The Successive Government Child Care Policies

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Successive governments have refined both legislation and policy, so that in general, the legislative framework for protecting children is basically sound. I conclude that the gap is not a matter of law but in its implementation. (Lord Laming, 2003, p. 7)

The name ‘social policy’ is used to apply to the policies which governments use for welfare and social protection and the ways in which welfare is developed.  Social work practice is not only about individual needs, it also considers social context. This social context includes the range of inter-professional agencies contributing to packages of care and protection, as well as the relationships between service users and their families, friends and communities. REF “current UK social policy is the restructuring of public services in order to get them to achieve the goals of grater economy, efficiency and effectiveness, and closer links between the public sector and other providers of welfare”. (2010, p.13)

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This essay will look at some of the key legislations and policies aimed to protect children from any type of maltreatment. Firstly, I will give a definition of ‘child abuse’ and before discussing the question posed on this essay, I am going to outline some of the key legislations, policies and guidelines concerning child protection, as well as brief description on each. I will then go on to discuss some of the outlined legislations and policies and their impact on social work practice and also if they have been helpful in protecting children in the UK. Finally, the last part of this essay will be a conclusion on the arguments that have been unfolded on the essay.

Child Abuse Prevention Report (2002), defines child abuse as ‘constituting all forms of physical and emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm in the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’ .?!

England has a long history of child protection laws dating back to 1889 with the ‘Children’s Charter’. Since then, England has passed many laws and policies as a result of death inquires. Following the death of Dennis O’Neill in 1946, the Curtis Committee was set up to examine the conditions of children deprived of a normal family life which later on resulted in the Children Act 1948 (Hill, 2003). The main principles of the Act included establishing Local Authority Children’s departments, promoting foster rather than residential care and where possible rehabilitating children back to their families (Hendrick, 2003) full ref.

As a result of many other subsequent inquires carried out in the 70’s and 80’s, as well as a need for clearer guidance in laws relating to children, the ‘Children Act 1989’ (CA89) was implemented. Its fundamental principles were that it addressed the balance between child protection and family support services introducing the concept of a ‘child in need’, it also emphasised parental responsibility rather than focusing on parental rights. The Act introduced a range of new orders including here the; Child Assessment Order, Family Assistance Order, Specific Issue Order, Prohibited Steps Order, and Educational Order) as well as extended the circumstances in which Interim Orders could be made. (Jowitt & O’Loughlin, 2006).full

Since the CA89, many new laws have been passed to strengthen the ways in which children are protected. Victoria Climbie aged eight, died from no less than 128 injuries, in February 2000. The subsequent inquiry into her death chaired by Lord Laming was the first inquiry to include all 3 key agencies, – Local Authority, Health Services and the Police. The inquiry made over 100 recommendations for restructuring child protection services, largely focussing on the responsibilities of individuals and agencies to children and families, and on service co-ordination.

The Governments response to the Laming Enquiry was almost immediate through the production of the green paper ‘Every Child Matters, 2003’ (ECM) which focused on four key themes. These included supporting families where a need is identified and early intervention in relation to child protection. In conjunction with ECM came the Children Act 2004 (CA04), the Act encompasses several components based on recommendations from the Laming Report (Allen, 2008)

The reforms presented by the ECM agenda and CA04 aimed to improve multi-disciplinary working and integrated service delivery and increase accountability. “I am in no doubt that effective support for children and families cannot be achieved by a single agency acting alone. It depends on a number of agencies working together. It is a multy- disciplinary task” (para. 130)

The Children Act 2004 however, does not introduce a range of new child protection powers, Bammer explains the CA04 as “..setting the foundations for good practice in the use of existing powers through a holistic integrated approach to child care” (Bammer, 2010, p.182)

CAF is one of the many changes introduced in the Children Act 2004 and plays a major part in improving services to children and families in line with the government “Every Child Matters” agenda.

