A. Critical analysis of safeguarding children including legislation, policy and professional practice (4000 word – 100%):
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child (UNCR 1989), Article 1 defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18. Law is used in order to legitimise society; children are deeply and permanently affected by the laws that are made and enforced by adults. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children is based on “_protecting, preventing and ensure safety_” towards children, (Reference). Within society there are many professionals and agencies operated in order to protect and reinforce children’s rights. The language of safeguarding children came about with the advent of The Children Act 1989. The Children’s Act (1989) and (2004) are also legislation which states that those who work with children have priority to keep them safe. The Children’s Act 2004 focuses more on ‘integrating services around meeting the needs of children and their families’, which resulted in professionals working more closely together (DfES, 2004a).
Measures which also are seen to be protecting the interests of the child, would be the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Convention on the Rights of the Child are seen to in-fact have ‘limited impact’ focusing less on the actual rights of the child and more on parental rights in respect of their children’s education (Blythe and Parkin, 1999, p. 118). Although children do not have any say in who will govern them, it is seen as essential for children to be protected within this integrated system we live in. Although professionals have the duty of the protection of children “_everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play_”, any organisation or agency can work together in order to provide consistent support towards children (Web ref 1).
Before moving forward with this essay it is important to establish the professional practice and case which will be used to analyse the child protection of children within the United Kingdom. The parental responsibility under the Children’s Act 1989 S3 (1) is defined as having ‘responsibilities’ rather than ‘rights’ in relation to children. However there have been many cases where the parents/career of child has been questioned. Social workers are called to look at the case, the duty of a local authority social worker especially in the Children’s Act 1989 S17 (1) is seen to be a duty to investigate when there is cause to suspect that a child may be suffering or has been harmed. Social workers are going to be the focus in this essay in terms of professionals used to protect children and Victoria Climbié case will also be the focus.
Social workers are seen as “mediators, aggressive intervener, interpreters and provider/ locator/ creator of resources in terms of the client’s needs”, in terms of roles which are played (Hollis, 1964). Most times dealing with social workers are not always at the request of the client, child protection is not the only option they also deal with “compulsory admission to mental health care and at the order of the criminal courts” (Lindsay, 2013, p. 2). Over the years, the complexity of work for practitioners advanced, which created _structural and organisational changes_ (web ref 2). After several years, the government therefore decided to use their agenda for children’s services onto the case of Victoria Climbié (Laming, 2003). This essay will be based on the analysis of the safeguarding and protection of children and the issues which may come about doing so. Focusing on the work of Social workers in terms of child protection and how the effective safeguarding was lacked in the case of Victoria Climbié (2000).
The death of Victoria Climbié came about in February 2000, aged eight years and three months; her abuse by her great aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and Kouao partner, Carl John Manning, was unknown although she had been seen by many different practitioners including health, police and social workers over the last ten months of her life. Her death sparked an influential inquiry into professional and policy failure which proved negative amongst children’s services, however promoted a change in publications and legislation within the UK as this case has created an overhaul to child protection procedures.
As a result of the death of Victoria, Lord Laming highlighted in his evaluation of the professional practices surrounding Victoria’s case the importance of child services working and sharing information in order to protect children and protect them from harm. In his diagnostics of the ‘professional and systematic’ failures which contributed to Victoria’s death including many actors who failed to identify the abuse Victoria went through. His report published in 2003, recommended 108 changes in which most of them being adapted into the Children Act 2004, as well as the creation of the 2003 green paper Every Child Matters. The professional role of social workers will be analysed critically in collaboratively working to safeguard children.
Under the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004 practitioners have the responsibility to ‘_Safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need’_ as they help prevent children from being in a vulnerable state by a career who can no longer or should not be looking after them. Within the Victoria Climbié case, social workers were described as “incompetent” (web ref 3). It was found that the main social worker of this case, Lisa Arthurworrey, was responsible for the death of Victoria, for falling to recognise the abuse. However, Arthurworrey claimed that social workers had not received the ‘_correct guidelines’_ from management until after Victoria’s death (Batty, 2004).
