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Welfare reform on the Web (February 2007): Child welfare - UK

Achieving best outcomes for babies in the care system

M. Potter

Family Law, vol.24, 2006, p.1036-1040

There is a tension between the duty of a local authority to preserve birth families intact even after the commencement of care proceedings and the need to see the child settled into a new, permanent family as soon as possible. This dilemma can be addressed by concurrent or twin track planning, which involves working towards family reunification while at the same time developing an alternative permanent placement plan.

“Beyond anti-smacking“: rethinking parent-child relations

J. Brownlie and S. Anderson

Childhood, vol.13, 2006, p.479-498

The strength of parental opposition to an outright ban on smacking children has led to legislation short of such a ban being adopted by parliaments in London and Edinburgh. This has led to some anti-smacking campaigners arguing for the need to develop a strong children’s rights perspective and to sideline the views of parents. Drawing on a recent Scottish study of parents’ views of physical chastisement, this article argues that a legal ban on smacking would be ineffective without cultural change. Future anti-smacking campaigns need to be informed by greater understanding of the parent-child relationship in contemporary society.

Can the corporate state parent?

R. Bullock and others

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 30, Winter 2006, p.6-19

Welfare agencies are entrusted by the state with the responsibility of selecting substitute carers for children who cannot safely remain with their birth parents. These carers should be able to meet the diverse needs of looked after children and should be supported by the state in doing so. More state support and intervention are needed to ensure effective parenting of three groups of children: those in kinship care; those in long-term foster family care; and young people who are seriously disturbed and troublesome.

Children in court

L. Davis

Family Law, vol.37, 2007, p.65-67

The fundamental model of care proceedings in the family courts is of two adversaries (the parents and the local authority) battling over whether or not a child should be removed from home in front of a neutral arbiter (the judge). This is far from an inquisitorial system where the court directs enquiries and takes an active role in gathering evidence. A judge who interviews children direct (as some do) performs an inquisitorial role which is anomalous in the English system. The child is automatically a party to care proceedings, but is treated inconsistently depending on the type of court and even on which judge happens to hear the case. This is not the best way of serving children’s interests.

Children’s confidentiality at the crossroad: challenges for the Scottish children’s hearing system

A. Griffiths and R.F. Kandel

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.28, 2006, p.137-152

During the past decade the 35-year-old welfare-based Scottish children’s hearings system has been obliged to adapt to a new global emphasis on due process rights, emanating from sources such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has caused tension between the welfare (best interests) rights of the child, their autonomy rights (especially due process), and the due process rights of parents. In order to highlight the issues, this article focuses on s.46 of Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Section 46 empowers panel members to clear the room and speak privately with the child, even though they are required to reveal the substance of what was said to the excluded parties. Thus parents no longer have the right to be present throughout the hearing, but this does not confer a right of confidentiality on the child.

Confidence and confidentiality: an open and shut case?

D. Cullen

Family Law, vol.37, 2007, p.68-71

The 2006 consultation paper Confidence and Confidentiality calls for greater openness in the family courts to ensure public confidence in their work. The author argues that extremely careful consideration of all risks is needed before more general access to family cases is granted. In the meantime, there could be an increase in the number of anonymised judgements published.

Empty promises

A. Klaushofer

Public Finance, Dec.15th 2006- Jan. 4th 2007, p.16-19

The author reviews progress towards the government’s target of halving the numbers of UK children living in poverty by 2010. Anti-poverty campaigners argue that the target cannot be met by measures to get parents off welfare and into work alone. More money needs to flow from state coffers to low-income households through more generous benefits and tax credits.

Feeling luckier?

P. Gosling

Public Finance, Jan. 19th - 25th 2007, p. 18-21

A new organisation, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, has been created to replace the discredited Child Support Agency (CSA). The new agency will be much tougher than the CSA, with powers to confiscate passports and driving licences from non-paying parents, impose curfews and recover money from bank accounts. It will be empowered to co-operate with credit reference agencies to trace parents and recover money. At the same time, parents will be encouraged to make private agreements about maintenance.

Integrating children’s services to promote children’s welfare: early findings from the implementation of children’s trusts in England

M. O’Brien and others

Child Abuse Review, vol.15, 2006, p.377-395

The impetus for the creation of children’s trusts came from two different directions. Proposals in the Laming report on the death of Victoria Climbié were concerned with the promotion of integration and collaboration between agencies in the provision of targeted services focused on child protection. This development became enmeshed with a second drive to promote integration and collaboration between agencies in the provision of universal and preventative services for all children. Results of a national evaluation of children’s trust pathfinders show strong support for the vision of integrated children’s services. However, arrangements for co-operation on governance and strategy were more advanced than those for procedural or frontline professional practice. Professionals were negotiating a balance between targeted and universal service provision, and concurrently establishing the scope of formal strategic partnership bodies with potentially overlapping remits.