CAF will play a key role in improving outcomes for children and young people by ensuring services are timely and responsive and based on consistent assessment of their individual needs.

Some of the benefits to children, young people and their families are:

Assessments using CAF are de-stigmatising, as they look at the whole child and take account of family strengths as well as their needs.

CAF assessments are undertaken in partnership with families, and enable them to take the lead in identifying needs.

CAF assessments are shared, with consent, between agencies so families will no longer have to repeat their information again and again to different agencies and service providers.

CAF assessments will support and enhance effective communication between agencies, enabling them to work together more effectively in order to meet the needs of children, young people and families.

This is where the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) comes in. The CAF is being introduced in all LEAs between April 2006 and December 2008. You may be familiar with the process because your school may already be piloting it.

We all want better lives for our young people and we know that some pupils don’t thrive either in or out of school or get support until it is too late. The CAF will help identify them earlier, before things reach crisis point.

The easiest and most consistent way to do this is to make sure that every person whose job involves working with young people is prepared and able to help if something is going wrong. The CAF is a tool that will help identify needs for all services, including health, social services, police and schools etc.

“The extend of the failure to protect Victoria was lamentable. Tragically, it required nothing more than basic good practice being put into operation. This never happened.” Lord Laming (2003, para.1.17).

Another key element of the ECM strategy is the introduction of the “Common Assessment Framework” (CAF) which was introduced by the CA04. CAF focuses on early intervention for children in need and although consent driven, can be initiated by any professional concerned about a child. A single lead professional would be nominated by the child or family and would be responsible for putting together a package of services to meet the child’s needs. The lead professional would also decide whether concerns by other practitioners along with information gathered warranted intervention and would be responsible for the sharing of information between all persons involved on a need to know basis (Parton, 2006).

CA04 reforms also implemented ‘Local Safeguarding Children Boards’ (LSCB) as the “…statutory successors of Area Child Protection Committees” (ACPC), (Parton, 2006, p.159). LSCB’s were set up in 2006, when strategy plans for children and young people were published. Some of the tasks that the LSCB’s are required to perform include, agreeing how different organisations in their local area co-operate to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, provide single and inter-agency training and guidance for recruiting people applying to work with children, (Department of Health, 2006. Section 3.3).

Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) were established under the Children Act 2004 and have the responsibility for co-ordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of the work of partner bodies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (Children Act 2004, Section 14).

Changes to the child protection register where also implemented following Every Child Matters. The child protection register was abolished in 2008 as a result any child previously included on the register is now known as ‘A Child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan’. Case conferences and Core Groups are still being held for children who are at continuing risk of significant harm, however, discussion are no longer in favour for or against registration, but if the child should remain ‘subject to a Child protection Plan’ (Oldham LSCB, 2006 FULL). ‘The plan should outline what needs to change, how this will be achieved and by who, with realistic timescales to implement changes and a contingency plan should this fail’ (DOH Working Together, 2006. Section 5).

Further amending legislation such as the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 have been introduced and in the aftermath of the well-publicised ‘Baby P’ case we may see more legislative activity.


Over the last forty years, reform after reform has been intended to improve the quality of the protection provided to children and young people and compensate for failures in practice. Many of these reforms were a response of evidences from numerous inspections and high-profile reviews into children’s deaths, (Apendix 1)

Recently, the circumstances around the death of Baby Peter led to …….

The Coalition Government has already endorsed the work of the SWRB has following the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force and within weeks of its formation the new Government has proceeded with further reforms including new statutory guidance on the publication of SCRs.

The many changes have been most striking in relation to social work practice, an area where it can be argued there was most need for improvement. While in the 1970s there was relatively little guidance on dealing with child abuse and neglect, social workers now have a range of assessment and decision making tools, access to research evidence, and software programmes that shape, often in unintended ways, how a case is managed.