It is seen that children tend to have better outcomes where there is evidence of careful assessment of their needs. Social workers try to work together with the services provided in order for early intervention. Assessment is seen to be the foundation of all effective intervention, as it establishes the human needs, evidence would need to be grounded. Services are needed to be provided in the situation of risk and need, accurate and realistic assessment from the relevant professional to ensure all the appropriate information of that certain case needs to be undertaken before ‘Judgements and decisions are made about action and resources’ (Adams and Dominelli et al., 2002, p. 209) The safety of a child is paramount with a social workers role, the Children’s Act 1989 centralises this. The act has focused on the importance of assessment of need/risk of the child and focusing on the arrangements of services inter-connecting for the Protection of Children.
Policy and legislation has changed over the years regarding safeguarding children as it was seen that before the policies and practices were more concerned with family support welfare (Audit Commission, 1994: Department of Health, 1995). It was seen that the focus was set to be more of a ‘_change_’ of the work, for the result of child welfare approach principles being able to dominate. It was established that the significance being based on supporting children and families within the community and coercive of intervention and policing being kept to a minimum.
The enactment of the 1989 Children’s Act shows tension between policy and practice over time When the Act was passed, the pressure on the child protection system had been raising, as well as the number of referrals and children being brought into care. The problems which have been faced before the act was even passed had not been resolved. Inquiries and reports contained details of how professionals surrounding the children had failed to produce a reaction from failure to communicate with one another.
The act was enforced to establish the threshold criteria for child protection inquires and to ensure child as centre in terms of court proceedings. At the same time the Act, enforced guidance and important of the birth family and establishing principles for child care practices, working with family and professionals and the importance of working with family and protection of them as well as protecting children from harm (Allen, 2005; Department of Health [Doh], 1989).
The safeguarding agenda continued into the 1990’s, introducing agencies and programmes such as Sure Start and the Children’s Fund. Significant legislation continued with Crime and Disorder Act 11998 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which policy also developed with the introduction of Framework for _the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families_ (DoH et al., 2000). This was implemented within local authorities in 2001, which establishes guidance about the conduct of assessment prompted on social workers due to the case of Victoria Climbié.
The safeguarding agenda was later implicated by the Victoria Climbié case which introduced _Every Child Matters (_ECM) Framework, including the establishment of Local Children’s Safeguarding (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2003, para 1.12; Laming 2003). The initiative was introduced as part of Laming’s actions onn the death of Victoria, which involved efforts to ensure that no child is being ignored by improved services, through shared information within different professionals and these professionals working alongside another which also included the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) – based on renewed measures of tackling social exclusion ensuring each child’s have their voices heard.
Victoria horrific death which arose due to the hands of the great aunt and partner reaffirmed the framework which aimed for every young child to have the best chance in life to achieve their full potential. While responding to the death of Victoria, the Green Paper ECM providing ‘thinking and legislative’ framework that would further broaden the scope for prevention and early intervention which was seen to be the central aim of ensuring well-being of all children. This is shown in the outcome statement of ECM (DfES, 2004).
Children should achieve economic well being
Enjoy and achieve
Make a positive contribution
These categories are far from the narrow visions of how child protection should work from how it was the 1980’s and 1990’s, showing how advanced the agenda has advanced to ensure better services. These aims show the attempts the Government have in order to achieve a more proactive and guarding service for children and families. However even with this in place, it is seen that the agenda within the UK can be seen to be wavered in terms of the ‘local implantation failure’ within society as Victoria Climbe case demonstrates rather than actual policy.
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry report established the conflicts of agents working together as they failed to link small factors which would have led to realise she was being abused. It established that there were key opportunities which could have taken place to help intervene to help Victoria. None of the professionals who had seen Victoria questioned why she had not been attending school or had not been registered with a GP.
Victoria was seen by Dr. Schwartz who failed to spot evidence of the 8 year Old’s abuse, asserted her view that due to the due of the essential ‘interpretative nature of inter-professional communication’, Victoria was ignored. Schwartz claimed the injuries were evident as scabies infection, this opinion which previously as scabies infection, this opinion which previously contracted a locum registrar, Dr Ajayi-Obe who had the view that she had been physically abused. But the consultant claimed she did not consider it necessary to take a case history, despite her child protection concerns as she expected social services to investigate the girls circumstances (Batty, 2001).
