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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2012): Child welfare - UK

Are 18- to 24-year-olds lost in transition?

S. Rauprich and others

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 15th-28th 2011, p.18-19

Young people aged 18 to 25 can struggle to have their needs met in a system that treats them as adults. Four experts in the field debate whether children and young people's services should be reconfigured to be available to all young adults up to the age of 25.

Are league tables right for youth services

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 29th-Dec.12th 2011, p. 10-11

The children's minister indicated that he favoured the introduction of league tables for youth services similar to those used for monitoring outcomes for children in care. In this article experts debate the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal.

Care league tables get mixed reaction

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 15th-28th 2011, p. 8-9

New league tables first published in Oct. 2011 ranked councils against 15 indicators for children in care. The figures showed marked disparities in adoption, placement stability, educational attainment and outcomes for looked after children and care leavers across the country.

Care leavers face up to empty promises

J. Lepper

Community Care, Nov. 24th 2011, p. 20-21

The Southwark Judgement of May 2009 ruled that children's services had a legal duty to provide accommodation and support to homeless 16- and 17-year-olds under the Children Act 1989. Councils, however, received no extra government funding to pay for this. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill before Parliament in November 2011 gave councils additional responsibility for young offenders on remand by giving them looked-after status. The Ministry of Justice promised additional funding, but there were fears this would be inadequate.

Childcare gap 'will force more mothers to quit jobs'

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 5th 2011, p. 15

The charity Grandparents Plus warned that there was a risk of a childcare gap opening up in many families as grandmothers, who would have looked after young children, remained in work longer as the retirement age rose. It estimated that as many as two-thirds of grandparents provided free care for relations. It expected that one of the consequences of raising the retirement age would be more mothers giving up work because grandmothers were no longer available to provide childcare.

Child protection systems in the United Kingdom: a comparative analysis

A. Stafford and others

London: J. Kingsley, 2012

This book compares child protection systems in the different parts of the UK. Reflecting on the impact of devolution, the authors consider and analyse the way child protection systems are being developed, thought about and put into practice in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. An intra-country comparative approach is applied to the main features making up child protection including: policy frameworks, inter-agency guidance, the role of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Area Child Protection Committees, child deaths and Serious Case Review processes, and vetting and barring legislation and systems. The authors also consider the unique position occupied by England and explore future directions for child protection across the UK.

Children put at risk by shortage of foster families

P. Butler

The Guardian, Dec. 20th 2011, p. 9

Thousands of vulnerable children could end up trapped in inadequate or inappropriate care because of a looming crisis in the recruitment of foster parents, a charity warned. Difficulties in finding replacements for the one in six foster parents who quit or retired each year were being exacerbated by the steady rise in numbers of children who were taken into care, said the Fostering Network. It said that at least 8,750 new foster families needed to be found across the UK in early 2012 to avoid a foster care crisis. The biggest shortfalls were in London, the north-west of England and Scotland.

Children's homes that make the grade

J. Cooper

Community Care, Nov. 24th 2011, p. 16-17

From April 2011, children's homes were inspected by Ofsted on the basis of outcomes achieved for young people instead of processes. Results of inspections over the first six months seemed to show that the new framework made little difference to the overall rankings, but Ofsted warned that the framework would be reviewed after a year. Overall, the results showed that children's homes were improving.

Councils remain unprepared for fallout of housing benefit cap

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Nov. 29th - Dec. 12th 2011, p. 12-13

From January 2012 the maximum amount of housing benefit a family could receive was reduced to 400.00 a week. The imposition of the cap was expected to lead to families being forced to move to cheaper areas where they could afford the rents, particularly in London. Local authorities appeared largely unprepared for the safeguarding, childcare and gang-related problems that were likely to result.

Devolution and change since the Children Act 1989: new directions in Wales

A. Pithouse

Journal of Children's Services, vol. 6, 2011, p. 172-185

This article explores the continued relevance of the public law parts of the Children Act 1989 to an adequate understanding of how children's safeguarding and wellbeing needs are met by the local and national state in Wales after devolution. The Children Act 1989 remains foundational in Wales but has been overshadowed by a concern for the needs and rights of every child, rather than just children at risk. A rights-based orientation in public policy has helped to shift expectations of children's services beyond those envisaged in the 1989 act and towards a new universalist approach. Welsh policies aimed at delivering on universal wellbeing and responding to children in need are yet to make a demonstrable impact on child outcomes and will need to be monitored carefully.

