Guide Values and Practice in Childrens Services

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They also have important implications for the way in which the task of putting values into practice is undertaken. For example, the fact that these initiatives frequently overlap in their aims and scope inevitably raises concerns about the setting of priorities, and the challenge of resolving conflicting objectives. Thus, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a potential for significant conflict between the focus on social control and individual responsibility of the youth justice services, on the one hand, and the concern to meet the welfare needs of young people through social work intervention, on the other.

That is, we all bring to our specific area of practice, our own sets of principles, beliefs and attitudes. Indeed, even explicit structures and frameworks are likely to incorporate uncertainties and conflict, which must be resolved at the point of intervention. As Banks puts it: there is no such thing as value-free knowledge, and. Roles within the family, for instance, are observed to be crucially affected by powerful social and economic forces. It seems that we need to consider the sources and inspirations for our own values.

Whilst there are some problems with the excessively deterministic nature of some of these theories, their virtue is that they locate the sources of ideas and attitudes in social structures, particularly those which exercise overarching power or authority Gramsci, What is normal, and accepted as standard practice, may therefore have its roots in structures and processes which have a pervasive effect on our thinking. The values which inform specific interventions can thus be said to derive from political influences which shape our fundamental views of the world.

For Gramsci , the significance of this is the transformation of ideas, which are essentially partial and selective, into belief systems which appear natural or self-evident. Whilst earlier proponents of these arguments may have tended to suggest that power is centralised and influence is all-pervasive, Banks b notes the more recent contention that the sources of influential currents of thought may have become more diffuse in the post-modern era, reflecting a diversification of moral authority.

This suggests that the application of values in the field of social welfare is neither simple nor straightforward. It is not possible, for instance, to achieve effective interventions simply by following standardised lists or codes of practice. The help that these offer is limited in the context of challenging dilemmas or conflicting interests; it is at this point that professional skills and judgement must be applied.

It is, of course, equally important that this judgement is sensitive and well-informed; the aim of this book is to provide some guidance in that respect. The route that I have adopted here will start with a review of the potential sources of particular value positions, so that the specific impact of distinct belief systems on approaches to child welfare can be located effectively within this broader context. Values do not just appear as fully formed sets of principles which offer unproblematic practice guidance; they are derived from wider ideological traditions to be found within the fabric of society.

Clarifying these influences will, in turn, provide a platform from which to develop a more detailed understanding of the interplay of these forces in the specific context of child welfare. This, in turn, will generate some ideas about the kind of strategies to be utilised in making sense of value positions, and applying these effectively in relation to identifiable challenges in the practice arena.

The structure of the book The purpose of Chapter 1 is to develop the ideas outlined previously. It reviews previous attempts to elaborate typologies of the welfare state, notably the framework set out by George and Wilding ; ; Some concrete examples of the applicability of this kind of framework are provided here, in order to set the scene for subsequent chapters. State intervention should be discouraged, and should only be activated in extreme circumstances.

The implications for specific methods of intervention, such as the use of adoption, are considered, particularly in the light of contemporary debates about its greater use. From this viewpoint, the authority of the state is exercised more readily, and in order to ensure that children are not exposed to risk or danger. Parents and families are, by implication, seen more frequently as potential sources of harm to their children, and the state is accorded the moral authority to intervene, both to provide safeguards and to educate parents in their roles and responsibilities.

Chapter 4 also focuses on a perspective which accords a positive role for the state, but it sees this as based on the spirit of partnership with parents, rather than coercion. The form of intervention to support families in this context is also seen in different terms, with a recognition of the importance of meeting material needs, and providing the resources parents require to meet their responsibilities.

The Sure Start initiative, for example, can be viewed as epitomising this approach. This chapter also reflects on the relationship between supporting families and the social inclusion agenda, noting that the consequences for the delivery of services to children may be significant for instance, through the transfer of social work functions to the Department for Education and Skills in Chapter 5 describes an emerging strand of thinking and practice whose influence has been growing in recent years. The next two chapters discuss some of the dilemmas and disagreements which arise when the distinctive strands of policy and practice come into conflict.

Chapter 6 brings a practice focus to the task of resolving differences between value positions. The chapter aims to provide a framework for understanding and dealing with some of the complexities of practice which need to take account of diversity and challenge oppression, but yet must retain a sense of the distinctive interests of children, families and state agencies in the service setting. It therefore concentrates on exploring a range of techniques for identifying and resolving value conflicts, in the interests of achieving best practice. It is stressed here that practitioners need to have a clear sense of their own value bases.