The 1989 Children Act was described by the then Lord Chancellor “as the most comprehensive and far reaching childcare law in living memory” (Hendrick, H, 2003, Child welfare, pg 96.) It promoted the welfare of the child as being paramount. This meant it was the first piece of legislation that put children at the forefront of its agenda. According to Hendrick (2003) although rights for children had been advanced, it did not consult any children in the process of the forming of the Act and it is stemmed from ‘Government authorities’.

The ‘Children Act 2004’ introduced a foundation for good practice, however, section 58 of this Act as it currently stands legitimises the use of physical punishment:

“…it has long been recognised by the law that a parent or person with parental authority may use reasonable punishment to correct a child. This is the defence of reasonable chastisement or “reasonable punishment” (CA 2004, s. 58, paragraph. 237).

The FPI believes that giving people who are smaller and weaker fewer rights to protection in this regard is unacceptable. The argument that parents have a ‘right’ in their own home to discipline their children as they choose, in other words that parents have proprietorial rights over children and a consequent right to hit them, recalls arguments that were once used in relation to husbands and wives.

There is also an issue of discrimination in the use of visible marks as a measure of the acceptability of physical punishment. This will give less protection to babies and children whose skin is not white.

Something about risk assessment and how we can not be sure that the child is fully protected as a result of this assessment.

Disabilities on Act 1989….


Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) are the current statutory mechanism through which the partners in local areas agree on ways to co-ordinate their safeguarding services. Their statutory functions include: developing and agreeing local safeguarding policies and procedures; providing training; making assessments about the impact and effectiveness of local safeguarding arrangements; and undertaking serious case and child death reviews.

However the current coalition government is focusing the early intervention on the first years of a childs life pretending that this way they will assure that they are going to be brought up without abuse. Young teenages!

initial assessment from 7d to 10d!

In April 2008 the Public Law Outline (PLO), a new approach to case

management, was introduced to reduce delay in care proceedings. It is

too soon to be clear about the impact of the introduction of the PLO,

and in particular whether or not it has increased workloads and added

to delays in the process. There is currently conflicting evidence, for

instance, whilst a number of contributions to this report raised

concerns about the impact of the PLO, in London, the number of care

proceedings cases being completed in under 40 weeks in care centres

has risen from 22 per cent to 36 per cent when comparing the data

for the quarter before the introduction of the PLO with the latest data

following its implementation.


Social policy is

There are a collection of legislations, policies and guidelines that social workers must have knowledge of when practicing their profession. Lord Laming argues in his last report that ” …further legislative change is not what is needed to protect children … it is vital that all professionals …fully understand the legislative framework in relation to safeguarding and child protection, and have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in the process” (2009, p.78).

A common theme throughout all is the desire to protect and promote the welfare and safety of children. A sad reality is that some children will always need the statutory services and intervention of local authorities and the courts as parents are not always able to make the changes required to safeguard their children.

Every Child Matters is, in some ways, a refreshing and radical reform in the ways public services are expected to work with children, young people and families. On the other hand however, it also to some extent offers a sweeping vision about children and young people’s entitlements whilst delegating full accountability for the delivery of the services that enable children, young people and their parents/carers to local public services. What cannot be rejected however is the importance of the document to get agencies who work with groups of young people to develop more effective ways of working together and creating an arena of more accountability. In the construction of Every Child Matters as a favoured way of thinking, politicians and civil servants have aggressively projected individual collective and national anxieties and insecurities onto diverse, dynamic, complex and uncertain fields of practice where managers and practitioners work closely with many of England’s most vulnerable, troubled / troublesome children, young people and families.

In conclusion, the social policies, legislation and organisational context of social work are important factors that go towards the whole process of social work. It is important to know the skills and knowledge in law and policy, but also to have the knowledge and skills in interpreting and applying social work law to practice and emphasising the role of law in promoting social work values and purpose. As stated within the essay, this is part of the challenge of social work, certain laws and policies conflict with other laws, including policies of multi-professional organisations, and where ethical issues come into place allowing the social worker to draw on knowledge and life experience, empowering the service user by using the skills knowledge and values, which will help in challenging inequality, oppression and discrimination. There is also the requirement of the GSCC framework that social workers must be able to work in accordance with statutory and legal requirements, and carry out their work with professional conduct within multi-professional organisations and to be accountable if they fail to do so.

