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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2006): Child welfare - UK

Boarding passes at the ready

A. Taylor

Community Care, May 25th-31st 2006, p.26-27

Article presents arguments for and against looked after children being placed in boarding schools. Most councils are unenthusiastic, but the few children in care who attend boarding schools attain excellent results in public examinations.

The challenge of engaging fathers in the child protection process

J. Scourfield

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.440-449

Child protection staff such as social workers spend most of their time working with mothers and tend not to engage the men involved with the children at risk. However many of the men that child protection workers encounter have something to offer children, and most children want to stay in contact with their fathers. Ideas for changes in policy and practice include embracing more sophisticated theory, moving away from seeing men purely as either risk or resource, making the engagement of men core business and building on interventions that have been proven to be effective, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy with abusive men and strengths-based family work such as family group conferences.

Children (but not women) first: New Labour, child welfare and gender

R. Lister

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.315-335

Under the New Labour government child welfare has moved to the heart of social policy. However, this approach divorces children’s welfare from that of their parents, particularly their mothers. This paper begins by providing an analysis of New Labour’s agenda for children in an emergent “social investment” state, in which they are constructed as “citizen-workers of the future”. It goes on to explain why, despite the wide welcome given to the prioritization of children in social policy, disquiet has also been expressed. This disquiet focuses on: the paid-work focused and future-oriented model of citizenship; the relative neglect of groups of children who are not seen to represent a good investment; and the eclipse of parents’, especially mothers’ welfare.

Contemporary advocacy: providing advocacy for young people with verbal communication difficulties

J. Boylan and J. Dalrymple with R. Starling

ChildRight, issue 225, 2006, p.28-31

This article focuses on the Xpress advocacy service in East Sussex which supports children and young people aged between eight and 21 who are “looked after” by a local authority, or have left care, and have mental health problems or a physical or learning disability. In many cases these children have serious difficulties communicating verbally, which provides an extreme challenge to both the practice and theoretical definition of advocacy.

Developing children and young people’s participation in strategic processes: the experience of the Children’s Fund initiative

N. Spicer and R. Evans

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.177-188

The New Labour government has introduced a series of legislative and policy measures to ensure that children have a say about their neighbourhoods, education, health and social services and other local and national government policies. The Children’s Fund was launched in 2000 to promote multi-agency working in participative, preventative services for children at risk of social exclusion. The initiative represents a significant commitment to promoting the children’s participation agenda nationally by mainstreaming children’s participation into local strategic partnership structures, including emerging Children’s Trusts. This paper reflects on Children’s Fund partnerships’ experiences of engaging children in strategic processes.

Education and Inspections Bill 2006

J. Thomas

ChildRight, issue 225, 2006, p.15-19

Article comments on the clauses of the Bill that are most likely to impact on children. The most worrying aspect of the Bill is that while there is a substantial increase in the powers of schools and local authorities to penalise and discipline children and parents, it does not provide any effective remedies for pupils and parents if these powers are abused. There are also concerns that the positive advances in the Bill will be nullified by failure of central government to provide increased resources to local authorities and schools. Finally, there are no provisions in the Bill for children to be consulted about matters which affect them directly.

Gender and child neglect: theory, research and policy

B.M. Daniel and J. Taylor

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.426-439

Research on child neglect is strongly influenced by an underlying assumption that the mother will act as primary caregiver. Neglect is defined as a problem of mothering. Practice also fails to take account of the risks that fathers may pose and the benefits that they may offer to their children. Practitioners may also fail to appreciate the structural factors that can undermine a mother’s ability to parent and may place excessive responsibility on her to meet the needs of her children. There is therefore an urgent need for more research into the role of fathers in families where children are neglected.

Guidance needs fleshing out to gain professionals’ confidence

A. Taylor

Community Care, Apr. 20th-26th 2006, p.12-13

New government guidance confirms that child protection registers will be abolished in 2008. Instead of the register, councils will hold electronic records of children who have child protection plans as part of the social care records contained in the Integrated Children’s System. There is some concern amongst professionals about how the guidance will work out in practice.

New policy in residence

L. Saki

Community Care, Apr.27th-May 3rd 2006, p.36-37

In 2000, Bradford Council reversed its policy of placing children in care outside of the district and began building new residential homes. Article reports on how staff were recruited and trained to support the expansion of the service.