A sense of the changing operational terrain is needed, not least because it has to be taken into account in making day-to-day professional decisions about individual circumstances and the needs of children. Statements of professional principles, for example, cannot be divorced from broader social and political perspectives on what is or is not acceptable conduct. Despite this, the prescription of desirable values for those working in social care has sometimes foundered in the mire of abstract, but well-meaning aspirations.

Table of Contents

This is one of the challenges involved in operationalising a series of generalised statements of desirable aims which are not always entirely compatible, and which do not always appear well-grounded in their social and ideological context. However, it has limited purchase so long as at least two key questions are not addressed. The means to resolve it are not provided by the code itself. Ideal types were not intended to be a portrayal of the desirable, necessary, or even the most obvious characteristics of social phenomena.

Rather, they were to identify the most significant, or even defining, qualities of institutions or movements, against which real and concrete events or structures could be evaluated: the constructed model of a fully rational purposive action. Runciman, , p. Thus, ideological and value perspectives can be distinguished and classified, as we shall see. This, in turn, provides a basis for exploring contrasts and convergences which may have specific practical applications. The models which have been articulated in order to aid understanding of patterns of welfare delivery offer a broad canvas upon which particular approaches to the care of children can be located.

The starting point for this discussion will be an examination of a number of recent exercises in developing typologies of state welfare systems. A number of influential attempts have been made to classify states, historically and comparatively, in order to distinguish between their philosophies and practices. These include the work, for example, of George and Wilding ; ; and Esping-Andersen Initially, they developed a fourfold typology of perspectives, which represented points on a political continuum: anti-collectivism, reluctant collectivism, Fabian socialism and Marxism.

Subsequently, this framework was revised and expanded to take account of changing ideas and political innovations. The idea of a continuum, however, remains valuable as an analytical device. The New Right This position is associated with ideologies of the free market, competition, individualism and self-interest. In order to realise their true potential, it is argued, human beings must be at liberty to act to further their own ends.

However, freedom: is an essentially negative state — the absence of coercion. Freedom is maximised when coercion is reduced as much as possible in society. George and Wilding, , p. It should act as the guarantor of individual liberty see Gamble, ; and, at the same time, it should act coercively to prevent any action which might impose limits to these freedoms. The only role of the state is to act as: the protector of the interests of all; it ensures that they pursue their interests unmolested by others. Coercion by the State, though necessary in a few pre-defined areas becomes an instrument for liberty.

For instance, the role of the state in setting limits to the unacceptable treatment of children could be identified as a form of guarantee of freedom and personal integrity. However, once having established the framework and the boundaries for individual self-expression and self-realisation, the state has no further proactive role under this model. It is believed that: as government grows so individual responsibility is eroded. People come to believe that they have a right to have their needs met so they feel less responsibility for trying to meet them themselves.

It is socially disruptive, it is expensive, it is a source of economic inefficiency, and it intrudes upon personal freedom George and Wilding, Unsurprisingly, the New Right, operating within this perspective, takes a negative view of the welfare state. The only justification for intervention is to provide minimal and basic services to alleviate the worst deprivation experienced in society. To the extent that established welfare states could be seen to be over-generous in this respect, they should be pared back.

There should be: a reduction as regards the scope of social services. Much of the rhetoric of the Thatcher governments of the s reflected this minimalist and negative view of the state as an instrument in promoting social welfare; and this had a distinct influence on policy developments of that era, including a reduced role for public services, and privatisation of housing.

Like the New Right, adherents of this position: emphasise their belief in liberty, in individualism, and in competitive private enterprise. Thus, in specific cases, there will be grounds for state action to deliver social benefits. It may be necessary, for example, to develop specific programmes such as youth training initiatives or the Connexions service, perhaps to assist the development of economic enterprise.

The state, it is accepted, must sometimes intervene to steer and correct the market, which itself can be a source of inefficiency and waste, both economic and social. The free market, for example, is unable, on its own, to abolish poverty and injustice. Basic human needs cannot always be provided for by the operation of market forces.

Reluctant collectivists therefore believe that there is a positive value in limited government action, particularly in the social sphere, to correct the imperfections of the market, and to make it work better — but certainly not to supplant it: This pragmatic response to injustice is fuelled by the belief that markets, and indeed life itself, are often unfair but that governments can, and therefore should, help to compensate for such social injustices.

