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

Adoption ambition must not ignore contact with birth families

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 14-15

The Coalition Government is determined to increase the number of looked-after children who end up in adoptive homes. However the issue of contact with birth families for adopted children and children in care has received little attention amid the emphasis on finding them permanent homes. This article reviews the rewards and risks of contact arrangements.

All babies count

C. Cuthbert and K. Stanley

Public Policy Research, Dec.2011-Feb.2012, p. 243-247

New research from the NSPCC has shown that babies are disproportionately vulnerable to abuse and neglect and provides the first estimates of the numbers affected by parental problems such as substance misuse, mental illness and domestic violence. However there is an emerging consensus that it is possible to prevent abuse and neglect through early intervention in pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life. This article sets out a possible policy and practice framework for safeguarding babies.

Bang for the buck

R. Chandiramani

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 7th-20th 2012, p. 25-27

Social investment is emerging as a key source of finance for charities. It has been defined as the provision and use of finance to generate social and financial returns. It can be the provision of loans or direct equity investment. Investors expect to both recoup their financial outlay and see a 'social return', for example through a programme they support demonstrably improving outcomes for young people at risk of offending. This article describes how social investment works, the principle challenges, and how the children's sector could benefit from it.

Childminders integral to boost free childcare for two-year-olds

J. Mahadevan

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 8-9

The requirement to provide 20% of two-year-olds with 15 hours of free early education per week from March 2013, rising to 40% by 2014, means that local authorities face the difficult task of rapidly increasing capacity. Moreover, the specific needs of disadvantaged two-year-olds require a lower staff-to-child ratio and demand different skills from practitioners. The childminding community is well placed to deliver the early years entitlement to disadvantaged two-year-olds. This article explores the barriers to be overcome.

Different age, similar struggle

E. Rogers

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 7th-20th 2012, p. 22-23

This article describes a set of three pilot intergenerational projects that brought together older and younger members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in Camden, Leicester and Stockport. The projects provided the young people with role models who had been successful in life and could help them deal with difficult transitions such as coming out.

For the record: the lived experience of parents with a learning disability: a pilot study examining the Scottish perspective

G. MacIntyre and A. Stewart

British Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 40, 2012, p. 5-14

There are increasing numbers of parents with a learning disability living in the community. Parents with a learning disability are likely to experience disadvantage on multiple levels relating to poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. This paper reports the findings of a small pilot study that examined the lived experiences of five parents with a learning disability living in Scotland and evaluated the impact of advocacy on meeting their support needs. Although recent Scottish policy requires agencies to support such parents, a range of structural factors such as eligibility criteria and barriers to joint working made it difficult for participants to have their needs met. The study concludes by suggesting that advocacy can be effective in enabling parents to have their voices heard.

The Government response to the Family Justice Review: a system with children and families at its heart

Ministry of Justice and Department of Education

London: TSO, 2012 (Cm 8273)

The Government accepts the majority of the recommendations made in the final report of the Family Justice Review, and proposes a system with children's and families' needs at its heart. The proposed reforms will put practical measures in place to ensure children's voices are heard before and during the court process. The new system will include:

  • A new Family Justice Board established in April 2012 which will take the detail of the recommendations forward. All measures will comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Changes to public law designed to tackle delay and put more focus on the child.
  • Changes to private law to support families to reach their own agreements without needing to bring their issues to the courts.
  • Mediation and other support services which will again be child-centred, and with a presumption of shared parenting where separation occurs.
  • A new web and phone service providing a single gateway to advice and guidance for separating parents commissioned in 2012 and operational in 2013. Streamlined divorce proceedings
  • Transfer the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to the Ministry of Justice.

Those working in the family justice system need to change culture and practice if these reforms are to succeed, and judicial leadership is critical.

Hunt begins for youth group volunteers

N. Puffett

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 12-13

Uniformed youth work received an unexpected boost in March 2012 when the communities secretary announced 10m in funding to help attract and train 2,700 new volunteers to provide an additional 400 youth groups. The money was to be targeted at 11 deprived areas, including four London boroughs, Birmingham and Manchester. However, there was a shortage of people willing to volunteer and uniformed organisations were in competition with other programmes such as the National Citizen Service for the same people.

