents who split face child welfare fees

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2011, p. 8

Parents in the process of separating will have to take more responsibility for the welfare of their children and pay for state help to agree financial arrangements. Under the government's plans, parents will be charged 100.00 if they want to use publicly funded counsellors to resolve maintenance issues. Ministers want to cut the cost of policing the child support system by making the process of parental separation less adversarial.

Policy change under devolution: the prism of children's policy

E. Kay, M. Tisdall and M. Hill

Social Policy and Society, vol. 10, 2011, p. 29-40

It was expected that devolution would bring about divergence in policy between Scotland and the rest of the UK. In fact, the results have been mixed, with greater change evident in policy processes than outcomes. Policy initiatives in the children's field proliferated, with nearly all having distinctly Scottish nomenclature and elements. However, several of the core differences between Scottish and English policy were present before devolution, notably in education and youth justice. In some respects, post-devolution policy has seen convergence in these fields as a result of common goals and allegiance to the Labour Party at both UK and Scottish levels.

Review of the Office of the Children's Commissioner (England)

J. Dunsford

London: TSO, 2010 (Cm 7981)

There is a need for a Children's Commissioner in today's society. However this report finds that the current model is flawed and consequently the overall impact of the Children's Commissioner has been disappointing. The report attributes this mainly to the current limited remit of the Commissioner, which refers to children's views and interests rather than their rights. It recommends that the Government changes the role as follows:

  • a strengthened remit - a new rights-based Children's Commissioner for England;
  • greater independence from Government - the Children's Commissioner should report direct to Parliament, rather than just the Department for Education, and should not have to consult the Secretary of State before undertaking an inquiry;
  • the Commissioner should be in post for a single seven-year term of office;
  • increased powers - advising Government on new policies and undertaking an assessment of the impact of new policies on children's rights, and a duty on Government and local authorities to issue a formal response to concerns raised by the Children's Commissioner;
  • a merger between the Office of the Children's Commissioner and the Office of the Children's Rights Director in Ofsted to create a new Office of the Children's Commissioner for England.

The Shoesmith interview

R. Chandiramani

Children and Young People Now, Dec. 7th 2010-Jan. 10th 2011, p. 8-10

Ms Shoesmith was director of children's services in Haringey at the time of the murder of baby Peter Connolly by his mother, her boyfriend, and their lodger. In this interview, she refutes claims that failures by Haringey social workers led to baby Peter's death, pointing out forcefully that poor performance by the NHS and the police had also played a part in the tragedy.

Towards greater recognition of the Right to Play: an analysis of Article 31 of the UNCRC

C. Davey and L. Lundy

Children and Society, vol. 25, 2011, p. 3-14

Children's access to play and recreational activities is enshrined as a human right in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Using children's views to illustrate the multi-dimensional relationship Article 31 holds with other key children's rights, this article shows how a rights-based classification of play emphasises issues such as freedom, safety, choice and inclusion. It highlights the fact that, while Article 31 has provided an impetus for play policies throughout the UK, these have not been developed from an explicit rights-based perspective. It is concluded that the Committee on the Rights of the Child could take a greater lead on this issue through more robust monitoring and enforcement of Article 31.

Young 'could lose chance to improve their lives'

R. Williams

The Guardian, Jan. 5th 2011, p. 8

The coalition government's savage cuts, including the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), higher tuition fees and the scrapping of the Future Jobs Fund, risk robbing a generation of the chance to improve their lives and crushing social mobility, the former Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, warns.

The young saviours of youth work

G. Jozwiak

Children and Young People Now, Dec. 7th 2010-Jan. 10th 2011, p. 12

Youth services across England are reeling from the impact of cuts in council budgets. This article presents an alternative model of provision, which involves young people themselves forming a mutual and taking over running the service. Youth workers would train young people to deliver services to their peers, but both groups would manage the service as equals.

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