In the context of state welfare, this can be characterised as a philosophy of rescuing the inevitable casualties of the market system, rather than as a positive commitment to principles of universal welfare or the common good. Thus, for example, the guiding principle of intervention in families should be to help parents to meet their responsibilities rather than supplant them.

Intervention is based on classification and identification of need, rather than notions of rights or entitlement. Experts have a continuing role in monitoring the efficiency of the welfare system, and drawing on technical skills to make the necessary adjustments when things go wrong — the emphasis is on a rational approach to problem-solving and effective management, rather than an ideologically driven mission of social improvement. Better management and closer control of the machinery of state welfare, rather than its eradication, were preoccupations of the Major government of the early s, for example.

It is argued by some that these are also characteristics which can be associated with the New Labour governments from onwards Clarke etal. Democratic socialism For those who stand at this point on the continuum, a much more positive role for the state is espoused. Rather than acting primarily as a safety net, there is a necessary role for the state in creating the right conditions for all individuals to meet their full potential.

Leaving everything to the mercy of naked competition is not in the interests of either individuals or, indeed, the economy and society: it is only in a more equal society that the individual has the opportunity to realise his [sic] potentialities. To achieve these aims, the state must act extensively to secure the conditions for social benefits to be shared, particularly for those groups who are either vulnerable or discriminated against. Thus specific services and benefits must be provided for vulnerable groups, such as older people, those who are sick or disabled, and families with children.

Equally, measures must be put in place to prevent and counter discrimination on grounds of race, gender, disability, age, sexuality, or for any other reason. The vision of the welfare state held by this perspective is of a benevolent, and routinely interventionist system for promoting affirmative action, in order to provide the same life chances for all. The state therefore creates the conditions for equality of opportunity, although it does not insist on equality of outcomes.

Democratic socialists stop short of seeking a radical transformation of the state, and instead vest their beliefs in the creation of effective mechanisms which if properly administered can secure more equal and socially beneficial outcomes. This espousal of a benevolent and positive interventionist role for the state may be associated with much that is evident in the New Labour project to tackle social exclusion Powell, Thus, for example, programmes such as Sure Start exemplify a commitment to changing the lives of families and children for the better by improving the resources available to them.

Radical socialism This position is identified with a fundamental commitment to equality as the paramount principle of social welfare. For those on the radical left: Freedom. Redistribution on any substantial scale cannot be achieved by tinkering around with the existing institutions of capitalism. The nature of the political system, the dominant ideology, the family, the social services and other institutions are largely, though not wholly, determined by the way the production system is organised and by the level of its performance.

There is no real prospect of ameliorative reforms producing lasting and general improvements to the well-being of the population in general. Despite their starting point, radicals of the left appear to espouse a model of the welfare state which has much in common with the ameliorative assumptions of the democratic socialists. This has provided a rationale for practitioners who have sought to work within existing structures and yet maintain a commitment to far-reaching and fundamental transformations in social welfare. Despite this, they remain suspicious of, and hostile to those aspects of the state which are seen as oppressive and controlling George and Wilding, , p.

Given its oppositional nature, the radical perspective has not been reflected directly in government policies and programmes, although it might be argued that its capacity to provide resistance and promote positive change can be demonstrated by some of the achievements of community-based activists Holman, , for example. Alternative perspectives? It is suggested, for example that: Feminist analysis has added new insights to our understanding of the development of welfare states. A range of interventions can be seen to target the interests of women and children quite distinctly from those of men.

Thus, for example, domestic violence initiatives are now based on explicit connections between child protection and the victimisation of mothers and female carers Mullender et al. They attempt to explain events and processes as well as make prescriptions for change to various aspects of welfare activity.

Making use of comparative models The value of comparative analyses of the kind developed by George and Wilding is endorsed elsewhere. Higgins, , p. It is perhaps more realistic to think in terms of persistent themes and perspectives which interact and generate a more uneven pattern of change. More recently, Esping-Andersen has drawn on an extensive empirical investigation to develop welfare state models which can be found in existence in various European states.

Whilst it must be accepted that none of these can be found in its purest form, he has identified a number of groupings around certain key themes. These regimes can be distinguished according to their commitment to social investment, their view of the role and responsibilities of the state, and their approach to social engineering and redistribution. As typologies of this nature have emerged, there have been a number of attempts to establish a systematic framework for comparative analysis Jones Finer, , for example.

