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

Child access setback for divorced fathers

C. Hope

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 7th 2012, p. 16

In its response to the Norgrove Review of Family Justice, the government announced that it intended to change the law to ensure that children of separated parents had a meaningful relationship with both their father and their mother. However the justice secretary warned that this did not mean an equal division of time. He also announced that separating parents would be forced by law to attend mediation to reduce the number of cases going to court. Government was also developing a new website to help couples manage a divorce together. Divorcing couples would also be expected to ensure that grandparents retained a role in the lives of their grandchildren.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Feb. 6th 2012, p. 1 + 15; Daily Telegraph, Feb. 3rd 2011, p. 1)

Children 'are being stifled by three Rs'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 7th 2012, p. 1 + 2

In a letter to the newspaper, a group of academics and authors warned that children's natural development was being undermined by the focus on formal assessments and learning targets in the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. They claimed that this compulsory curriculum followed by all nurseries, preschools and childminders put too much emphasis on formal learning in areas such as the three Rs and robbed young children of the ability to play. They expressed fears that coalition government changes to the curriculum would increase pressure on young children through compulsory progress checks before their third birthday and raised targets for academic attainment, such as being able to spell common irregular words as well as simple ones.

Contact for infants subject to care proceedings

G. Schofield and J. Simmonds

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 35, no. 4, 2011, p. 70-74

For some years, concerns have been raised as to whether the frequency and arrangements for contact between infants and their parents during care proceedings are in the best interests of the child. There is research evidence that high levels of contact during care proceedings can be stressful and have a negative impact on infants. In December 2010 the President of the Family Division's annual debate was titled 'Infant Contact: Keeping the Baby in Mind'. This article draw on that debate as well as outlining the legal, research and practice contexts. The am is to identify questions which need to be considered in planning infant contact, both in the pre-proceedings phase and throughout care proceedings.

Councils face penalties over slow adoptions

J. Bingham

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 27th 2012, p. 12

Ofsted announced that councils which failed to place children cleared for adoption with a family within 12 months would be barred from being rated outstanding by inspectors. Only a handful of councils would qualify for the top rating under new criteria taking effect in April 2012. The education secretary Michael Gove had criticised social services departments that allowed adoptions to be delayed because of criteria such as the prospective parents' race.

Divorced fathers to get more access to children

D. Pearse

The Guardian, Feb. 3rd 2012, p. 9

Fathers will get improved contact with their children following divorce, amid plans to rewrite the law governing custody disputes. A ministerial working group will decide how to amend the Children Act 1989 and might include in it a "presumption of shared parenting". The changes are part of an overhaul in family law that is described by the Law Society as "the most important" in more than 20 years.

Early intervention grant raises questions over fairness and bias

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 10th-23rd 2012, p. 8-9

Analysis of the government's distribution of the early intervention grant to local authorities has raised concerns about bias, as conservative controlled councils have received better settlements than more deprived Labour controlled councils. Furthermore, the promised 291m funding for 2012/13 to prepare for the expansion of early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds is included in the total early intervention grant package for that year. So, despite the apparent 6% overall rise - from 2.232bn in 2011/12 to 2.365bn in 2012/13 - the reality is a like-for-like cut of nearly 158m.

An evaluation of a community-based basic parenting programme: a two-year follow-up

D. Roberts

Community Practitioner, vol. 85, Feb. 2012, p. 27-31

Throughout the 21st century use of parenting programmes increased significantly throughout the UK and was central to the government's inclusion agenda. The Department of Health encouraged the use of evidence-based programmes and the Incredible Early Years Programme (IYP) became one of the models of choice. This evaluation of the long-term impact of the IYP explored its usefulness and cost-effectiveness as a universal intervention for parents of children with mild-to-moderate behavioural problems. Fifty-seven programme participants were interviewed two years after completing the programme. Data gathered using the General Health Questionnaire and the Eyberg Child Behaviour Checklist showed that improvements in the children's behaviour and the parents' mental health had been sustained over two years in about two thirds of participants.

Generation of children 'failed on a grand scale'

R. Smith

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 2012, p. 1 + 2

Prof. Sir Michael Marmot, who carried out a major review of how wealth affects child health and development in 2010, disclosed updated figures showing that four in ten children were still failing to master the basic skills expected by the age of five. The proportion of failing pupils in poorer areas was almost double that in wealthier parts of the country, meaning that children's lives were blighted by inequality from an early age. Sir Michael criticised cuts to services such as Sure Start at a time when more needed to be done to reduce the attainment gap between rich and poor children.

The Government's proposed child maintenance reforms: Government response to the Committee's fifth report of session 2010-12

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1727)

The Government's aims to ensure reform of the child maintenance system will result in more support for separating parents, and allow the new improved statutory maintenance system to concentrate on those that require the service and not spend time and resources working with parents for whom family-based arrangements, with the right support, are more appropriate. Encouraging parents to work together can lead to significantly better results for children. That is why the Government wants to move away from a system where the Child Support Agency is seen as the default option, with many people trapped inside an adversarial statutory service because they have been unable to access sufficient support to help them make their own family-based arrangements. Better access to the expert network of support available to help parents to make maintenance arrangements in the broader context of tackling the emotional and practical issues they face at separation is essential. The Government believes that it is fair to ask parents to make a small contribution towards the statutory service, whilst ensuring it does not present a barrier for those who need to use it. Victims of domestic violence will be fast-tracked through the gateway and not charged for applying to the statutory service. It will be easier for low-income families to access the support they may need at separation, including access to help to make their own family-based arrangements, which the Government believes are generally in the best interests of their children. Payments of child maintenance will continue to be fully disregarded in the calculation of out of work benefits and remain tax free.

