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About this book

This important text will provide a critical analysis of contemporary developments in child care policy under New Labour and the resulting policy and practice implications. The authors will draw on sociological debates, the growing children's rights literature and wider developments within social policy in order to provide a thorough and balanced guide to contemporary developments in this rapidly changing field. Ideologies behind recent initiatives in a wide range of practice areas are explored, and the implementation of key developments are appraised. This will be primary reading for all students specializing in work with children and their families.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Recent years have seen increasingly high levels of government activity and intervention in the UK in the field of child welfare policy. As a result, it has been difficult for many policy activists and researchers to keep up with the pace of developments. It has also been difficult to discern common themes within the wide array of initiatives. In the early to mid-1990s, this was less of an issue. Although the Conservative governments had introduced a number of significant measures - such as the Children Act 1989, the Child Support Act 1991 and the Family Law Act 1996 - they were much less interventionist than their successors, the Labour governments elected in 1997 and 2001. This is evident from Table 1.1, which lists some of the key initiatives relating to children between 1998 and 2003.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 2. Thinking About Children Today

Abstract
Many features of the lives of children are shaped by social policy and their futures are central to its concerns. However, in much social policy and sociological literature they have remained relatively silent and invisible as subjects whilst also being the objects of considerable concern (for an overview, see Brannen, 1999). In recent years, this has begun to change. Researchers from a range of disciplines show an increased interest in rendering children visible and in exploring the contours of contemporary childhood(s). Developments in academic disciplines such as sociology and socio-legal studies, encompassed in the substantial ESRC Children 5–16 Programme, have opened up new fields of conceptual endeavour and applied inquiry in relation to childhood. These developments build upon and interlink with a decade of academic interest in — and pressure groups campaigning for — children’s rights.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 3. Family Policy

Abstract
An important, if not the dominant, tendency in relation to contemporary family policy is that the welfare of children, rather than that of adults, provides the central rationale. In this chapter, we explore the main contours of the policies and activities which have emerged in this field and which stem from this rationale. We locate this analysis within a brief overview of dominant approaches to family policy in the twentieth century and chart the continuities and discontinuities under New Labour.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 4. Child Abuse and Child Welfare

Abstract
Child abuse is a term which has occasioned considerable debate at a range of levels, particularly since the 1970s. Definitional questions have been very important as they have keyed into fundamental questions about causation, which link to wider debates about child welfare, the role of the state and the rights and responsibilities of parents and children. In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of such debates since the establishment of the post-war welfare state and explore how child abuse has been conceptualised, particularly in terms of its interrelationship with children’s welfare.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 5. Looked After Children

Abstract
This chapter is concerned with recent policy and practice developments with respect to those children whose lives are most intimately bound to the actions of the state - those who live directly under its care. The chapter focuses primarily on policy towards looked after children in England. Scotland has different and distinctive practices and legislation in this field and Wales itself is now increasingly deserving of separate attention as the Welsh Assembly forges different approaches in social care. For example, Wales decided to appoint a Children’s Commissioner for all children in 2000, whereas England did not do so until 2003. Wales also has a separate strategy for social services for children, ‘Children First’.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 6. Youth Justice

Abstract
This chapter considers recent developments in policy and practice with respect to young offenders between the ages of 10 and 17 in England (Scotland’s youth justice system is significantly different). These developments also apply to Wales, since this remains one policy area in which central government does not have a separate policy approach solely for England. Developing youth justice policies for children in this category clearly presents distinctive challenges to any government, raising issues of care and punishment in a context that generates considerable public emotion and media attention and hence presents significant political risks. One way in which this chapter differs from most others in this volume is that the Children Act 1989 is conspicuous by its absence. This alone says much, as we shall see, about the UK government’s approach in this field.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 7. Disabled Children and Young People

Abstract
In studies of the history of disability, there is evidence of disabled children being perceived in various ways. These include perceptions of such children as expendable, as a defective and weakening social element and as personifications of evil. On the other hand, this diverse grouping of children and young people has also been seen as gifts from God and, as such, in need of compassion and protection (Oswin, 1984). In the UK, disabled children have to compete for resources in a society where fast-developing research in the field of genetics tempts prospective parents with visions of a perfect or ‘designer’ child and where the abortion of a damaged foetus is regarded by large numbers of people as a responsible and justifiable course of action.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 8. Children, Young People and Mental Health

Abstract
More and more children are experiencing mental ill health according to a range of statistics (Meltzer et al., 2000). Social Trends (2002), for example, reports that one in 10 children under the age of 11 has been diagnosed as suffering from a mental health condition. The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund have stated that up to one in five of the world’s children are suffering from mental health or behavioural problems (BBC News, 2002). The reasons for this are far from clear cut. Undoubtedly, the pressures which children and young people now have to face are considerable, with image, achievement (or non-achievement), parental poverty and peer group pressure featuring significantly. The various ways in which differences relating to class, gender, disability, sexuality and ethnicity intersect and impact on some children and young people will also make a difference (Coleman and Schofield, 2001). However, incidence statistics alone only give a partial picture and the various ways in which mental health problems can be socially constructed also requires interrogation.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 9. Children as Carers

Abstract
The 2001 Census revealed that there are approximately 5.2 million people who carry out significant ‘caring’ responsibilities in England and Wales. Of these, 21 per cent provide ‘care’ for more than 50 hours per week, 11 per cent for between 20 and 49 hours and 68 per cent for up to 19 hours per week (Census, 2001). With regard to those under 18 who perform caring duties for a family member, conservative estimates place the numbers at over 50,000 (DoH website, 2003). In recent decades, successive governments have been keen to support informal carers, since the provision of informal as opposed to formal ‘care’ represents considerable savings to local and central government budgets. As a result, over the past 20 years there has been a shift in the position of ‘carers’. They have moved from being an unacknowledged diverse grouping of people providing ‘care’ in the home to an influential group with whom successive governments have been keen to develop informal partnerships.
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard

Chapter 10. Conclusions

Abstract
Having examined recent policy developments in relation to a wide range of child welfare issues, this chapter offers some conclusions with respect to the significance of these developments. Since 1997, UK central government has shown considerable commitment to intervening in the lives of children in a variety of ways and to a much greater degree than previous administrations. Interventions in relation to specific categories of children sit alongside broader initiatives in relation to children generally, such as those concerned with abolishing child poverty. In one sense, the simple expansion of government interest in child welfare policy is the most significant development. Within a social investment strategy, this is not surprising, since such an approach ensures that ‘the child in particular takes on an iconic status’ (Lister, 2003, p. 437).
Barbara Fawcett, Brid Featherstone, Jim Goddard
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