Lord Laming asserts in his evaluation of the professional; practices surrounding Victoria’s case, in order for children to be adequately safeguarded, information within agencies has to be improved. Each agency needs to prioritise passing information to another agency and the recipients should query any points of uncertainty. In the words of the two hospital consultants who had Victoria, “_I cannot query for the way other people interpreted what I said. It was not the way I would have liked it to have been interpreted_” (Dr Ruby Schwartz) “_I do not think it was until I have re-read this letter that I appreciated quite the depth of misunderstanding_” (Dr Mary Rossiter).
This shows how Victoria was in the middle of miscommunication which was the downfall to her safety (Laming, 2003) While analysing about statements, it is obvious the lack of communication and misunderstanding was apparent, making it obvious to see how Laming came to this view. It is clear that action to safeguard Victoria non-existent; she was caught up in the dysfunctional ‘_gatekeeping’_ practices in Brent Social Services. Actions to safeguard Victoria were hindered due to the undetected and failing practice of the institutions in which she was involved in.
Within society, children are seen as needing protecting from economic and social structures. It is seen that social meanings in society differ depending on different risks and needs, this is apparent within the ECM agenda with the policy documents. Negatively views as the child being ‘citizen-worker-of-the-future’ (Williams, 2004, p.408). It is seen that the child’s view is being ignored, from their views which were expressed in the ECM consultation process- which emphasized on extra-curricular activities and spaces for children (DfES). This is seen as common within policy-making and how children are being constructed within the society we live in. Rather than being seen as children practising to become adults, children are viewed as not be able to know ‘what is rational because they cannot yet see what rational’ (Archard, 1993, p.g6). Therefore children are always seen as being needed to be developed and protected by the capital.
Some would say that within different agencies some practitioners within different agencies are not aware with the understanding of how different services defer depending on different level of need. This can be a problem as children and families could be given the wrong type of service. Guidance from ‘Early Intervention Securing Good Outcomes for Children’ (DCSF, 2010) saw early intervention as not relating ‘_exclusively to intervening younger ages’_ but tackling issues ‘as they arise, whatever the age of the child or young age’. Early intervention is used in order to safeguard children is demonstrated by ‘_research studies and cost-benefit analysis’_ (Easton and Gee, 2012)
Policies within the government seem to have progressed towards early intervention. Not only due to the safety of children, but was due to economic grounds of children’s failure to secure necessary skills, qualifications and moral ideas for their future. Soon the government decided to show-case their concerns for children having future problems with employability and criminality, therefore introducing the framework for education _Birth to Three Matters_ in 2002 (DfES), to confirm that no child is exempt from developmental prescription. This is relevant to safeguarding children in the sense that with the frameworks, children who are seen to be ‘in conflict’ with the law or seen as threatening and as such forfeit their right to be ‘safe-guarded’ although those are children who may need protection the most.
According to ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2010) a document released by the government based on a guide for organisations and individuals who need to work together to safeguard children. In regards to thresholds and assessment the document established, the Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) should take part in local arrangements for taking common assessment and use the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) when appropriate. They came about to ensure practice work in place that aims to target particular groups by ‘developing/evaluating thresholds and procedures for work where children and families where a child has been identified as ‘in need’ under the Children Act 1989′. Also, that ‘local arrangements’ are taken for common assessment while using CAF and be aware when it is possible to refer a possible child in need to children’s social care services, this is enforced by the Children’s Trust board, working with the LSCB.
The Common Assessment Framework was developed as a standard tool for all professionals working with children and families, used for assessment and referral purposes (Department for Education and Skills [DfES], 2006a, 2006b), all this in the hope of professionals working effectively through communication and shared information. As the government has come up with the aim of bringing child welfare to a common understanding within different agencies and professionals, the introduction of CAF is designed to illuminate this. CAF was designed in order to focus on the needs and strengths rather than ‘concerns’ for children within these services.
Professionals have been encouraged to educate strengths, needs action and solutions for children across three domains derived from the Framework for Assessment of Children and Need and their Families (DoH, 2004): ‘_Development of unborn baby, infant or young children’, ‘Parents and carers’_ and ‘F_amily and environmental’._ As the CAF is evidence based, which can make the completed CAF very hard to understand, even for experienced child welfare professionals (White et al., 2008).
As the need for Child Care services has increased, in total, between April 2011 and January 2012 Cafcass, received 10,199 new applications – 10.8% higher when compared to the same period last financial year (Rogers and Evans, 2012). This shows that the manner in which the 1989 Children’s Act is being applied effectively within the country; agencies are acting faster and more effectively in ensuring vulnerable children are being removed from neglect and abusive households, therefore due to a more rapidly and responsive assessment and awareness, professionals of leaving a care are the cause of higher numbers of applications.