It is not a matter of right or wrong, in his view, but of creating a series of intelligible and defensible positions which provide the basis for dialogue and the development of more sophisticated understandings. Applying models of welfare in this way enables us to avoid pre-judging issues, at the same time as offering a way of making complex, contradictory and changing circumstances intelligible.

The fact that this kind of exercise is of value at the level of welfare state systems in general should also offer some encouragement in the task of applying similar approaches in the narrower context of services for children. For example, Hardiker and her colleagues have formulated four strands of thought which are held to inform intervention strategies in child welfare. These are characterised as: residual, institutional, developmental and radical. These have parallels with the perspectives identified by George and Wilding. For example, the residual model is based on values of individualism, freedom and difference.

The emphasis on individual needs means that conflicts of interest are inevitable, but these are determined within a strong legal and moral framework. Despite this, the state is expected only to have a limited role in welfare and child care provision; the family is relied upon to provide for its own members.

The state will act decisively and coercively when parents do not meet these basic requirements. The state has a role in preventing damage to its vulnerable members, and in promoting commitment to the social order. It could thus be seen to have a specific responsibility for protecting children who are at risk, and promoting responsible parenting. Government intervention should be seen as a positive good, and as a means towards greater freedom, notably in that it guarantees an adequate standard of living.

The welfare system is, therefore, a vital element in promoting a good standard of care for children within the family. Parents will not 22 VALUES IN CONTEXT be blamed when things go wrong, and they cannot meet their responsibilities; rather, interventions will seek to empower them to act responsibly in the interests of their children, and to take control of all aspects of their lives.

Supporting cultural and linguistic diversity in early childhood

Like George and Wilding, Hardiker and colleagues identify a fourth model of child welfare, which is also based on notions of radical practice and resistance. The state is conceived as entirely negative as in the residual model, interestingly , and therefore oppositional practice must be seen as the only effective intervention strategy. It is, however, acknowledged that maintaining a pure adversarial position such as this can be difficult to sustain, particularly in statutory practice settings, and that as a result the radical and developmental perspectives tend to converge.

Not only do these models of intervention in child care reflect distinctive ideological positions, but they also have implications for the preferred modes and levels of intervention in the service context. Where an institutional view of welfare is predominant, preventive efforts are placed at the secondary level: early intervention to prevent problems worsening. Under a residual value system, prevention typically takes place at the tertiary level: work with children and families in imminent danger of separation, often through court proceedings.

Hardiker et al. In addition, it highlights an important consideration which is that these intervention strategies are likely to be found running in parallel, and the tensions between them are likely to be significant. This framework demonstrates that it is unwise simply to assume that modes of intervention routinely follow the model adopted; rather, it illustrates the importance of the dynamic interplay between beliefs and practices.

A number of other attempts have been made to develop typologies of intervention in child welfare. Frost and Stein and Smith , for example, have both formulated threefold frameworks. They argue that the issue of power and control is pivotal, and that the key question is the extent to which children and young people are seen as similar to, or different from, adults. It is this judgement by adults which determines the way in which adult and state power is exercised over children. Frost and Stein, , p.

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This is an important point since the idea of balance is often utilised as an organising principle in the practice setting; but it may be neither achievable nor desirable where it masks unequal power relations, or cements inequalities into place. Clearly, however, the expression of these three policy objectives as parallel strands of legislation creates tensions, with the likelihood that there will be conflicting demands at the level of policy and in practice. There would, in his view, be better prospects for an integrated approach to service delivery if certain minimum standards could be guaranteed to all children, over and above the specific requirements of child care legislation Smith, , p.

Whilst Fox Harding acknowledges that there are uncertainties and overlaps between the four positions, she argues that they do represent quite distinct orientations towards policy and practice in relation to children. This is illustrated by reference to specific historical and international developments. Restrictions on the freedom of parents and the exercise of powers to intervene should only be used on very rare occasions by the state in order to enforce these standards.

Where intervention is required, it should be decisive and definitive, for instance involving the rapid removal of the child from unacceptable parental care, the cessation of family links, and the immediate substitution of an alternative family. Fox Harding links this authoritarian approach to intervention with wider ideological perspectives such as patriarchy, whereby there is an implicit belief in the presence of a strong father figure at the head of a well-organised, morally sound and efficiently run family unit. Harris and Timms , however, take issue with her over this point, arguing that there is no necessary association of the laissez-faire perspective with a particular male-dominated set of gender relations.