Now for the hard work

B. Hudson

Community Care, May 11th-17th 2006, p.34-35

The restructuring of children’s services triggered by the Children Act 2004 is now well under way. One measure of the success of the reforms would be better partnership working, strategically and operationally. Directors of children’s services have a key co-ordinating role in achieving this, but unfortunately key partners such as schools and GPs are exempt from a duty to co-operate. There are also likely to be tensions between children’s services and education services within local government, especially as the former are under-funded and the latter are more concerned with improving school standards than with the Every Child Matters agenda. The new integrated inspection framework will be key in determining how the system develops.

The professionalisation of foster care

K. Wilson and J. Evetts

Adoption and Fostering, vol.30, no.1, 2006, p.39-47

The authors review some of the changes in the service which suggest that foster care can no longer be seen as a voluntary activity. It is argued that the needs of looked after children can only be met by highly trained and skilled professional foster carers. However, this article draws on three sociological perspectives to suggest that professionalizing foster care may be a means by which managers can increase their control over the workforce “from a distance”.

Supporting parents, safeguarding children

G. Macdonald

ChildRight, issue 225, 2006, p.12-13

Article summarises the findings of a study by the Commission for Social Care Inspection that took an in-depth look at how well services address the needs of parents whose children’s names have been placed on the child protection register. It looked particularly at the interface between social and health services, since appropriate health care support is crucial to parents under stress. Through talking to 28 parents, 13 children and 105 professionals, and examining relevant policy documents, the study identified a number of areas where changes are needed if parents are to be adequately supported.

Surviving the system as a foster carer

F. Maclay, M. Bunce and D.G. Purves

Adoption and Fostering, vol.30, no.1, 2006, p.29-38

A shortage of foster carers in the UK makes it difficult for local authorities to place certain groups of children such as those presenting behavioural difficulties or children from minority ethnic groups. Retention of existing foster carers is therefore vital. The research literature associates dissatisfaction with fostering services and changes in personal circumstances with premature exits by foster carers. Sources of dissatisfaction include lack of support from fostering agencies, strained relationships with social workers, and marginalisation within the system. This small qualitative study explored the development of the relationship between foster carers and local authority social workers. Four themes emerged from interviews with foster carers: 1) they often feel unsupported and undervalued; 2) independent networking acts as a survival mechanism; 3) they become more assertive with social workers over time; and 4) some are able to manage within the system whereas others are dragged into draining conflict.

The ties that bind

R. Potgieter

Community Care, May 11th-17th 2006, p.36-37

Most children who are adopted from local authority care have emotional and behavioural difficulties due to prior experience of abuse and neglect. Placement breakdown is all too common as adoptive families are unable to cope with damaged children. The Doncaster Council adoption team has successfully tackled this problem through a new approach which includes intensive training for prospective parents, a therapeutic needs assessment of each child prior to finding a family, and provision of therapeutic support, particularly attachment therapy, post-placement.

An unhealthy neglect? Examining the relationship between child health and gender in research and policy

L. Green

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.450-466

The relationship between child health and gender is a relatively neglected topic within health and social sciences. The lack of attention to gender in the development and implementation of child health policy is also illustrated and analysed using the Department of Health’s National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services as an exemplar of contemporary policy.

User outcomes and children’s services reform: ambiguity and conflict in the policy implementation process

B. Hudson

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.227-236

The reform of children’s services brought about by the Every Child Matters Green Paper and the subsequent Children Act 2004 represents the most significant change in this area of social policy for 50 years. Consultations with young people identified five key outcomes that shape their well-being and all activity is to be judged on the extent to which it contributes to their achievement. It is also recognised that that these outcomes can only be achieved through high levels of inter-agency and inter-professional collaboration. It is argued that the twin objectives of the reforms are in tension and there is a danger that in the process of implementation the user-defined outcomes will be re-interpreted to fit in with other organisational and professional agendas.

“We have simply got to do better”

A. Taylor

Community Care, May 18th-24th 2006, p.16-17

Report of an interview with children’s minister Beverley Hughes, in which she discusses government plans for a green paper on looked-after children. This is expected to cover educational attainment, improving foster and residential care, workforce issues and leaving care services.

Why gender matters in child welfare and protection

B. Featherstone

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.294-314

This article argues that lack of gender analysis in New Labour policy in relation to child welfare and protection has led to problematic gaps in both the policy itself and in service provision. It explores why the widespread use of terms such as “parent” and “child” obscures important issues in relation to gender equity in care-giving, sexual violence and help-seeking. While there is some attention being paid to the needs of fathers, including the need to involve them in service provision, it is tokenistic and inadequately grounded in practice realities.

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