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

Care authorities and the human rights jurisdiction of the family courts. Part 1

R. McCarthy and D. Fottrell

Family Law, Oct. 2011, p. 1116-1124 European Convention on Human Rights principles have been implicit in care proceedings since the Human Rights Act came into force in October 2000. However there is a somewhat patchy overall recognition of the real essentials of the Human Rights Act and the actual remedial options available. This article aims to give a balanced picture of the impact and use of the Act and particularly the remedies that are available in, and alongside, care proceedings. An informed consensus about what the courts can and cannot do will benefit both the courts and court users.

Childcare costs aid 'will penalise second earners'

A Stratton

The Guardian, Nov. 14th 2011, p. 11

An attempt by the government to improve its standing among female voters will penalise single parents working close to full-time hours and families' second earners - often women - according to the first analysis of the policy. In September, the government announced that £300m would be made available for childcare costs. An analysis for the Resolution Foundation by academic Donald Hirsch found the change would benefit those working less than 16 hours a week. But it also found that a second earner in a family working 16 hours a week on the minimum wage would, under the new universal credit coming into effect in 2013, take home £17 a week after childcare costs - around £1 an hour - compared with £46 a week under the previous system.

Councils told not to weaken Sure Start

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 1st-14th 2011, p. 14-15

Some local authorities are planning to replace Sure Start children's centres with outreach-based services to contact more struggling families. There are concerns that outreach-based services could indeed increase levels of contact with families, but might not meet the need for on-going follow-up support.

The early intervention debate

R. Chandiramani

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 1st-14th 2011, p. 18-19

The principle of early intervention with children, young people and families enjoys cross-party support. The challenge is to turn rhetoric into reality at a time of financial austerity. This article reports a discussion with a number of local authority directors and chief executives about ways forward. Funding emerged as a key concern, with scepticism about the social investment models championed by the government. It was also generally agreed that service investment and commissioning needed to be based on evidence. Schools were seen key partners in identifying families who require intervention, but there was serious concern about health services and the role of GPs as commissioners. Retraining the frontline workforce to operate differently to deliver joined-up preventive services was also identified as a priority.

Empowerment and participation in youth work

A. Fitzsimons and others

Exeter: LearningMatters, 2011

In today's society, many young people feel marginalised and unable to find their own voice. It is vital therefore that youth workers are able to work with them to tackle this in a meaningful way. Drawing on the real experiences and difficulties faced by youth workers, this book will help those who want to work with young people in an empowering way. The concepts of empowerment and participation are explained, explored and critically analysed, along with the key notion of resilience. This is backed up by activities and case studies which help to bring together the theory and the practice.

Ending gang and youth violence: a cross-government report

H M Government

London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8211)

This report has been drawn up in close consultation with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and other Cabinet Ministers and is designed to be seen as an important first analysis of the problem of gangs and the interventions that might work. It provides a platform for the intensive support that will need to be provided to the areas most affected. The riots that occurred in London and other parts of England during August 2011 had a gang aspect. In London, one in five of those arrested in connection with the riots were known gang members. Gangs and serious youth violence are seen as the product of high levels of social breakdown and disadvantage. Gangs themselves create a culture of violence and criminality. The report makes clear that intensive police action is needed to stop the violence and bring perpetrators to justice, but this should be done alongside robust offers of support and an intensive prevention strategy. The proposals are wide-ranging but focus on five specific areas:

  • Providing support - to local areas to tackle gang or youth violence
  • Prevention - stopping young people becoming involved in serious violence
  • Pathways out - offering exit strategies away from violence and gang culture
  • Punishment - preventing the violence of those refusing to exit violent lifestyles
  • Partnership working - to join up the way local areas respond to gangs and youth violence.

Family Justice Review: final report

Family Justice Review Panel

Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education and the Welsh Government, 2011

The report emphasises that the prime consideration of the courts must be the welfare of the children of separating parents, not the rights of adults. Following on from this, the review does not recommend any legal right for fathers or grandparents to have contact with the children following divorce or separation. Grandparents would be able to apply to the courts for contact with their grandchildren as now. The report also recommends that parents should be encouraged to be more proactive in arranging their own divorces guided by a new website where they could download the necessary forms. Couples should also agree a contract, possibly when they first have children, setting out who would look after them following divorce or separation. They would be required to go through a series of mediation steps to agree a settlement and arrangements for the children before resorting to a court hearing. The report seeks to establish a six month cap on the time it takes for child care proceedings to go through the courts and a new Family Justice Service to ensure that agencies and professionals work better together.

(For summary see Children and Young People Now, Nov. 15th-28th 2011, p. 10-11)

Figures reveal 124 Sure Start centre closures under coalition

N. Watt

The Guardian, Nov. 15th 2011, p. 8

The government has confirmed that there are now 124 fewer Sure Start centres for children than there were when the coalition formed in 2010. Lord Hill of Oareford, the education minister, released figures that showed there were 3,631 Sure Start centres in April in 2010, but by 8 September in 2011 there were only 3,507. Labour said the figures raised questions about David Cameron's claim that he was committed to an initiative of the last government that is credited with helping to reduce child poverty. Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said: 'The truth behind David Cameron's claim that he is committed to Sure Start has been exposed by his government's own figures. With 124 centres closed already since he became prime minister, families will be worried that even more will close in future.'