A line in the sand? Munro and the state of social work

M. Garforth

Professional Social Work, Jan. 2012, p. 18-19

Reforms of social work with children and families since the 1970s have focused on technical solutions and detailed procedural guidance. This has enabled social workers to abdicate responsibility for failure by simply following procedures to the letter and ticking all the right boxes. The author hopes that the implementation of the Munro Review will lead to a return to a focus on direct work with families and children in need.

Ministers ignite debate on shared parenting

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 10-11

The Coalition Government has set up a cross-departmental working group to draft legislation to 'emphasise the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after separation, where that is safe and in the child's best interests'. There is concern that such restrictive legislation could lead to litigation, and that compelling parents to comply with arrangements they don't like is fraught with difficulty.

The Munro Review of Child Protection: an appraisal

N. Parton

Children and Society, vol. 26, 2012, p. 150-162

The Munro Review of Child Protection can be seen as the latest in a long line of policy initiatives in England to address the problem of child abuse. This paper summarises the main findings and recommendations of the Review and locates it in its immediate policy and practice contexts. Unfortunately the economic, political and social context into which the Review's changes are being introduced is inauspicious. The bureaucratic and defensive child protection policies and practices which the Review aims to overcome have become entrenched and will be hard to dislodge. In addition, the current system has also been shaped by consistent media hostility to social workers and their perceived failings which will be difficult to overcome.

NHS changes may increase risks to vulnerable children, warn trusts

J. Jowit and D. Campbell

The Guardian, Mar. 5th 2012, p. 6

The government's NHS reform bill could increase the dangers facing vulnerable children, according to a survey of the risk assessments produced by primary care trusts in response to the legislation. The analysis of the risk assessments drawn up by the 54 PCTs, the organisations that manage and pay for patient care in England, found children in danger of being physically abused could suffer because of problems and weaknesses caused by the restructuring. It was claimed child protection procedures were threatened by issues such as fragmentation between new organisations that were being created in the shakeup, making it hard for staff to swap information about sensitive or complicated cases where there was suspicion of neglect or abuse by relatives or carers.

No 10 and Treasury divided over curbs on child benefit

N. Watt

The Guardian, Mar. 6th 2012, p. 1

The government struggled to keep a united front on plans to save 2.5bn by withdrawing child benefit from higher rate taxpayers, in one of the first major policy clashes in the coalition government between No 10 and the Treasury. George Osborne made it clear in Whitehall that his proposal was a popular way of showing that all income earners would share in the pain of deficit reduction. The chancellor also said that the public finances were so tight it would be difficult to fund a watering down of the change, which was due to be introduced in January 2013. David Cameron, nervous about unsettling Middle Britain, was keen to deal with the "cliff edge" problem of removing child benefit the moment at least one parent's income reached the 40% tax threshold of 42,745 a year. No 10 was alarmed that a family with one earner, whose income is just short of 43,000, would lose the benefit while a family in which both parents had a joint income of just over 80,000 would be unaffected if neither was taxed at 40%.

Osborne urged to delay tax credit change

J. Jowit

The Guardian, Mar. 5th 2012, p. 9

Child poverty campaigners called on the government to postpone changes to working tax credits following research showing the cuts would leave some people worse off than if they gave up work and only claimed benefits. The chancellor was urged to act before the 21 March budget after he raised the tax credits threshold for families with children from 16 hours to 24 hours work a week, a change scheduled to take place in early April 2012. In reply to a question from Labour MP Ann Coffey, the employment minister, Chris Grayling, admitted that couples with children that would no longer qualify for the extra money could see their income drop to 257 a week - 14 a week less than an equivalent family with no adult working.

(See also The Independent, Mar. 5th 2012, p. 4; Independent, 6th March 2012, p. 10))

Relationships, learning and team working in UK services for children

F. Collins and J. McCray

Journal of Integrated Care, vol.20, 2012, p. 39-50

Partnership working and integrated services remain key to the coalition government's health and welfare policies. This paper reports research on the development of partnership working in one county following service reconfiguration, focusing on one tool, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews with 20 frontline practitioners and operational managers from education, health and social care. The county had recently moved to a structure where practitioners from education and social care were co-located in geographically defined multi-disciplinary teams. Children's Trust partner agencies, such as community health practitioners, were organised into locality teams which operated according to the geographical boundaries of the Primary Care Trust. Results showed that change in the composition of teams had stimulated new relationships, learning and ways of working.

