Childcare policies since the late 1990s have been directed towards mitigating the consequences of poverty, particularly child poverty, and childcare professionals are expected to participate in the ‘major strategies to tackle the root causes of poverty and social exclusion, (DoH, DfEE, HO, 2000: 1 par. 1.1). Professionals working with children and their families where there are child protection concerns are required to assess a child’s needs from a holistic perspective, and consider the impact of poverty, recast as social exclusion, as a factor undermining parenting capacity (ibid., 2000). Current child protection policy and practice has been heavily influenced by research studies showing the correlation between poverty and concern about child maltreatment as significant numbers of poor families were found to have been involved in formal child protection investigations leading to no futher action (DoH, 1995). The message to childcare professionals was that the ‘child rescue’ approach, which dominated child protection activity in the 1980s and early 1990s, left many vulnerable children and their families without any services at all. This approach, it was suggested, focused on investigating the family care of children, considered ‘at risk’ to determine if the legal test of ‘significant harm’ (Part IV Children Act 1989 s.31(2)) had been met, to the exclusion of any other needs the child or family might have (DoH, 1995).
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