A Lipskian analysis of child protection failures from Victoria Climbié to 'Baby P': a street-level re-evaluation of joined-up governance

M. Marinetto

Public Administration, vol.89, 2011, p. 1164-1181

For policy-makers seeking to improve service delivery, the usual solution has been to focus on organisational structures and institutional processes. In particular, the mantra of joined-up governance has been offered as a panacea across different areas of service provision. This article explores the matter of governance by focusing on child protection failures, particularly the deaths of Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter Connolly at the hands of family members and others who were caring for them. It argues that we cannot rely on formal structures or decision-making processes, especially joined-up governance, to prevent tragedies. The normal, daily and informal routines of professional workers are integral to how the child protection system operates. These routines may inadvertently culminate in systemic failures that result in child protection tragedies. The concept of street level bureaucracy developed by Lipsky is used to shed light on the micro-world inhabited by professional workers and why Lord Laming's proposals for the improvement of child protection services following the death of Victoria Climbié, which relied heavily on co-ordination between agencies, failed to work and did not save the life of Baby Peter.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and mature minors: a missed opportunity?

V. Chico and L. Hagger

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.33, 2011, p. 157-168

English law ostensibly offers significant respect for personal autonomy in medical decision-making. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 seeks to prevent the courts from interfering with such decisions, even if unwise, on the grounds of incapacity or inability to understand. Its central principles seek to maximise capacity by empowering people to make decisions. However children under 16, who are at particular risk of findings of incapacity, are excluded from the Act. This article questions this exclusion on the grounds that there is evidence that children have capacity to make decisions, provided that information is communicated to them in ways they can understand.

Parenting programmes in England: policy development and implementation issues, 2005-2010

J. Lewis

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.33, 2011, p.107-121

In the last decade parenting programmes have been designed to encourage the kind of behaviour on the part of the parent that will both promote and reinforce good behaviour in the child. In England, such programmes were offered by local authorities supported by funding from central government alongside a range of other services for families such as drop-in centres and health visiting. Central government increasingly favoured the use of evidence-based parenting programmes, mainly developed in the US and Australia for use in clinical settings. This article explores the issues around the implementation of these programmes by local authorities as part of universal family services in England

'Poorest have been abandoned': fears tax credit hit will push children into poverty

H. Stewart

The Guardian, Nov. 30th 2011, p. 5

The Conservative-led coalition came to power claiming to be committed to helping the poorest families. That was why Osborne pledged to increase the child element of the working tax credit - the bit that goes to families - by £110 above inflation. That promise was reversed in the 2011 Autumn statement, saving the government about £1bn a year and prompting Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, to claim 'Britain's poorest families have been abandoned today and left to face the worst'. Osborne had already announced he would freeze the basic element of the working tax credit; in November 2011 he said the lone parent and child elements would also be frozen instead of uprated in line with inflation, saving the Treasury £290m a year by 2013.

Private firms may be used to combat 'shocking' adoption rate

S. Adams

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 31st 2011, p. 5

Prime Minister David Cameron declared that he was shocked that of 3,600 children under the age of one in care in 2010, only 60 were adopted. He announced that the government would publish performance data on adoptions to ensure that local authorities raised their game. Where councils were failing, a high-performing local authority could take over, or services could be contracted out.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Nov. 1st 2011, p.4)

Safeguarding refugee and asylum-seeking children

N. Thomas and J. Devaney (guest editors)

Child Abuse Review, vol. 20, 2011, p. 307-390

Refugee and asylum-seeking children, whether alone or with their families, are vulnerable in many ways. They may be traumatised by their previous experiences and face extensive cultural and language barriers separating them from those charged with helping them. They may be at risk of ill-treatment by their families or be bullied at school and in the community. Official policy in this area is concerned with policing borders as much as with ensuring the welfare of refugee and asylum-seeking children, and they may need protection from agents of the state as well as from their families. Two main themes emerge from the papers in this special issue: 1) how to achieve justice and care for very vulnerable people in the face of official policies and a popular culture which militate against this; and 2) how to promote a rights-based approach to services that recognises refugees and asylum seekers, including young children, as citizens with a contribution to make to society.

Services for young people: the Government response

Education Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1501)

The Education Committee welcomes the Government's response to its report Services for young people; however, it considers a number of key recommendations to have been only partially addressed. This report seeks further clarification from the Government. It recommends that the Government actively endorse the outcomes framework being developed by the Catalyst consortium, and make it clear to youth services that they expect them to use it unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.

Social finance trial council ponders bank loan to cut care numbers

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 1st-14th 2011, p. 12-13

Essex County Council was one of three local authorities to undertake a six month feasibility study in 2011 regarding use of social finance and payment-by-results to reduce the number of children in care. Despite the Cabinet Office identifying a number of social investors ready to provide the required £3m in funding, the authority is considering taking out a loan for the amount instead in order to avoid paying out a premium if the scheme is a success or being left out of pocket if savings fail to materialise.

Why no change is too risky

S. Rogowski

Professional Social Work, Nov. 2011, p. 14-15

Currently the emphasis of child and family social work is on crisis intervention and protection, with an increasing focus on the assessment of risk. This has led to social workers moving away from a role prioritising therapy and welfare to one of surveillance and control of troubled families. There is a tendency for the bureaucratic assessment process to predominate, with less attention to provision of services to children in need. This seems to be aimed more at protecting the reputation of the organisation should things go wrong than at meeting the needs of children and families.

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