Does responsive regulation offer an alternative? Questioning the role of formalistic assessment in child protection investigations

N. Harris

British Journal of Social Work, vol. 41, 2011, p. 1383-1403

This paper asks why child protection investigations, despite many reforms and considerable potential for responsiveness, are experienced as bureaucratic and antagonistic by a considerable number of parents. The answer proposed is that investigations have become overly oriented around managing the compliance of families with assessment procedures. This shift in priority at the initial stages of engagement from the well-being of children and their families to assessment undermines broader attempts to work with families and offers a less precise response to their needs. It is argued that there needs to be a fundamental change in the way that assessment is used in child protection. It needs to move from being a procedural step to being a flexible tool that can assist workers and families to engage with each other productively. Responsive regulation offers an alternative approach through a framework that systematically encourages families to work voluntarily with authorities and increases the capacity of those authorities to be more responsive to co-operation. This paper explores how it might apply to investigatory processes.

Duncan Smith signals change in official child poverty targets

P. Wintour and A. Stratton

The Guardian, Dec. 2nd 2011, p. 12

The government is planning to review official targets for reducing poverty, arguing that simply comparing relative incomes leads to perverse incentives and does little to promote better life chances. The move was signaled by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and David Cameron in the week that the government was forced to admit that its autumn statement would mean another 100,000 children brought into child poverty under the measure enshrined in law by the New Labour government. Labour set the target of eliminating child poverty, so no household had an income of 60% or more below the national median, by 2020.

Getting started with the 1948 Children Act: what do we learn?

R. Parker

Adoption and Fostering, vol.35, no.3, 2011, p. 17-29

This article reflects on the reform of children's services in the wake of the 1948 Children Act and the role of children's officers and children's committees charged with its implementation between 1948 and 1970. It examines the backgrounds of these officers, many of whom were women seen for the first time in senior positions, methods of recruitment, and how the performance of officers and committees was assessed. It also discusses some of the problems they faced, such as how to shift care from residential establishments to foster homes, excessive caseloads and substandard children's accommodation and considers whether any lessons can be learned.

'Having to adopt children twice is not in the children's best interests': a reflective case study analysis of intercountry adoption policy in the UK

A. Gibbs

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.33, 2011, p. 267-277

In 2007, the author and her husband adopted two boys from Russia as New Zealand citizens. They complied with New Zealand policy and law, as well as with Russian inter-country adoption (ICA) regulations. In 2009 the family returned to the UK, where the author and her husband were born and had lived until 1999. UK adoption and immigration policies, however, did not recognise the ICA as a Hague Convention adoption. Russia has not signed the Hague Convention and the family was required by UK law to re-adopt the boys. This article explores the differing policies and practices of inter-country adoption in New Zealand and the UK, and the children's rights issues involved, as well as the unintended discriminatory practices of double or re-adoption.

The language and policy of care and parenting: understanding the uncertainty about key players' roles in foster care provision

G. Hollin and M. Larkin

Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 33, 2011, p. 2198-2206

This study compares how social workers and government documents constructed both foster placements and the importance of personnel within them. Discourses based around attachment theory are drawn on by both social workers and the 'Care Matters' documentation, but each constructs the parental role rather differently. The social workers position themselves as 'team mates' of the children, with a relationship dependent upon age and understanding, and place the birth parents in the traditional parental role. Within 'Care Matters', however, birth parents are relatively marginal, and the social workers are positioned as parents. Neither party considers foster carers to be 'parents', despite the fact that they are charged with providing daily care and support. 'Care Matters' explicitly constructs the foster care role in professional terms. A conflict thus arises between the widely held view that successful foster placements are based on secure attachment binding the child and the foster family, and the construction of foster carers as part of the professional workforce providing services to the child.

Listening to children on divorce: how best can children's voices be heard?

F. Hamilton

Family Law, Nov. 2011, p. 1280-1284

This article investigates the continued lack of opportunity for children to be consulted about the settlement when their parents divorce. Much has already been written about the difficulty of hearing children's voices in court proceedings. This article therefore evaluates how best children's voices can be heard in the common methods used to resolve divorce proceedings outside of court, including negotiation between lawyers and mediation.