Safeguarding babies and very young children from abuse and neglect

H. Ward, R. Brown and D. Westlake

London: J. Kingsley, 2012

Safeguarding babies and very young children is a highly complex process, involving difficult decisions surrounding their needs, care, and whether they need to be separated from their families. This book, based on a research study which followed babies who were identified as likely to suffer significant harm before their first birthdays until they were three years old, explores key issues surrounding the safeguarding process. These include how decisions whether to remove children from their families are made, whether social work interventions work and the impact they have on children's life pathways. It also examines the role various participants, including parents, have in decision-making. The findings of the study show a close link between decisions, maltreatment and children's developmental problems, and provide key recommendations for policy and practice.

Speed up adoption process, Cameron urges councils

T. Ross and J. Bingham

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 9th 2012, p. 2

This article outlines anticipated reforms to increase the number of children adopted from care. Expected measures included: a more effective national adoption register to match children with families; imposition of a time limit to force councils to approve prospective adopters more quickly, and allow them to take custody of a child; and fast-tracking of foster parents who want to adopt. It was also expected that councils that failed to place children cleared for adoption in a stable home within 12 months would be barred from receiving a top rating from Ofsted.

The Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 (UK): engagement and academic success at school

L. Coombes, D. Allen and D. McCall

Community Practitioner, vol. 85, Mar. 2012, p. 30-33

Early adolescence and school transition are challenging for young people and they may need extra support to ensure they reach their potential. Poor parenting skills and an adverse family environment exacerbate existing behavioural problems and often result in academic failure. Parent and family mediated interventions that target parenting skills have been shown to be the most effective method for reducing risky behaviour and preventing the development of later problems. This article reports on the implementation of one such family intervention - the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 (UK) - in a school in the North of England.

Too much, too young

J. Wild

Professional Social Work, Feb. 2012, p. 24-25

Children in the UK are targets of aggressive marketing of consumer products by commercial firms. Statutory authorities need to start to explore whether this exploitation inflicts significant harm and amounts to a new form of child abuse.

Trust, risk and the (mis)management of contingency and discretion through new information technologies in children's services

A. Pithouse and others

Journal of Social work, vol. 12, 2012, p. 158-178

The chronic sensitivities in social work towards risk have culminated in recent years in the introduction by government of codified sets of prescribed actions embodied in ICT templates designed externally but operated locally. These new systems exemplified by the Integrated Children's System (ICS) comprise new dominant modes for ordering and categorising need and local responses to need. Unfortunately these systems have within them the unintended capacity to amplify rather than reduce risk. Such system based approaches reduce practitioner discretion over case management. Needs may be under-recognised by the new technologies and workers sometimes moderate or dispense with the regulatory systems that seek to reduce risk in order to manage the exigencies of the day. This response reduces the transparency and accountability the new systems were intended to promote.

Witchcraft threat to children

N. Britten and V. Ward

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 2nd 2012, p. 1 + 6

Children in Britain were being abused and murdered in increasing numbers because belief in witchcraft was rife in some African immigrant communities. The warning was issued as a couple from the Democratic Republic of Congo were found guilty of murdering the woman's 15-year-old brother during an exorcism ceremony. Children's charities and campaigners urged communities to report abuse and said that social workers must be firmer in confronting abuse in immigrant groups.

(See also Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 25-27)

The young inspectors

E. Rogers

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 22-23

The young inspectors programme was piloted by 33 councils between 2009 and 2011. Under the scheme, councils recruited, trained and paid marginalised young people to inspect a broad range of recreational, educational and support venues and report on how well they met young people's needs. Some councils have continued their young inspectors programmes after funding came to an end in March 2011.

Youth justice and social work. 2nd ed

J. Pickford and P. Dugmore

London: Sage, 2012

It is vital for social work students and practitioners to understand the complexities of the youth justice system. This fully revised second edition analyses and puts into context several pieces of new legislation such as the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, the Youth Rehabilitation Order 2009 and the new Youth Conditional Caution. Carefully selected case studies and summaries of contemporary research help to underpin this accessible and essential resource.

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