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

The 'absentee families' that put children at risk

R. Bennett

The Times, June 16th 2011, p.24

Huge numbers of children are being brought up by their grandparents or siblings with no financial help or other support because their parents cannot care for them. The arrangements tend to be agreed informally between the parents and their wider family. However, that means that the carers are not entitled to any financial support from social services, with the result that children in kinship care are twice as likely to live in poverty as children living with their parents.

Business buddies

J. Cornish

Children and Young People Now, June 1st-13th 2011, p. 18-19

The government wants public services to draw more support from the business world. This article presents three case studies of partnerships in the children's sector, and identifies the ingredients needed for a successful, stable relationship.

Challenge to Cameron on absent fathers

M. Savage

The Times, June 20th, 2011 p. 12

Changes proposed to the Welfare Reform Bill will mean that single mothers would be charged an initial fee of up to 100 for accessing the help of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, the successor to the Child Support Agency. The Prime Minister said that it 'isn't acceptable' that some fathers walk out leaving 'heroic' mothers to bring up children on their own but critics say that the fee might put off many from pursuing fathers, as would new rules forcing them to show that they had tried to make the absent father pay the money voluntarily. Charging will only make 'their heroic job harder.'

Commissioning permanent fostering placements from external providers: an exploration of current policy and practice

C. Sellick

British Journal of Social Work, vol.41, 2011, p. 449-466

Since the mid 1990s local authorities across England have been purchasing fostering placements from independent fostering providers for children in their care on an occasional basis. More recently there has been a clear policy steer towards commissioning placement services from independent providers routinely. This article explores, with reference to a recent study, how policy directives from central government have impacted on the practice of six local authorities and six independent fostering agencies in respect of commissioning and provision of long-term and permanent fostering placements and related services. There is emerging evidence that the cost of in-house fostering services is higher than local authorities recognise, and it is possible that, in an era of public spending cuts, they will be propelled towards outsourcing all or most of their fostering services to independent providers.

Discourses of children's participation: professionals, policies and practices

S. Pinkney

Social Policy and Society, vol. 10, 2011, p. 271-283

This article analyses a wide range of policy and interview texts using narrative and discourse analysis and aims to provide fresh insights into how policies of children and young people's participation are constructed and negotiated within social care. The study is based on analysis of 166 policy documents from social services departments and children's services in England and Wales. Qualitative and semi-structured interviews were conducted in five departments as follow-up. The policy and interview texts were collected between 1999 and 2003, just before and just after Every Child Matters was introduced. As such it provides analysis of a period in which significant changes were taking place in how children's participation was developing in policy and practice.

Early occupational aspirations and fractured transitions: a study of entry into 'NEET' status in the UK

S. Yates and others

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 40, 2011, p. 513-534

There have been significant changes in the youth labour market and in the school-to-work trajectories of young people over the past three decades in Britain. Shifting social and economic conditions resulted in record rises in youth unemployment in the 1980s and the collapse of the traditional route of early school leaving and rapid entry into employment. The transition to adulthood has become more individualised, with educational attainment increasingly shaping young people's life chances. This study uses longitudinal data from the British Youth Cohort Study to explore whether young people who hold uncertain occupational aspirations, or whose aspirations exceed their likely educational attainment at age 16 are more likely to be NEET than those whose aspirations are certain and aligned with their educational expectations. Results confirm that young people with uncertain occupational aspirations, or ones misaligned with their educational expectations are considerably more likely to become NEET by age 18. Uncertainty and misalignment are both more widespread and more detrimental for those from poorer backgrounds.

Helping birth families: services, costs and outcomes

E. Neil and others

British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, 2010

This study aimed to provide more information about the practice of supporting birth relatives of adopted children and the associated costs. The research was conducted through postal questionnaires in the first phase followed by a more intensive interviewing programme. Four adoption support agencies, three local authorities and one voluntary adoption agency were consulted. The take-up of support services by birth relatives was low and showed wide variation across agencies. Those who used support services found them to be helpful and involvement was associated with positive outcomes for some; the costs of providing support were relatively modest.

Infant Feeding Survey 2010: early results

The NHS Information Centre


The 2010 Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) is the eighth national survey of infant feeding practices to be carried out. Surveys have been conducted every five years since 1975. The main aim of the survey is to provide UK estimates on the incidence, prevalence and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers from the birth of their baby up to around nine months. Key findings of the 2010 survey include:

  • Initial breastfeeding rates in 2010 were 83% in England, 74% in Scotland, 71% in Wales, and 64% in Northern Ireland. There was a significant increase in the incidence of initial breastfeeding since 2005 in England, Wales, and Scotland (when breastfeeding rates were 78%, 67% and 70% respectively).
  • In Scotland the increase in breastfeeding rates between 2005 and 2010 can largely be explained by changes in age at leaving full-time education of mothers.
  • The highest incidences of breastfeeding were found among mothers from managerial and professional occupations, those who were aged 18 when left full-time education, those aged 30 or over, and among first time mothers. These variations were evident in all countries and are consistent with the patterns found in previous surveys.

    Letting children be children: report of an independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood

    Department for Education

    London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8078)

    The pressure on children to grow up early takes two different but related forms: the pressure to take part in a sexualised lifestyle before they are ready to do so; and the commercial pressure to consume the vast range of goods and services that are available to children and young people of all ages. The report calls on businesses and broadcasters to play their part in protecting children from the increasingly sexualised 'wallpaper' that surrounds them.