Baby peter and the cuts!

Jonathan Dickens sees social work “poised between the four points of a diamond – its duties to the state, its obligations to service users, its responsibilities to its own professional standards, and its accountability to organisational imperatives” (2010, p.11)

‘The aim is to make it harder for people to do something wrong and easier for them to do it right.’ US Institute of Medicine (1999, p.2)

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Bibliography & References

Allen, N. (2008) Making Sense of the Children Act 1989, 4th ed. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Corby, B. (2006) Child Abuse, Towards a Knowledge Base. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Department of Health (DOH) (2006) ‘Working Together To Safeguard Children, Every Child Matters, Change for Children.’ London: SO

Every Child Matters (2006) [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/1/2011]

Hendrck, H. (2003) Child Welfare, Historical Dimensions, Contemporary Debate. Bristol: Policy Press.

Hill, M. (2003) Understanding Social Policy, 7th ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Jowitt, M. & O’Loughlin, S. (2006) Social Work with Children & Families. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Laming, L. (2003) ‘The Victoria Climbié Inquiry’. [online] Available at: (Accessed: 11/1/2011)

Parton, N. (2006) Safeguarding Childhood, Early Intervention and Surveillance in a Late Modern Society. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Walsh,M. Stephens,P. Moore,S. ((2000) Social Policy and Welfare. Cheltenham: Stanley Thorne Publishers.

RSPCA (2008) [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Children Act (1989), [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Children Act (2004), [online] Available at:[Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Lord Laming, The Protection of Children In England: A Progress Report, (2009), [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

US Institute of Medicine (1999), ‘To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System’, Washington D.C., National Academic Press, [online] Available at: Err is Human 1999 report brief.pdf [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Parton, N. (2010), The Increasing Complexity of ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children in England’

‘The Munro Review of Child Protection – Part One: A Systems Analysis’, (2010) [online] Available at: one.pdf [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

London Safeguarding Children Board – Overview Panel Procedures, [online] Available at:[Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010), [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Being a Parent in Real World, [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Children are Unbeatable, [online] Available at:[Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Social Work Reform Board (SWRB)

Serious Case Overview Report Relating to Peter Connelly (2009), [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Nick Allen, 2005, Making Sense of the Children Act 1989′ [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

Dickens, J., 2009, Social work and social policy: an introduction, Taylor & Francis, [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11/01/2011]

DoH, Home Office, D of E, (2000) ‘The Framework for Assessment for Children in Need and their Families’ [online] Available at:



Service Users


Figure 1.1 The social work diamond


Social policy, social work and other social professions as parts of the machinery of state support and control.

Key factors: Roles of central government and local authorities. National policies, legislations, taxation and government spending. Roles of the Parliament, courts, regulatory bodies. Overlaps and tensions between these different parts of the state. Political conflict about the proper role of the state.


Social policy, social work and other social professions as ‘top-down’, expert-led activities.

Key factors: Professional: Professional attributes such as training and expertise, standards and skills, service ethics, self-regulation, But there are criticism of elitism, self-interest and status, and the disabling effects of professionals.

Service users

Social policy, social work and other social professions as ‘bottom-up’, user-led activities.

Key factors: Roles of individuals, families and neighbourhoods; campaign groups and self-help groups. Concepts of participation, inclusion, empowerment, control. But there are tensions between different service users, and questions about how much power and choice they really have or should have.


Social policy, social work and other social professions as activities that shaped by their organisational setting.

Key factors: Type of organisation – statutory (e.g. local authority), Voluntary or business. Inter-agency working. Processes for user involvement. Bureaucracy, regulation and managerialism. Budgets and profits.

(Dickens, 2009 p.12-13)


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