Child Social Work Policy & Practice


Derek Kirton

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

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    List of Figures, Boxes and Tables

    • 1.1 Children's involvement with social care services – a statistical overview 2
    • 2.1 The Assessment Framework for children in need and their families 24
    • 6.1 Ages of looked after children – England 2007 106
    • 6.2 Ethnicity of looked after children – England 2007 106
    • 6.3 Categories of need for looked after children 107
    • 6.4 Placements for looked after children – England 2007 108
    • 6.5 Time spent by looked after children – England 2007 108
    • 7.1 Ages of looked after children adopted – England 2007 131
    • 1.1 Key features of the Children Act 1989 11
    • 1.2Every Child Matters18
    • 1.3 Children Act 2004 – main provisions 19
    • 3.1 Levels of prevention 42
    • 4.1 Statutory representation on Local Safeguarding Children Boards 75
    • 5.1 Child abuse and neglect high-risk checklist 95
    • 6.1 Measures to counter institutional abuse 112
    • 6.2 Measures to improve education for looked after children in England 117
    • 7.1 Adoption and Children Act 2002 – key measures 130
    • 7.2 Adoption panels 132
    • 7.3 Key factors in high-quality residential care 143
    • 8.1 Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 – key provisions 148
    • 8.2Care Matters – principal measures regarding leaving care 155
    • 2.1 Sources of vulnerability and resilience 28
    • 2.2 Types of attachment, responses to separation and patterns of behaviour 30
    • 3.1 Sources for parents with additional support needs 50
    • 3.2 Family group conference – stages 57
    • 5.1 Child protection registrations in the UK 2003–2007 87
    • 6.1 Looked after children's attendance at reviews in England 2005–2006 by age 122
    • 8.1 Designations under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 154


    Child Social Work in the United Kingdom (1984–2008) – A Timeline
    YearKey LegislationMajor Policy Initiatives, Inquiries and Reports
    1984Short Report (House of Commons, 1984)
    1985Social Work Decisions in Child Care (DHSS) A Child in Trust (Beckford Report) (London Borough of Brent)
    1986Establishment of Childline
    1987Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order
    1988Cleveland Report (Lord Justice Butler-Sloss) Working Together: A Guide to Inter-Agency Co-operation for the Protection of Children from Abuse (DHSS)
    1989Children Act (England and Wales)
    1991Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the ChildLooking After Children: Assessing Outcomes in Child Care (Parker etal.)Pindown Report (Levy and Kahan)
    1992Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings (Home Office)
    1995Children (Scotland) Act Children (Northern Ireland) Order Disability Discrimination ActChild Protection: Messages from Research (DH)
    1997People Like Us: The Review of the Safeguards for Children Living Away from Home (Utting Report) Children's Safeguards Review (Kent Report)
    1998Human Rights ActQuality Protects Initiative (England) Children First (Wales)
    1999Protection of Children Act
    2000Children (Leaving Care) Act Carers and Disabled Children Act Care Standards ActFramework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their families (DHetal.) Lost in Care (Waterhouse Report into Abuse in North Wales Children's Homes)
    2001For Scotland's Children: Better Integrated Children's Services (Scottish Executive)
    2002Adoption and Children Act Children (Leaving Care) Act (Northern Ireland)It's Everyone's Job to Make Sure I'm Alright (Scottish Executive)
    2003Protection of Children Act (Scotland)Every Child Matters (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) Getting It Right for Every Child: A Review of the Children's Hearings System (Scottish Executive) The Victoria Climbié Inquiry (Lord Laming)
    2004Children Act (England and Wales)Children and Young People: Rights to Action (Welsh Assembly Government)Supporting Young People Leaving Care in Scotland (Scottish Executive)National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (DH)
    2006Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (England and Wales)Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care (DfES)Our Children and Young PeopleOur Pledge (OFMDPM, Northern Ireland)
    2007Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) OrderThe Children's Plan: Building Brighter Futures (DCSF)Aiming High For Disabled Children: Better Support For Families (HM Treasury)


    This book seeks to provide an overview of contemporary child care policy and practice in the United Kingdom (UK). In broad terms, the issues examined relate to the domains of ‘social work with children and families’, or the more broadly defined ‘child social care’. As will be seen, services for the care and protection of children encompass a wide range of situations, from families under stress or in conflict, to intervention in cases of suspected maltreatment, to life in the care system and beyond. The book is written primarily for two groups of readers, namely, those working with children and families (or training to do so) and other students or lay readers with an interest in childhood studies. No single volume can cover every relevant topic in depth and therefore a major aim is to serve as a guide and sourcebook for further investigation. This will entail providing pointers to relevant social science debates, while also highlighting practice issues and guidance for practitioners.