The making of the Children Act: a private history

P.G. Harris

Family Law, vol.24, 2006, p.1054-1059

This article distils the recollections and views of some of the key players involved in developing the Children Act 1989 and suggests some lessons which might be drawn from their experience.

Opportunities and risks: models of good practice in commissioning foster care

C. Sellick

British Journal of Social Work, vol.36, 2006, p.1345-1359

Local authorities in Britain have been purchasing foster placements from independent fostering agencies or providers (IFPs) for many years. These are often made on an unplanned “spot purchase” basis and many councils have incurred significant budgetary overspends or been criticised for poor child care practice. Some local authorities and IFPs are now entering into service level or contractual agreements where each sector attempts to plan and match its respective needs and services and to predict and control costs. This paper explores how some local authority and IFP managers have developed working arrangements with one another in order to achieve this position.

Parent prevention

Gill Mein and A. McDowell

Community Care, Jan. 4th-10th 2007, p.30-31

The Teens and Toddlers Scheme targets teenagers from deprived areas who have problems in the education system. The programme focuses on preventing pregnancy by helping teenagers become aware of the hard work, expense and responsibility of having a child. It includes regular, supervised contact with toddlers in a nursery setting. A recent evaluation shows the approach is highly effective in reducing teenage pregnancy.

Relational contracting between local authorities and independent fostering providers: lessons in conducting business for child welfare managers

C. Sellick

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.28, 2006, p. 109-122

Since 1997 there has been a significant expansion of independent fostering providers (IFPs) alongside local authority fostering agencies. This has led to a change in attitude and working arrangements between staff and managers in both these sectors as they adjust to the government’s commissioning agenda for the mixed economy of foster care provision. In the absence of a social work literature base, this article explores a series of legal and policy studies of “relational contracting” alongside a recent study of working arrangements between local authority and IFP managers. It concludes that there are lessons to be learnt for fostering agencies from these studies of contracting and the practice of trust.

Social services support and expenditure for children with autism

A. Bebbington and J. Beecham

Autism, vol.11, 2007, p.43-61

This study sought to improve the level of statistical information about services offered to children with autism, and the cost of those services, through an account of provision by English social services departments based on the 2001 Children in Need survey. Based on the extrapolation of figures from the survey, children recorded as having a diagnosis of autism cost social services nearly £50m annually. This may be an under-estimate due to under-reporting and the presence of undiagnosed cases. The true figure could be over £100m annually. The high level of expenditure is due to both the numbers of children in contact with social services and the typically high cost of providing for them.

Social work and child abuse: still walking the tightrope? 2nd edition.

D. Merrick

Abingdon: Routledge, 2006

The book challenges and changes the focus of existing literature on social work practice with child abuse. Instead of concerning itself with the ways in which the task of preventing and detecting child abuse can be more effectively undertaken, it presents a critical analysis of the task itself. This up-dated edition discusses:

  • The implications of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, the Laming Report, the Green Paper Every Child Matters and the 2004 Children Act
  • The 1989 Children Act and the conflicting duties of the social worker to prevent and intervene in child abuse and also to promote ‘the family’
  • The emergence of official discourses of prevention, treatment and punishment
  • The 1975 Children Act and the role of moral panic.

It concludes with a call for the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to strengthen the child-protection system by giving children and young people a much stronger voice.

Staff groups slam reform plans

A. Taylor

Community Care, Jan. 4th-10th 2007, p.14

After several critical inspection reports, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service announced a raft of proposals designed to boost resources at the front line, increase supervision and create manageable workloads. Staff argue that the plans threaten good practice and that what is needed is an increase in the budget.

What appears to be helping or hindering practitioners in implementing the Common Assessment Framework and Lead Professional working?

M. Brandon and others

Child Abuse Review, vol.15, 2006, p.396-413

The Common Assessment Framework and Lead Professional working are central elements in the English government’s strategy for more integrated children’s services. A national government evaluation studied the early piloting stage of implementation of both initiatives in 12 areas. Findings revealed a number of interlocking factors that seem to either help or hinder the process of implementation. Where there is enthusiasm for the work and a clear structure which has been internalised by practitioners, the initiatives are promoting better multi-agency working, helping agencies to come together faster, and enabling more vigorous follow through of services. Hindrances include the lack of a local history of successful multi-agency working, which seemed to breed professional mistrust and fuel anxiety. Anxiety was also generated by lack of confidence in new skills and fear of change.

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