The laissez-faire model of child welfare is not simply a theoretical abstraction, but can be identified as having significant influence at different points in history, such as the Victorian era, and under the New Right Conservative government of — As Fox Harding acknowledges, the laissez-faire position is subject to criticism on at least two grounds; the negative view of state intervention and its association with a specific gendered model of family life. State paternalism appears as a dominant strand in child welfare provision in the expansionary era of the late s and s, when the numbers of children in state care increased significantly.

As Fox Harding observes, this perspective can be criticised for appearing overbearing and overconfident, placing too great an emphasis on the authority of experts, and giving too little recognition to the perspectives of families and children themselves. In addition, the fact that intervention is not always reliable and effective is not acknowledged clearly enough.

Adequate levels of support, both financial and in respect of other forms of family assistance, are sufficient, according to this view, to enable families to thrive independently. Even where specific needs are identified, intervention should be supportive. Where it is necessary, for example, to provide alternative accommodation for the child away from the family home, this should be pursued as a temporary and voluntary arrangement, with the aim of improving family functioning rather than as a route towards permanent alternative care.

However, within this perspective, Fox Harding identifies two distinct strands; those who place a greater emphasis on promoting the rights of families, and those who emphasise the importance of state investment in welfare services to support children in their families. The establishment of the post-war welfare state and, indeed, aspects of the New Labour strategy can be associated with this model of intervention. If this value position is to be subject to criticism, it may be for tending to idealise the birth family, and perhaps to hold an over-optimistic view of the capacity and willingness of the welfare state to commit resources to family support.

In her view, the emergence of this perspective is more recent than the others, and it has therefore been less influential in shaping services for children. The adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in may herald a change of emphasis, however. This perspective is distinctive in that it promotes a radical agenda of rights for children, on the one hand, and societal responsibilities towards them, on the other.

Rights to determine the nature and content of interventions should rest with children themselves, rather than being administered indirectly, through the agency of adults, however sympathetic and however close their relationship. By assigning power to children in this way, many of the disadvantages and injustices they experience could be overcome. For instance, in emphasising the rights of children, it appears not to take account of the obverse, their responsibilities, and how the concomitant of acquiring adult entitlements might be also acquiring adult obligations such as earning a living.

It could be suggested, however, in common with the models of welfare considered previously, that the different characterisations could be identified as sharing points on a continuum. Whilst neither Frost and Stein nor Smith identify a noninterventionist position, in other respects there is a considerable degree of similarity between the positions identified. Even where there appear to be differences of emphasis, some common ground can be identified.

In this sense, their characterisations might be seen as mutually validating. However, it has been suggested, not least by Fox Harding herself, that it would be unwise to accept the distinctions between perspectives as definitive and unproblematic. As she acknowledges, there are clear areas of convergence between some, if not all, in certain respects. At a fundamental level, for example, all share a concern with the welfare and development of children, and all are concerned with the role of the state in contributing to that — albeit leading to very different conclusions. In a sense, these observations anticipate some of the criticisms which can be made of an approach to understanding child welfare based on a positional analysis of the kind considered here.

By its very nature, this kind of portrayal tends to overemphasise the differences between perspectives, and creates dichotomies which may not exist so clearly in the complexities encountered in practice. It may be felt that the implicit pressure to make definitive judgements about the subject of analysis is too rigid, and fails to allow for a working compromise to be achieved. When the analysis patently fails to end in synthesis it can illumine neither form nor content.

It is a unidimensional account of a multifaceted phenomenon. Harris and Timms, , p. They argue that, in the formulation of ideal types: value-selection and abstraction create one-sided models of social events which can provide useful tools of analysis, but. Johnson et al. If the categories developed rely on the judgement of their author, how can we use them subsequently to account for what we find? A problem relating to the use of the ideal types of action is how they can be used in the explanation of a course of action.

Similar criticisms are made of Fox Harding by Dominelli Lee and Raban argue that flexibility must be built into the way in which the welfare state is understood — a two-dimensional strategy is equally plausible, in their view Figure 1. For example, the anti-state perspectives held on both left and right can more easily be contrasted with interventionist perspectives in this way.

The sense in which we must acknowledge common interests between perspectives can also be extended to our understanding of developments in child welfare. In other words, this trend could be explained according to any or all of the value positions identified. In assuming that differing perspectives are equally valid, such an approach appears to overlook their underlying shortcomings.

