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

Damage control

G. Williams and V. Gordon

Community Care, July 20th-26th 2006, p.36-37

Child neglect may be more prevalent than child sexual abuse and leads to poor outcomes such as low educational attainment and anti-social behaviour. The government is responding by rolling out a plethora of family support initiatives, including children’s centres and extended schools. The authors describe how the issue of child neglect is being tackled in Staffordshire.

“Every Child Matters”: the shift to prevention whilst strengthening protection in children’s services in England

N. Parton

Children and Youth Services Review, vol.26, 2006, p.976-992

This paper traces the history of the changes to the child welfare system proposed in the green paper “Every Child Matters” and embedded in the Children Act 2004. The green paper aimed to take forward ideas about intervening early in children’s lives to prevent a range of problems later, including low educational attainment, unemployment and criminality. It builds on earlier policies introduced by the New Labour government in relation to children, in which they were seen primarily as future citizens requiring both safeguarding and investment. The changes being introduced through the Children Act will fundamentally reorder relationships between children, parents, professionals and the state, will undermine the civil liberties and human rights of the citizen and increase the power of professionals in a wide range of social welfare, health and criminal justice agencies.

Focus on fostering and adoption

M. Ahmed, D. Gollop and K. Saines

Community Care, July 6th-12th 2006, p.43-48

Looks at the growing role of independent fostering providers in finding placements for looked after children, progress in provision of post-adoption support under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, and pressure on councils to recruit foster carers from minority ethnic communities.

Focus on looked after children’s services

S. Gillen (editor)

Community Care, June 22nd-28th 2006, p.47-52

Corporate parenting by local authorities is seen by many as providing insufficient support in crucial areas of looked after children’s lives. Just 1% go on to university and those who do enter higher education are often critical of the bureaucracy they face when trying to arrange accommodation and finances. Many looked after children are also unaware of their advocacy rights, so when things go wrong they often feel they have nobody to turn to for help.

Lost in transition

N. Pauling

Public Finance, July 7th-13th 2006, p.24-25

Government is focusing on problems faced by disadvantaged young people aged 16-25 in effecting a transition to adulthood. It has created a cabinet level post of minister for social exclusion and is setting up a new task force. Promising initiatives already in place to support disengaged young people include foyer schemes which offer both housing and training opportunities and Individual Support Orders, which are civil orders designed to force young people to get the support they need to address the underlying causes of their anti-social behaviour.

More than just a letter: service user perspectives on one local authority’s adoption postbox service

J. Selwyn, L. Frazer and P. Wrighton

Adoption and Fostering, vol.50, Summer 2006, p.6-17

Postbox contact, in which an adoption agency mediates an exchange of letters between adoptive and birth families, appears to be the most common contact plan for adopted children. This article draws on a recent evaluation of one local authority’s postbox service and the perspectives of adopters, birth mothers and extended birth family members using it. The evaluation found that adopters and extended birth family members were often very committed to sustaining the service for the benefit of the children. However, birth fathers were rarely involved and birth mothers had great difficulty in writing, although they valued receiving news of their children. There was considerable scope for disappointment when parties embarked on postbox with different expectations, and could not directly communicate their wishes.

Not so NEET? A critique of the use of “NEET” in setting targets for interventions with young people

S. Yates and M. Payne

Journal of Youth Studies, vol.9, 2006, p.329-344

There is a widespread current perception that being “NEET” (not in employment, education or training) places young people at risk of being socially excluded. The Connexions Service launched in 2001focuses on reducing the numbers of NEET young people to meet government targets. This paper discusses two problems connected with labelling young people as NEET. Firstly, the NEET label classifies young people only through a negative, defining them by what they are not, ie not in employment, education or training. It is thus a label that subsumes a very heterogeneous mix of young people, including young parents caring for infants or toddlers and those in transition between school and higher education. Evidence also suggests that pursuit of NEET-reduction targets leads service providers to concentrate efforts on those young people who can be most easily moved into employment, education or training at the expense of preventative support work with those at risk of disengagement and work on sustaining young people in jobs or training placements.

Paradoxes of New Labour social policy: towards universal childcare in Europe’s “most liberal” welfare regime?

D. Wincott

Social Politics, vol.13, 2006, p.286-312

This article traces the development of early education and child care provision across Britain since 1997, paying attention to variations across territory in the context of Welsh and Scottish devolution. It focuses on New Labour’s aspirations towards universal childcare provision in a welfare state usually identified as the most residual in Europe. On the basis of this record, the article goes on to a reappraisal of welfare state regime theory. It argues that we should expect a degree of inconsistency and incoherence in social policies. As a result, regimes are better understood as abstract concepts than as precise descriptions of particular welfare states, which are better understood as welfare settlements.

Professionalism and performativity: a feminist challenge facing early years practitioners

J. Osgood

Early Years, vol.26, 2006, p.187-199

Following the introduction of the National Childcare Strategy by the New Labour government in 1998, early education and childcare providers have experienced increasing steerage from the state. Early years practitioners now have to wrestle with the demands of accountability, attainment targets, a compulsory early years curriculum and standardised approaches to practice. All these mark a move towards centralised control which poses a potential threat to professional autonomy and morale. This article tries to demonstrate how an alternative model of professionalism, using a feminist framework and the concept of new agency developed by B. Francis, could offer early years practitioners an opportunity to reposition themselves and resist the hegemonic new managerialist discourses.

The role of child care social work in supporting families with children in need and providing protective services: past, present and future

B. Corby

Child Abuse Review, vol.15, 2006, p.159-177

This paper examines the part played by British child care social workers in supporting disadvantaged families and safeguarding children from 1948 to the present day. There have been three phases in the provision of social services to poor children and their families since the end of World War II. The first phase, from 1948 to the early 1970s was characterised by a family breakdown prevention approach. The second phase, from 1974 to the mid-1990s, was dominated by the goal of protecting children from abuse and neglect. The current phase focuses on support of families living in poverty with safeguarding children within those families seen as an important but secondary goal. Recent developments found in the Children Act 2004 point to the development of a system of state responsibility (alongside parents) for all children. In this system, services for disadvantaged children and their families will evolve in the context of universal services for all children.

Sure Start graduates: predictors of attainment on starting school

J. Schneider, A. Ramsay and S.A. Lowerson

Child, vol.32, 2006, p.431-440

Research explored the question of whether Sure Start service users do better than non-users from the same deprived area when they start school. No differences were found in school attainment between users and non-users on average. Indeed, in one of the four areas studied, users’ outcomes were consistently worse. It is suggested that this scheme may have attracted some exceptionally deprived children. By contrast, in a second area, outcomes appeared marginally superior on personal and social development measures. When between area differences were controlled, an association was found between high use of Sure Start and personal and social development scores.

Whose rights should prevail?

A.U. Sale

Community Care, July 6th-12th 2006, p.26-27

The so-called Megan’s Law came into force nationally in the USA in 1996 and allows the police to record and publish information about child sex offenders released into local communities. Anyone can check their local register to see if a convicted offender lives near them. There is debate about whether a similar law should be introduced in the UK.

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