    Make adoption priority not last resort, councils told

    R. Bennett

    The Times, June 7th 2011, p. 17

    Adoptions fell to 3,200 in 2010, down from 4,637 in 2007 despite the number of children entering care rising to 65,000. Critics say too many councils treat adoption as an afterthought, not a priority. Adoption must be seriously considered at an early stage as an option for all children taken into local authority care.

    Making the transition from Sure Start local programmes to children's centres, 2003-2008

    J. Lewis, J. Roberts and C. Finnegan

    Journal of Social Policy, vol.40, 2011, p. 595-612

    Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) were an area-based early intervention initiative for under-fives in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England set up by the New Labour government in 1998. In 2005 it was decided to replace them with children's centres, a universal mainstream service under local authority control. This study uses qualitative data from three urban authorities to explore how far children's centres differ from Sure Start Local Programmes, and how far they are more recognisably similar to one another than SSLPs were.

    The Munro review of child protection: final report: a child centred system

    E. Munro

    London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8062)

    Professor Munro has carried out a wide-ranging and in-depth review. Her report makes fifteen recommendations and signals a shift from previous reforms that, while well-intentioned, resulted in a tick-box culture and a loss of focus on the needs of the child. Taken together, the recommendations cover the following key areas:

    • A radical reduction in the amount of central prescription to help professionals move from a compliance culture to a learning culture, where they have more freedom to assess need and provide the right help. Statutory guidance should be revised and the inspection process modified to give a clearer focus on children's needs.
    • A change of approach to Serious Case Reviews (SCRs), with learning from the approach taken in sectors such as aviation and healthcare. There should be a stronger focus on understanding the underlying issues that made professionals behave the way they did and what prevented them from being able to properly help and protect children. The current system is too focused on what happened, not why;
    • Reform of social work training and placements, with employers and higher education institutions and doing more to prepare social work students for the challenges of child protection work. The work of the Social Work task Force and the Social Work Reform Board should be built upon to improve frontline expertise;
    • Local authorities and their statutory partners should be given a new duty to secure sufficient provision of early intervention services for children, young people and families, leading to better identification of the help that is needed and resulting in an offer of early assistance;
    • Each local authority should designate a Principal Child and Family Social Worker to report the views and experiences of the front line to all levels of management. At national level, a Chief Social Worker should be established to advise the Government on social work practice.

    (For overview see Children and Young People Now, May 17th-31st 2011, p. 8-10; for comment see Community Care, May 19th 2011, p. 6-8; 16-18)

    New body to drive peer support in child welfare

    L. Higgs

    Children and Young People Now, June 1st-13th 2011, p. 8-9

    The Children's Improvement Board exists to commission support for councils and to help local leaders implement central government policy. The board will lead a programme of peer review, which will require directors of children's services to assess improvement activities in other councils on a reciprocal basis.

    Out of mind, out of sight: breaking down the barriers to understanding child sexual exploitation

    Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre?


    In January 2011, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) announced it would carry out a thematic assessment of the phenomenon known as 'localised grooming'. 'Localised grooming' has been the subject of considerable media attention, following the prosecutions of adult males for the online grooming and sexual exploitation of children and young people in various towns and cities in the UK. This report provides an outline of trends, themes and patterns based on an intensive six month period of research into child sexual exploitation. It acknowledges the challenges faced by agencies working with victims of child sexual abuse, but also identifies serious weaknesses and makes recommendations for improving practice in safeguarding victims and criminal justice outcomes. The aim is to improve the depth of understanding among police forces, children's services, local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) and service providers. CEOP is committed to working with these agencies and stakeholders to ensure that the findings and recommendations of this thematic assessment are understood, implemented and followed.


    Recruiting adoptive families: the costs of family finding and the failure of the inter-agency fee

    J. Selwyn and J. Sempik

    British Journal of Social Work, vol. 41, 2011, p. 415-431

    Adoption provides a new family for children unable to return to their birth parents. However some children who have been recommended for adoption are never placed. One of the reasons that children are not being placed is that local authorities are reluctant to use adopters approved by voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs). This reluctance seems to be because a higher inter-agency fee is payable if a child is placed with VAA approved adopters than if they are placed with adopters approved by the local authority. Some local authorities have a defined inter-agency fee budget and once this is spent it is extremely difficult to authorise additional spending. Moreover, while the cost of a placement with VAA approved adopters strains the adoption team budget, the savings due to the child no longer being in care benefit the looked after children team's budget. Separate budgets do not support the selection of the best placement to meet the child's needs. This market approach to delivering adoption services is not serving children well and has created conflict among social work professionals.

    The shape of youth services to come

    P. Evans and others

    Children and Young People Now, May 17th-31st 2011, p. 18-19

    As local authorities rein in spending in response to funding cuts, five councils explain their approach to make savings in youth services provision. West Sussex will end direct delivery of universal services and target resources on the most vulnerable young people; Oxfordshire will merge youth services with others relating to young people and families and employ a youth hub model; Manchester will hand over universal youth services to the voluntary sector and focus on providing targeted support; Devon will reduce the number of geographical teams and managers, and pool resources with other relevant services; and Warwickshire will deliver youth services through the voluntary sector and provide enhanced support to the most vulnerable.

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