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The influences of factors such as class, gender, racism and misuse of power may be given less weight than they should be see Humphries and Truman, Such factors may carry substantial explanatory force, and may therefore be of crucial importance in informing interventions. An approach based on value positions must therefore not fall into the trap of generating a spurious impression of neutrality in relation to fundamental questions of rights and social justice.

The value of value positions It is recognised that criticisms can be made of the use of abstract constructs to account for developments in child welfare. However, it will be suggested here that they can provide an effective framework for both analysis and practice. The key starting point for this is the recognition that the value of abstract models lies not in their pure and distinct identities, but in the way in which they can contribute to our appreciation of dynamics and change.

Value and Standards

Fox Harding , who is more sophisticated than her critics recognise, readily acknowledges the linkages and interactions between the idealised positions she sets out. These constructs are simply intended to be used as a starting point for more detailed and thorough analysis. For example, the adoption of a two-dimensional approach, along the lines suggested by Lee and Raban , illustrates some significant lines of convergence and divergence Figure 1. Otherwise, notional rights will not be supported by substantive improvements in provision. Where the child wishes to be cared for away from the family, counter pressures may yet be found to operate.

However, children placed in local authority accommodation may be reluctant to accept rehabilitation as a goal, at least in the short-term. Triseliotis et al. A consensus emerged that the emphasis should be on promoting the rights of children and parents to resist excessive state interference in their lives Taylor et al. We are offered a framework which can help us to classify and operationalise the beliefs and principles which underpin the delivery of welfare services to families, children and young people.

Of particular importance will be the ability to explore the relationship between values and action in order to provide a basis for our own judgements about service delivery and specific interventions.


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The following chapters will provide a more detailed account of the perspectives identified here. It will become clear that these diverse influences remain significant in driving practice developments, and this will further illustrate the need for those in the field to be aware of, and work with, the competing demands which may arise.

Parents should be free to exercise their rights and responsibilities towards children without feeling that they are under scrutiny or direction from outside. As we have seen, this viewpoint also has certain implications for the nature of intervention Hardiker et al. For the moment, however, it is important to spell out the ideological and political underpinnings of this orientation towards the family, particularly in light of its persistent and powerful influence on social attitudes and assumptions. According to this argument, it is the responsibility of the state solely to create the preconditions for the exercise of personal freedom, not only in terms of economic activity, but also in the personal sphere.

He argues that this line of thinking was prevalent under the right wing Conservative government of the s, which held the belief that people are happiest, and perform at their best when they are free to conduct their own affairs, both in the sphere of business and the market, and in their family and personal lives. The state, therefore, should always seek not to intervene.

It acts as the guardian of economic rectitude and public morality, and must therefore be seen to act effectively where these standards are breached. Morgan , for instance, questions the increasing role of the state or non-family members in providing day care for young children.

Mount argues that the family has been identified as a consistent phenomenon over the ages and across different societies, and must have a fundamental function which transcends historical and political change: The family is a subversive organisation. Only the family has continued throughout history and still continues to undermine the State. The family is the enduring permanent enemy of all hierarchies, churches and ideologies.

Mount, , p. A series of significant pronouncements were made by leading figures at this time. Margaret Thatcher herself, speaking to the Conservative Party Conference stated that: it is time to change the approach to what government can do for people and to what people can do for themselves: time to shake off the self-doubt induced by decades of dependence on the State as master not as servant.

There are individual men and women, there are families. She illustrates this specifically with reference to Victorian England, and the United States of the s and s. She also makes the connection with patriarchal attitudes, suggesting that these are most clearly evidenced in Victorian times, but that they can be seen to persist into the modern day. According to such beliefs, the preferred family form is structured according to gender, with a strong male authority figure at its head.

Whilst in government, Patrick Jenkin himself stated that mothers should not have equal rights to work as fathers Fitzgerald, Indeed, despite the association of non-interventionist views with right wing ideology, the family has been recognised as a source of strength and solidarity by writers on the left. Barrett and McIntosh argue that the family offers certain features which effectively insulate it from hostile external forces, including stability for children, a sense of identity and protection. These arguments are balanced, however, by a recognition that the family can also be a site of oppression and abuse for women and children.

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Notably, Goldstein et al. Goldstein et al. This is most likely to be found in the birth family. As much as anything else [the child] needs to be accepted, valued and wanted as a member of the family unit consisting of adults as well as other children. Despite this, state intrusion is not necessarily to be commended in such cases.

