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

Adoptions czar to fight for rights of children

R. Bennett

The Times, July 4th 2011, p.1, 6

The first 'adoption czar' is to be appointed by the Government in an effort to 'crack down on social worker apathy and reduce the number of children languishing in the care system', stripping out delays in the system and substantially speeding up the process. The ministerial adviser on adoption will have two main functions: 1) he will be required to make recommendations on how adoption processes and mechanisms can be improved, in particular where the work of local authorities is duplicated and 2) he will be asked to make sure that social workers who are sceptical about adoption as an option for more children in care are changing their ways.

Children of working mothers 'are better off'

T. Ross and C. Barker

Daily Telegraph, July 22nd 2011, p. 14

Research funded by the ESRC has shown that children whose mothers work full time during the first year of life suffer no ill effects. Results of analysis of participants in the Millennium Cohort Study showed that such children were less likely to fight with classmates or become anxious than if their mothers stayed at home. The best arrangement for children's emotional stability was a home in which both parents worked full time, partly because mothers who worked were less likely to become depressed. Children of single mothers, and those in homes where both parents were unemployed, were much more likely to have behavioural problems by the age of five.

Early help trailblazer

J. Stephenson

Children and Young People Now, June 14th-17th 2011, p.18-19

The Munro review of child protection highlights Merton Council's 0-12 Supporting Families Service as an example of how agencies can work together to intervene to avert crises. The service brings different agencies together to work out how best to help vulnerable children and parents, providing a single point of access to a wide range of support.

Early intervention: smart investment, massive savings

G. Allen

London: Cabinet Office, 2011

This second report on early intervention covers options for raising funds at a time of fiscal austerity. The public finances will be under severe strain for many years, and there is no prospect of public funding for early intervention projects on the scale required. The report sets out positive reasons for bringing in other sources of finance for early intervention schemes, such as encouraging innovation and local initiative, creating new incentives to secure value for money, and promoting input from institutions and individuals who want to contribute to society. It examines options for relaxing the Treasury rules to encourage investment and extend prudential borrowing. It also looks at the use of bonds and equity solutions to release the massive downstream savings of early intervention to benefit children and investors alike. It explores the possibilities of tax and savings incentives , including a 'High Street' early intervention ISA, an 18-year-long Children's Bond, and imitating the successful Dutch Tax Credit System. It finally suggests that an outcomes-based payments model using a social intermediary, such as the proposed Early Intervention Foundation, could attract external finance for local authorities, the third sector and other providers of proven early intervention programmes. This model could transfer greater amounts of delivery risk from the public sector to external investors, who would receive a return for achieving successful outcomes.

Early intervention: the next steps: an independent report to Her Majesty's Government

G. Allen

London: Cabinet Office, 2011

This report commissioned by the Prime Minister makes the case for investing in a range of early intervention programmes, especially for children aged 0-3. A growing body of evidence suggests that this is when intervention can significantly improve outcomes in childhood and later life. Intervention at this stage can give disadvantaged children the bedrock of social and emotional skills that will enable them to flourish. The report proposes the development of Early Intervention Places where local authorities would introduce and extend the best evidence-based schemes and the establishment of an independent Early Intervention Foundation to improve understanding of successful programmes.

Fatal child maltreatment in England, 2005-2009

P. Sidebotham and others

Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 35, 2011, p. 299-306

Experience suggests that maltreatment-related child fatalities can be classified in five broad groups: infanticide and covert homicide; severe physical assaults; extreme neglect; deliberate/overt homicide; and deaths related to but not directly caused by maltreatment. It is postulated that these groups differ in relation to the characteristics of the victims and perpetrators, the mode of death and the intentions behind it. In order to test the validity of this classification of maltreatment-related deaths, this research analysed data from all cases of fatal maltreatment from 2005 to 2009 included in two national analyses of Serious Case Reviews. The results highlight the risks to infants and young children, but also emphasise that there are ongoing risks to older children and adolescents. Children from Black and ethnic minority families seem to be disproportionately at risk. While, overall, less than one in three cases had previously been subject to a child protection plan, the number in which there was evidence of previous abuse or neglect was much higher, suggesting that there is scope for improvements in the identification and protection of those most at risk.

Forgotten no more: the case for adoption

R. Bennett and others

The Times, July 5th 2011, p. 1, 8,9 &16 page pullout

The Narey report into the state of adoption services recommends a complete overhaul of the 'hopelessly slow' and failing system that leaves children 'languishing' in care. The former head of the Prison Service and chief of Barnardo's has a long list of recommendations which he believes will rescue thousands of children from a life of neglect and instability.

Getting it right for children in residential care

Audit Scotland

Edinburgh: Audit Scotland, 2010

This report examines the extent to which expenditure on residential care services in Scotland achieves the best possible value for money and adheres to the highest standards of financial management. Data were gathered through a survey of 32 councils and a sample of voluntary and private residential care providers; interviews with selected officers and elected members in five councils; meetings with stakeholders; and reading the files of 60 children and young people in residential care. The audit showed that councils cannot demonstrate value for money or that they are achieving an appropriate quality of service for the costs involved.

