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About this book

From Every Child Matters and the Munro Review, to changing shifts in thinking from Coalition government; the child protection system has seen dramatic political and policy developments over recent years.

This book brings you a critical analysis of these developments from a leading writer and commentator. It begins by exploring the origins of present-day arrangements, locating English policy and practice in both a wider British and international context. It examines tragic cases such as 'Baby P' and Maria Colwell, considering their impact on public and professional attitudes and, in turn, the implications for the child protection system. Looking to the future of child protection, Nigel Parton considers the current state of the system and argues that we need to address wider social and political issues, including poverty, class and inequality.

Original, authoritative and up-to-date, The Politics of Child Protection is an important book for all students, practitioners and researchers interested in safeguarding and child protection.

Table of Contents

1. The politics of child protection: an introduction

Abstract
The initial prompt for this book was a suggestion by Catherine Gray, my long-time commissioning editor at Palgrave Macmillan, in early 2010 that I consider writing an updated edition of Safeguarding Childhood (Parton, 2006a), which I had completed the day after the Children Act 2004 had received royal assent in November 2004. We decided we would leave the decision until after the general election in May of that year to assess what was happening in the broad areas of child protection and safeguarding and to see what might be changing. In the event, it seemed prudent to write a completely new book. Not only had a lot been happening since November 2004, including:
  • the launch of the Every Child Matters: Change for Children (DfES, 2004b) programme
  • the scandal associated with the death of Peter Connelly
  • the onset of the biggest economic downturn since the 1930s
  • the election of the first peacetime coalition government since 1931
  • and the establishment of the Munro Review of Child Protection but it felt that the nature of the changes was not simply to do with the number of developments but their overall import, form and implications. It did not seem that what we were witnessing could easily be covered in a simple update and revision of Safeguarding Childhood.
Nigel Parton

2. Children’s services in the postwar period

Abstract
The central purpose of this book is to critically analyse recent developments in child protection, together with identifying some of the current challenges. In doing so, it argues that what we now call ‘child protection’ has a history and line of development that has been influenced by a range of social, economic, cultural and political changes over a century and a quarter, and that a knowledge of this history is crucial to explaining and understanding the current form and function of this area of policy and practice. This is not to suggest that the developments have been straightforward or linear, or that what is referred to as ‘child protection’ is in any way solid, as a whole range of complexities, tensions and contingencies have fed into its emergence.
Nigel Parton

3. New Labour, children and childhood

Abstract
When the Labour Party came to power in May 1997 under the leadership of Tony Blair, it presented itself as being ‘new’ and different from the ‘old’ Labour Party. New Labour aimed to introduce a new political philosophy and strategy based on the ideas of the ‘Third Way’ (Blair, 1998; Giddens, 1998), which would transcend Margaret Thatcher’s ‘property owning democracy’ by combining individualism with egalitarianism in a new way. This involved the reconciliation of two apparently conflicting ‘cultural projects’ (6, Perri, 2000), one concerned with personal self-realization and rights to autonomy, the other with membership and community. It attempted to do this in part through the introduction of a series of abstract general principles, together with an emphasis on detailed codification, legislation, regulation, prescription, reward and punishment. The approach informed all areas of social policy.
Nigel Parton

4. The Every Child Matters agenda and beyond

Abstract
As I have argued in Chapter 3, policies towards parents, children and young people lay at the heart of New Labour attempts to refashion the welfare state. Not only were children and young people the focus of attempts to educate and improve the quality of the future workforce, but they were also seen as particularly at risk of social exclusion and were, therefore, identified as in need of special attention. The numbers of children in poverty had trebled between 1979 and New Labour coming to power in 1997, to include a third of all children and young people. Children and young people were seen as particularly vulnerable to the effects of increasing divorce, single parenthood and the growing violence and malaise in certain communities, and they often accounted for a high proportion of crime and antisocial behaviour.
Nigel Parton

5. The tragedy of Baby Peter Connelly and its effects

Abstract
On 11 November 2008, two men were convicted of causing or allowing the death of a 17-month-old child on 3 August 2007. The child was known simply as ‘Baby P’, because his identity, and that of his mother and her boyfriend, was being protected for legal reasons. The baby’s mother had already pleaded guilty to the charge. During the trial, the court heard that Baby P was used as ‘a punch bag’, that his mother had deceived and manipulated professionals with lies and, on one occasion, had smeared him with chocolate to hide his bruises. There had been over 60 contacts with the family from a variety of health, police and social care professionals; he was pronounced dead just 48 hours after a hospital doctor failed to identify that he had a broken spine.1 He978-1-137-26930-0 was the subject of a child protection plan with the London borough of Haringey.
Nigel Parton