It must, therefore, only take action where it can demonstrate that this will lead to a better outcome for the child. They are sceptical about the use of definitions associated with emotional abuse and neglect: neither concept should be used as a ground for modifying or terminating parent—child relationships. A very high threshold for intervention, however, requires decisive action when it is breached. Children are thus returned to abusive family settings, where they suffer further harm — they cite Maria Colwell as an example of this.

He argues that infringements of the rights of parents can only be justified where there is clear evidence that they contribute to saving a child from death or serious harm, and that this should set a very clear limit to the role and practices of state agencies. By contrast, he states: the nuclear family is a relatively safe environment in terms of sexual abuse. Howitt, , p. The presumption must therefore be against intervening, unless it can be demonstrated to be beneficial to do so.

These ideas do not preclude the state from an active role in protecting children, but they share a common view that this must be undertaken sparingly, and only when clear and substantial grounds for intervention are demonstrated. Both Hardiker et al. For example, the opportunity to narrow the grounds for intervention, or to introduce more stringent time limits for decision-making, was not taken, even with the introduction of the Children Act For example, the Cleveland controversy in the late s provided a focal point for resistance against apparently unwarranted intrusion by child protection agencies.

The chain of events in Cleveland in involved the rapid diagnosis of a substantial number of cases of child sexual abuse by two paediatricians Drs Higgs and Wyatt , and the consequential removal of many of these children from home by way of Place of Safety Orders as defined by Section 28 of the Children and Young Persons Act, The immediate consequence of this development was the establishment of a campaign by parents of the children concerned, supported by a church minister and local MPs.

As he points out, this contributed to a number of clear themes emerging: First, the image of the authoritarian state which was out of control and unwarrantably and insensitively interfering in the lives of families — both children and parents. Second that the parents — by implication all of them — were innocent [of child sexual abuse]. Third, that various state agencies and professionals were not in unison. Parton, , p.

As Parton , p. Whilst stressing its commitment to the principles of protecting children, the government also gave considerable emphasis to the desirable limits to intervention. Like Goldstein and colleagues , for example, ministers stressed that the positive value of taking action must be demonstrated. Lord Chancellor, House of Lords Hansard, By March , the number of children in the care of local authorities had fallen by compared to the preimplementation total 12 months earlier.

Department of Health and Welsh Office, , p. There are, indeed, some aspects of New Labour policy which demonstrate some consistency with themes highlighted by its predecessor. We in Government need to approach family policy with a strong dose of humility. We must not preach. Home Office, , p. However, the need for direct intervention in extreme circumstances was also identified as a key principle. On the other hand, there is some evidence that Supporting Families did represent genuinely held views.

Frank Field, for instance, was influential in linking notions of parental responsibility with concerns about the consequences of moral failure and welfare dependency Newman, , p.

In the specific context of Supporting Families, teenage parenthood was highlighted as an area of particular concern. The consultation document seemed to take a wholly negative view of young parents: Unwanted and under-age pregnancies, whether planned or unplanned, have a high personal, social and economic cost and can blight the life chances of younger teenagers. He added that adoption provided evidence of better outcomes than placements in care. In this respect, the government appeared to be setting out an argument consistent with the principles elaborated by Goldstein and colleagues Where the standard of parenting is demonstrably inadequate, children should be removed as soon as possible, and placed in an alternative permanent family setting.

It became clear subsequently that this was not mere rhetoric on the part of New Labour, but that adoption would become a central plank of its child care reforms Cabinet Office, The Prime Minister himself lent his name to the policy review of adoption services, strongly reiterating pro-family arguments: It is hard to overstate the importance of a stable and loving family life for children.

That is why I want more children to benefit from adoption. We know that adoption works for children. Over the years, many thousands of children in the care of Local Authorities have benefited from the generosity and commitment of adoptive families. But we also know that many children wait in care for far too long. Too often in the past adoption has been seen as a last resort. Blair, , p. However, we are reminded by a number of authors that the Act cannot be read as purely representing a single ideological preference.

Fox Harding a argues that the laissez-faire perspective does not figure strongly in the Act, and that all four of the value positions she identifies can be found to a greater or lesser extent embedded in it. Freeman , on the other hand, agrees that each of the value positions can be found in the text of the legislation, but argues that its broader political intentions should not be overlooked as a result. He sees it as essentially a vehicle for promulgating the laissez-faire philosophy of the government of the time.