Milburn warns coalition on child poverty targets

R. Ramesh

The Guardian, Dec. 14th 2011, p. 8

Alan Milburn, the coalition's adviser on social mobility, warned that the government wouldl miss its legally binding targets to reduce child poverty by 2020, and called for spending to be re-focused on the 800,000 under-fives living below the poverty line. In his first comments as 'independent reviewer' of government policy, the former Labour health secretary called on Iain Duncan Smith's forthcoming white paper on social justice to make the case for cutting child poverty. If such deprivation 'does not fall, social mobility will not rise', he said. Milburn praised coalition policies such as universal credit and the pupil premium, but said: 'Progress on child poverty is stalling. Worse than that, it has almost certainly started to reverse. Child poverty is likely to go on rising . and the child poverty targets will simply not be met.' He said 19bn would be required from taxes to meet the 2020 target of only a maximum of 10% of children still living in relative poverty by that date. He added that ministers should 'come clean and make it clear' this would not be possible.

Privatising foster care: the UK experience within an international context

C. Sellick

Social Policy and Administration, vol.45, 2011, p. 788-805

The private for-profit foster care sector has flourished in Britain. The extent of its success, over the past decade, distinguishes this country from others where there are developed child welfare systems in place. In the USA and Australia, those children's services which are outsourced by government are mostly provided by voluntary organisations. Privatising welfare is not new in the UK, but its focus has widened from the provision of adult care services in the 1980s and 1990s, to incorporate a growing proportion of foster care placements. The situation is however uneven, so that although child placements in foster and residential care are increasingly privately provided, those for care leavers remain in the not-for-profit sector. However, this could be changing so that in another decade child care may have assumed a largely private identity in Britain. This change has been driven by four forces: 1) legal changes; 2) the weight of policy imperatives; 3) a shift in the ideology of child welfare provision; and 4) the absence of an empirical knowledge base which had scrutinised and evaluated the consequences of privatisation of foster care.

Safeguarding children across services: messages from research

C. Davies and H. Ward

London: J. Kingsley, 2012

This book brings together the latest evidence on safeguarding children from abuse and neglect. Providing an overview of 15 research projects, it addresses the key policy and practice issues across health, social care and education services and the family justice system. The authors set out the latest findings on identification of abuse and neglect, methods of prevention, general interventions, and specific interventions for families with additional or complex needs. They examine the evidence on effective inter-agency practice and how it can be improved. Each chapter ends with principal messages for policy and practice.

The Scottish children's hearings tribunals system: a better forum for parents with learning disabilities?

J. McGhee and S. Hunter

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 33, 2011, p. 255-266

Parents with learning disabilities are over-represented in child protection cases and are more likely to lose their children to state care. Evidence from Anglophone countries suggests that the adversarial forum of the court disadvantages these parents. This paper draws on an exploratory project to examine the response of the Scottish children's hearings tribunals system to parents with learning disabilities when child welfare concerns arise. Children's hearings are premised on the notion of citizen volunteers meeting together with parents and children to discuss the child's needs and then to decide if compulsory intervention measures are required. Two questions were explored: first, the capacity of the children's hearings process to consider the needs of parents with learning disabilities; and second, whether the non-adversarial tribunal provides a constructive arena to facilitate greater dialogue between parents and child welfare decision takers.

Social work reclaimed: innovative frameworks for child and family social work practice

S. Goodman and I. Trowler (editors)

London: J. Kingsley, 2012

Reclaiming Social Work (RSW) is a radical new system for delivering child and family social work in the UK. The system was first piloted in the London Borough of Hackney and the model has gained national recognition. At the heart of this innovative system is the endeavour to keep children together with their families. This book sets out what the Reclaiming Social Work model is, how it was implemented, and how it works. It explains the RSW system of social work 'units' made up of clinicians and therapists and headed by a consultant social worker, and demonstrates how it has worked in practice. The evidence base and theories underlying the model are also explained. Several chapters are written by consultant social workers with extensive experience of working within RSW, which outline the methodological approaches used.

What is risk? The proliferation of risk across child and youth policy in England

G. Turnbull and J. Spence

Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 14, 2011, p. 939-959

There is a strong argument to suggest that 'risk' defined New Labour's approach to children and young people between 1997 and 2010. Risk as a measure of young people, their circumstances and their behaviours, and as a means of justifying intervention, spread well beyond traditional terrains of criminology and epidemiology into almost all aspects of the child, the young person and the family. The consequences of this is the expansion of at-risk discourses into potentially endless justification for the surveillance of young people. Risk Factor Analysis has been used as a tool to legitimise a raft of interventions intended to control or shape their behaviours. This approach serves to dehumanise young people, removing any understanding of their lived experiences, rights and agency.

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