6. Central government guidance and child protection: 1974–2010

Abstract
Government guidance has been at the core of the development of child protection in England from 1974 onwards, providing the framework for policy and practice that local authorities and other social care, health, education and criminal justice agencies are required to implement in their local areas. The guidance represents official thinking and priorities at any one particular time, while also playing a key role in trying to bring about policy and practice change on the ground. The changes in the guidance result from a variety of legal, social, media and political influences, which are the focus of this book.
Nigel Parton

7. ‘Social breakdown’, the ‘big society’ and the Conservative-led coalition government

Abstract
In May 2010, Britain had a new government. Following many days of intense negotiations and against the backdrop of the worst financial crisis and economic downturn since 1929, Britain had its first peacetime coalition government since the 1930s. While the Conservative Party had the largest number of seats in the House of Commons (307), it required the support of the Liberal Democrats (57 seats) to form a government. David Cameron became prime minister and Nick Clegg deputy prime minister.
Nigel Parton

8. Reforming child protection: a child-centred system?

Abstract
On taking office, the coalition government immediately changed the name of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to the Department for Education (DfE), with Michael Gove appointed as the minister for education. Initially, it was not clear whether it was simply a name change and rebranding of a recently established central government department that had been closely associated with Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, or something more significant. It quickly became evident that it did point to something much more significant. From the beginning, the coalition government made no reference to Every Child Matters and the departmental web pages changed overnight. It became clear, in the first two years, that the primary driver and focus for the recreated DfE was to be radical changes in the governance and funding of schools, particularly the expansion of academies and the introduction of free schools. In the process, most schools would be removed from local government control, be given greater independence, and be accountable directly to the DfE. This was a rather different role for schools to that which had been envisaged by New Labour in its Children’s Plan (DCSF, 2007b).
Nigel Parton

9. Child welfare reform and the authoritarian neoliberal state

Abstract
The reform of the child protection system signalled by the Munro Review and the 2013 Working Together (HM Government, 2013) was taking place in the context of major changes in all areas of public services and the role of the state. In Chapter 7, I discussed some of the main ideas and influences on the coalition government and outlined its early aims and policy changes. I argued that while ideas about ‘the big society’ provided much of the rhetorical framework for the Conservative Party of David Cameron and the coalition government in its early days, these were quickly sidelined.1 Ideas outlined in the Open Public Services White Paper (HM Government, 2011a) and concerns about ‘the broken society’ became central. In this chapter, I will develop this analysis further and outline the impact of government changes for children, families and child welfare and protection services more specifically. What emerges is a clear agenda to establish, what I will call, an ‘authoritarian neoliberal state’. While this development had clear links to the approach of the earlier Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major (1979–97) and to some elements of the New Labour approach of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (1997–2010) (Levitas, 2012), it can be seen to take neoliberal ideas further into the heart of government and to the reform of the state itself, what Soss et al. (2009, 2011) and Wiggan (2011) have called ‘neoliberal paternalism’.
Nigel Parton

10. Child protection and social work

Abstract
While the emphasis of policy and practice over the past 40 years has been to encourage different professions and agencies to work together, it is clear that it is local authority children’s social workers who have been placed at the heart of the child protection system in England and have the lead role. In this chapter, I will argue that while there is an intimate relationship between social work and child protection, this has proved a difficult relationship and had a variety of implications for all concerned.
Nigel Parton

11. Moving beyond individualized child protection systems

Abstract
The purpose of this final chapter is to bring the various threads of my argument together and provide the foundations for thinking about ‘the politics of child protection’ differently, thereby opening up new ways of taking policy and practice forward. Throughout, I have argued that a number of high-profile scandals have proved key in the way policy and practice have developed in England since the early 1970s. The cases of Maria Colwell, the Cleveland affair, Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter Connelly have all been crucial in providing the catalysts for ensuring that concerns about child protection have received major public and professional attention. The politics of child protection over the past 40 years can be characterized as being punctuated by periods of high-profile scandals, where the intensity of anger and anxiety expressed by senior politicians and certain sections of the media, particularly the popular press, has steadily grown, resulting in increasingly dramatic professional and managerial fallout. Such moments have also witnessed significant shifts in policy direction.
Nigel Parton
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