Children’s Care prioritizes care for those circumstances such were the family or child are in such serious danger. According to North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board these are the key responsibilities for Children’s Care (web ref 1):
Assess, plan and provide support to children in need, particularly those suffering or likely to suffer significant harm;
Make enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 wherever there is reason to suspect that a child in its area is at risk of significant harm;
Provide a Key Worker for every child subject to a Child Protection Plan;
Ensure that the agencies who are party to the protection plan coordinate their activities to protect the child;
Convene regular reviews of the progress of any child subject to a Child Protection Plan through both Core Group and Child Protection Conference Review meetings;
Instigate legal proceedings where required.
In order to provide effective service, professionals must be prepared to seek an understanding from other practitioners, from other organisations in order to form phrases which have little meaning and result in the use of habitualization. (White et al., 2008)
In order to assess the participation within parents and child it is important to use CAF to assess the children and to identify needs (Department for Education and Skills, 2005). Parenting is held to be important for the life chances of all children, although in reality parenting interventions are focused upon the poorest parents (Goldson and Jamieson, 2002). Safeguarding children requires the need to ensure that the child is in best hands in terms of carers for them. Carers who are seen to be of a negative light within society, this weighs heavily on each child, as each child depends on someone to look after them as they are vulnerable. The condition of children who are incapable of acting for their best interests justifies the need of carers; policies are put into place to ensure the rights and power between parents and child. Parents in acting in behalf of their children, but it also constitute such tutelage as a duty (Archard, 1993, p. 7)
Due to the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which emphasized how agencies have a duty to assess harm whenever domestic violence was present, the increase of cases referred to Children Protection Registers etc. because of domestic violence was paramount. However it is seen that although there is an increase in cases of domestic violence being assessed properly, evidence of services which protect them have not been increasing resulting in these services having to consider what can be done to improve their response with the current budgets.
The importance of working with parents and child in order to achieve the best outcome is vital as it ensures effective help has been used. Working in partnership with parents is needed as working with parents is shown through the Children Act 1989. ‘supporting families, when necessary, to bring up their children and working in partnership with parents whose circumstances may be difficult is at the heart of our Children Act’ (Department of Health 1995a, p.1) Many other acts support working in partnership with parents, such as the green paper Every Child Matters as it encourages the involvement of agencies and support through early intervention not only through child protection work but others also.
However, with these multi-agencies working together to helping and empowering parents, some families are seen to be reluctant to receive these services which has some negative effects on safeguarding children. It is seen that some workers draw back from negative threats of violence or intimidation and many plans that were supposed to do undergo have not and therefore left unchallenged. This is evident in the death of Ainlee Labonte in 2002, through the negative behaviour of her parents who refused to cooperate with the agencies offered to them, workers often ‘froze’ which therefore hindered their ability to follow through with referrals, assessments or plans (Brandon et al, 2008, p.96)
Referring to parents power and participation with children and professionals it is also important to establish how the Adoption and Children Act 2002 contributed to a further amendment to the Children Act 1989 in respect of fathers’ parental responsibility. This refers to all professionals working with children should know the parental responsibility; it previously contained information which hindered unmarried fathers access to their children. This act put in place has ensured that the child’s interest were key and not just the interests of the government, with social workers looking at adults in a family who had real relationships with their children. The current situation is that the following have parental responsibility
The child’s mother
The child’s father if they are married to mother
The child’s unmarried father if registered on the child’s birth certificate
Someone who adopts child
Someone who becomes the child’s guardian on the mother’s death etc.
Overall, it is important to establish the importance of safeguarding children with the UK. With cases such as Victoria Climbié, which emphasized the lack of good professional practice has led to many different changes. Although some would say these changes are not always implemented everywhere. Practitioners have a key role in ensuring the process of communication between different organisations and professions, which the acts and policies such as the Children Act 2004 and Every Child Matters, the integration of children services can be practised to ensure protection for children and families. It is seen that in order to improve the outcome of children, services should monitored more closely to ensure the outcomes for children are ones we expect. With the services being more effective and the commitment of inter-agencies working together, the aims can all be achieved.
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