    Although there will be occasional references made to earlier eras, the historical focus of the book rests with the period from the passing of the Children Act 1989 to the present day, and especially since the election in 1997 of a New Labour government. (For longer historical perspectives, readers should consult Frost and Stein (1989) or Stevenson (1999).) There will also be an attempt to reflect the commonalities and diversity to be found in the four countries of the United Kingdom, a task given added impetus by recent developments in devolved government. Thus, while recognising the dominant influence of England in areas such as legislation, research and practice guidance, the distinctive nature of policy and practice in Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland will be highlighted where appropriate.


    A number of people have helpfully contributed to the writing of this book. I would like to thank especially Linda Prince, Rosalind Hargreaves and Cliff Thomas for reading and commenting on draft versions. I would also like to thank one of my anonymous reviewers for some very detailed commentary, posing some interesting challenges that I hope I have at least partially met. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to various staff at Sage, notably Susannah Trefgarne and Anne Birtchnell and their predecessors working on the book, and also Zoe Elliott-Fawcett and Anna Luker, for their help and patience.


    ACPCArea Child Protection Committee
    ARCarea review committees
    ASDautistic spectrum disorder
    BAAFBritish Association for Adoption and Fostering
    BMEblack and minority ethnic
    CAFCommon Assessment Framework
    CAFCASSChildren and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
    CAMHSChild and Adolescent Mental Health Services
    CEOPChild Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
    CRAEChildren's Rights Alliance for England
    CSCICommission for Social Care Inspection
    CYPPChildren and Young People's Plans
    DCLGDepartment of Communities and Local Government
    DCSFDepartment for Children, Schools and Families
    DfEEDepartment for Education and Employment
    DfESDepartment for Education and Skills
    DHDepartment of Health
    DHSSDepartment of Health and Social Security
    DHSSPSDepartment of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
    ECMEvery Child Matters
    EPOemergency protection order
    FFACfamily and friends as carers
    FGCfamily group conference
    FIIfabricated or induced illness
    FRGFamily Rights Group
    FTTfailure to thrive
    JARJoint Area Review
    LACLooked After Children project
    LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Boards
    NLCASNational Leaving Care Advisory Service
    PCpolitical correctness
    PMSUPrime Minister's Strategy Unit
    PSMparental substance misuse
    RCCLReview of Child Care Law
    SCIESocial Care Institute for Excellence
    SCRserious case review
    SCRAScottish Children's Reporter Administration
    TPSTeenage Pregnancy Strategy
    UASCunaccompanied asylum-seeking children
    UNCRCUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
    VCSvoluntary and community sector

    Outline of the Book

    The opening chapter will seek to locate contemporary child social work policy in a wider context, by examining changes in childhood(s) and family life, the growing emphasis on children's rights, and wider government policies relating to children and families. Thereafter, the book is loosely organised around a model that moves from initial involvement with child welfare services, to longer-term possibilities such as entry into public care and subsequently the latter's ‘exit’ routes through adoption or reaching young adulthood.

    Chapter 2 examines the process of assessment, whether for ‘children in need’ or in cases of child protection, which marks the starting point for children and families in their involvement with child care services. This leads on to a chapter setting out debates on ‘prevention’ and family support for ‘children in need’ under the Children Act 1989 and similar legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Chapter 4 examines recent historical developments in child protection in three main areas: the changing social construction of maltreatment; the evolution of the child protection system; and the experiences of children and families within it. The following chapter outlines the contemporary knowledge base for those working with child maltreatment, analysing theoretical perspectives and research evidence relating to the four main official categories of maltreatment – physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.

    The next two chapters (6 and 7) focus on looked after children. The first explores the multifaceted role of the state as ‘corporate parent’, and examines policy initiatives to improve children's life chances, while the second addresses the major forms of provision within public care – adoption, foster care and residential care. Chapter 8 continues the theme of life chances by looking at the challenges facing care leavers and the support they receive.

    Chapter 9 considers the intersection of childhood disability with key areas of provision covered elsewhere in the book, while the final chapter looks at contemporary child care policy trends and possible future directions.

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