We should be cautious about making assumptions that particular outcomes will flow straightforwardly from the wording of legislation, regulations or guidance. Implementation remains a politically loaded process, too. Freeman relates his argument to the underlying principle of minimum intervention, as propounded by Goldstein and colleagues The apparently neutral orientation of the Children Act may simply act to compound unfairness, rather than compensate for it.

The legislation must be understood in the context of its application, rather than simply as a shopping list of worthy intentions. Local authorities will be less willing to initiate action, lawyers less enthusiastic about seeking court orders, and courts themselves more reluctant to make orders. As Allen points out, the practical consequences of this can be seen in the explicit requirement for agency intervention plans for children to be detailed and coherent at the point where court action is taken.

For Freeman, the symbolic messages here are of considerable importance, although they offer no guarantees that behaviour change will follow: There is no reason to suppose that giving parents greater freedom will guarantee that the standard of care will improve. The legislation would have been largely otiose if that were true. Freeman, , p. As Freeman observes, this provision appears to allow for the removal of a child from a settled placement by a parent who has no regular contact or established relationship with the child.

Eekelaar agrees that the Act represents a clear shift in the balance of power between state and families. The Act is based on a belief that: given freedom from state regulation, parents will naturally care for their offspring. It may be asked whether the historical record justifies such a view. Eekelaar, , p. This conclusion was further supported by the incorporation at various points in the Act of increased protection for parents against unjustified state intervention, such as the power to apply for the discharge of an EPO Section 45 8.

We might conclude, then, that there are grounds for identifying the laissez-faire perspective as having a strong and influential place at the core of the Children Act. In pursuit of the agenda to make adoption more widely available, the government took a number of steps to this end, including the White Paper noted previously, and culminating in the Adoption and Children Act , with full implementation planned for The Quality Protects initiative Department of Health, b had set the initial agenda for these developments, specifying as its first objective: To ensure that children are securely attached to carers capable of providing safe and effective care for the duration of childhood.

Department of Health, b, Annex. These practice objectives were later supplemented by the publication of a detailed set of Adoption Standards Department of Health, b. Tunstill, , p. The Adoption and Children Act gives legislative substance to these aspirations, and should be seen primarily as an enabling piece of legislation, which will over time create a more comprehensive service to promote and support adoption. It may also change the way in which adoption is seen, so that it becomes less a residual option in child care, and more a central element in the range of alternative placements.

According to the explanatory notes: The Act changes the process of adoption itself. Explanatory Notes to the Adoption and Children Act , par. Taking a long-term view may, of course, serve to highlight the fragility of such relationships. Jones, , p. On the other hand, as we have seen, a number of strands of activity would seem integral to this perspective. Defending families: Parents Against INjustice PAIN One organisation, in particular, has typified the approach based on supporting and advocating parents and families subject to what they feel is unwarranted state intrusion, usually in the context of allegations of abuse — Parents Against INjustice PAIN.

PAIN was formed in by Sue Amphlett, who herself had been the subject of investigation for alleged physical abuse of her child; and the organisation continued to operate until , when its funding ran out. It became recognised as the national charity which would represent the interests of parents and other carers who believed themselves to be wrongly suspected of abusing their children The Guardian, 12 Jan.

In terms of its practice, PAIN sought to provide information, support and sometimes advocacy to those who wished to challenge the way in which they were being investigated by social work agencies. PAIN emphasised, too, the principle of partnership. Recognising the sensitivity of its role, the organisation sought to promote improved understanding between agencies and parents: PAIN aims to promote and preserve family life by enabling its members to work in partnership with professionals and practitioners in cases of alleged abuse or neglect.

The belief was that enabling people to represent their own interests, and encouraging agencies to be less confrontational, should result in clearer mutual understanding, the correction of mistakes, and fewer unnecessary removals of children from their families. PAIN also drew attention to the relatively large number of child protection investigations which did not lead to any further action, and were in fact unsubstantiated Gibbons et al. Amphlett, , p. Seeking permanence The other side of the coin to advocacy against unjustified intrusion is, in practice terms, decisive intervention to remove children from harmful situations and provide long-term alternative placements.

In practical terms, the notion of decisive intervention becomes associated with measures to establish secure and lasting substitute family relationships. Rowe and Lambert, , p. We use cookies to give you the best possible experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies. Dispatched from the UK in 3 business days When will my order arrive? Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases.

Description Values and their application are a continuing area of concern for those involved in work with children and families. This book provides a means of understanding models of social welfare and children's services, and relating these to the challenges of practice.