(For review see Community Care, June 2nd 2011, p. 32-33)

Intelligence network

J. Cooper

Community Care, June 9th 2011, p. 16-17

The final Munro report recommended that councils look at new 'gatekeeping' methods in child protection. This article presents a case study of such an innovative approach, Devon's multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash). In this model, professionals from children's services, the police, education and health sit together in an office with links to their respective IT systems. The idea is that for every referral made, all the information available on the child and family is fed into the decision-making process. Once all the information is collected, a social work practice manager makes the decision on what happens to the referral.

Is corporate parenting one challenge too far?

C. Pemberton

Community Care, June 2nd 2011, p. 16-17

In a sector preoccupied with assessing risk, being a creative and spontaneous corporate parent takes time, training and confidence. Yet these are luxuries for many social workers in children's homes. It is argued that a fear of the unknown, coupled with lack of time, has led to the profession becoming over cautious.

Marriage offers 'little benefit' to children

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, July 20th 2011, p. 12

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has cast doubt on David Cameron's promise to give tax breaks to married couples. The research confirms that children born to married couples are on average more cognitively and emotionally successful than those born to cohabiting couples. This is because more affluent and better educated couples are more likely to get married and have children who are successful at school. Marriage in itself appears to confer little, if any, benefit in terms of child development.

NSPCC closes four ChildLine call centres

The Independent, July 4th 2011, p. 14

As part of a review of its operations, the NSPCC will close four ChildLine call centres in Swansea, Exeter, Leeds, and Edinburgh. The centres will be replaced by online counselling.

Parenting interventions: a systematic review of the economic evidence

J.M. Charles, T. Bywater and R.T. Edwards

Child: Care, Health and Development, vol. 37, 2011, p. 462-474

In the UK, it is estimated that 6.9% of boys and 2.8% of girls present with conduct disorder but the proportion rises to 20% in socially disadvantaged areas. Parenting programmes have been shown to reduce conduct disorder but there is a lack of UK cost-effectiveness research in this field. Full economic evaluations are needed to inform policy and practice decisions on which intervention to use, at what cost and with what benefit. They are vital, especially when these decisions could be constrained by budgetary limitations. More research is needed in this field, and the authors recommend key criteria that should be included in future economic evaluations of parenting programmes.

A rapid review of key strategies to improve the cognitive and social development of children in Scotland

R. Geddes, J. Frank and S. Haw

Health Policy, vol.101, 2011, p. 20-28

Neurodevelopmental research confirms the importance of exposures in early childhood, which 'sculpt' the brain during key windows of opportunity, for the acquisition of particular skills. Early social environments have been shown to play formative roles in cognitive and socio-emotional development, influencing well-being, obesity, mental health, competency in literacy and numeracy, criminality, economic productivity and social participation throughout life. However, governments generally have been slow to invest in early childhood development. Scottish health policy demonstrates a clear commitment to early childhood development, but much work remains to be done in terms of detail of policy implementation, identification of high risk children and families, and early childhood monitoring systems. Programmes should provide a universal seamless continuum of care and support from pregnancy through to school entry with the intensity of support graded according to need.

Social work with children and families: getting into practice. 3rd ed.

I. Butler and C. Hickman

London: J. Kingsley, 2011

The book covers core components of child and family work such as building effective relationships, assessment, child protection practice and working with the law. It features case studies, questions and exercises throughout. This third edition covers the very latest developments in child and family work, including changes in professional practice that emphasise the importance of understanding child development and observation skills.

A voice that will be heard

J. Cosh

Community Care, June 9th 2011, p. 28-29

The Munro review of child protection recommended that there should be a principal child and family social worker in every local authority in England, whose job it would be to report the views of frontline staff to management. Scotland already has a broadly comparable role, that of chief social work officer. Sector leaders will debate over the coming months whether the Scottish model could be implemented in England.

Young people's experiences of personal advisers and the Connexions service

K. Sheehy, R. Kumrai and M. Woodhead

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, vol. 30, 2011, p. 168-182

From 1997-2010, successive Labour governments put in place a range of initiatives aimed at improving the life chances of disadvantaged children and young people. This paper focuses on one of these services, Connexions, and the perceptions of the young people who use it. The Connexions service was launched in 2001 to provide advice and guidance to 13- 19-year-olds in England, especially those at risk of disaffection and disengagement. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews conducted in two phases with young people in a large new town. Young people's relationship with their Connexions personal adviser emerged as a significant factor in mediating the extent to which they used the service as a gateway to opportunities and resources. For some young people faced with challenging circumstances, their relationship with their personal adviser provided a uniquely stable and valued source of support.

Youth work courses feel the squeeze

P.J. White

Children and Young People Now, June 14th-27th 2011, p. 21-22

Demand for youth work qualifications remains strong despite a weak jobs market. However, changes in the higher education teaching grant from September 2012 mean that relatively unprofitable courses such as youth work may struggle to survive. Cuts in public spending have also had a negative impact on the availability of work placements for students in the field.

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