Imagining 'radical' youth work possibilities: challenging the 'symbolic' violence within the mainstream tradition in contemporary state-led youth work practice in England

C. Cooper

Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 15, 2012, p. 53-71

This paper offers a critical contribution to contemporary debates on limitations evident in the mainstream tradition in state-led youth work in England. Its particular focus is possibilities within the mainstream tradition for engaging disadvantaged young people in activities that facilitate collective resistance to oppression and social change. The basic thesis presented is that the current national policy framework for youth work, and the way that it is being implemented on the ground, is closing off opportunities for progressive ways of working with young people, and, as a corollary, is stifling the capacity of young people to overcome the structural constraints limiting their life chances. The paper demonstrates the ways in which youth work practitioners themselves unwittingly collude with regressive social policies and, in doing so, serve to reinforce a status quo that maintains inequality and disadvantage.

Nursery costs rise by nearly 6%

Press Association

The Guardian, Feb. 27th 2012, p. 5

Working parents were spending up to 15,000 a year on childcare as costs rose and fewer families received help with the financial burden. Nursery costs had risen by nearly 6% in a year, while 44,000 fewer families were getting help with childcare bills since the April 2011 tax credit cut, figures compiled by the Daycare Trust showed. The hourly rate for a child under two went up 5.8% from 2009-10 to 2010-11, and 3.9% for a child aged two and over. Wages had remained stagnant, increasing by only 0.3% in the same period, the survey found. The average bill for a parent using 25 hours of nursery care for 50 weeks of the year for a child under two was 5,103. The most expensive nursery recorded by the survey charged 300 for 25 hours, or 15,000 for a year's childcare.

One in four children in care get no notice of change of home

D. Batty

The Guardian, Feb. 24th 2012, p. 12

More than half of children in care were given less than a week's notice before being moved to live in a different placement, a survey has found. The annual Children's Care Monitor found that 55% were given seven days' notice or less, while nearly one in four (23%) were only told they had to go on the day of their move. The children's rights commissioner for England, Roger Morgan, said the situation was "worrying" because moving home was a major disruption in the lives of children in care. He also raised concerns about the separation of siblings while in care, as the research found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed said they had been put in different homes or foster placements from brothers or sisters who were also in care. The Monitor provides information to the government and the regulator Ofsted each year on the experiences of children in care and boarding schools.

Out-of-court advocacy

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 10th-23rd 2012, p. 22-23

The statutory role of family court advisers - also known as children's guardians - is to advocate on behalf of children during court proceedings. They seldom get involved in cases before they go to court. A pilot scheme in Coventry and Warwickshire run by CAFCASS is looking to transform the traditional role of guardians. The idea is to bring family court advisers onto the scene earlier to stop cases going to court and reduce delays wherever possible.

Positive for youth?

C. Goddard

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 10th-23rd 2012, p. 25-27

This article analyses and comments on the Coalition government's youth policy paper published in Dec. 2011. It focuses on the role of local authorities, possible alternative means of delivering youth services through mutuals and partnerships with private companies, possible alternative sources of finance apart from state support, the role of young people in developing the policy and holding local authorities to account, and workforce training and development.

Preventing drug and alcohol use by school children

A. Brown

Community Practitioner, vol. 85, Feb. 2012, p. 38-40

The estimated cost of the misuse of drugs and alcohol among young people is over 100m a year. Despite this, there is no central government budget for school drug and alcohol education and less than 44m of the NHS budget is spent on primary prevention in schools. This article looks at the role of school nurses and community practitioners in reducing drug and alcohol use by young people in partnership with parents, public health officials and the police.

The quest to end child poverty: do coalition policies measure up?

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 24th-Feb. 6th 2012, p. 14-15

Experts from children's organisations assess the impact of coalition government social policies on the fight to eradicate child poverty. Comments cover the benefit cap, legal aid, housing allowance, and working tax credit, whose impact is judged to be negative, and universal credit, the pupil premium, and the child poverty strategy, whose impact is considered to be positive.

Reflections on child welfare research and the policy process: virtual school heads and the education of looked after children

D. Berridge

British Journal of Social Work, vol. 42, 2012, p. 26-41

This article contains some reflections on children's social policy under the New Labour government, particularly the relationship between policy and child welfare research and the evaluation of pilot initiatives. The illustration selected concerns the education of children in care and the evaluation of a pilot initiative concerning the Virtual School Head - a senior council official responsible for overseeing the education of all children in care in the locality. Child welfare research in England takes insufficient account of the wider theoretical literature on the policy process, which shows that the relationship between research findings and policy development is often problematic. The author attempts to draw on insights from sociology and social policy to strengthen research into children's services by taking further account of the context within which children and families live and services are offered.

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