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This essay discusses the social policy of safeguarding children as outlined in Working Together To Safeguard Children, July 2018. The focus of the discussions would be on the aims of the policy and how it has impacted social work practice. Further discussions would address the negatives and positives of the policy on service users and whether the intended policy has lived up to the expectations.
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The policy sets out guidance and legislation on the protection of children to be safe from harm, maltreatment, preventing impairment of children’s development, free from physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect. Safeguarding policy establishes the principles and the duty of professionals and agencies to achieve desired outcomes which then supports and entrenches the practice reforms. This policy ensures agencies are assisted in their responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children because the legal framework validates policy. Furthermore, it ensures issues which influence the welfare and safety of children are made clear, understood and acted upon. When a child suffers from neglect, abuse or being looked after their needs are assessed in a way that can set as the basis for decision making. ‘Assessments should determine whether the child is in need, the nature of any services required and whether any specialist assessments should be undertaken to assist the local authority in its decision-making’. (Working together to safeguard children 2018).
The policy influences social work practice by placing specific statutory duties on social workers and agencies working with children to ensure children are protected from harm and promote their welfare as seen in Section 11 of Children Act 2004. This includes communicating and effective information sharing, liaising with other organisations and agencies, understanding risk factors, assessing and responding to the needs and contributing to multi-agency assessments and reviews. The intention is to champion the ethics in social care services, stressing the responsibilities of SWs and their managers to guarantee that the codes are adhered to. The welfare of a child should be paramount in decisions and development of services to ensure that right help is given to the child at the right time for best outcomes. Secondly, policies set out what is expected of social workers and determine what society can expect from the services. The government uses social work services to deliver welfare obligations. The policy stipulates social workers identify concerns and assist to manage and reduce any problems that need addressing. They ensure to protect vulnerable children and keep them safe by assessing the potential risks and prevent abuse from occurring. They co-ordinate with other relevant agencies to protect and promote the welfare of children regardless of race, sex, gender, religion, and disability and prevent behaviour that can harm children. A local authority social worker, health practitioners, and a police representative should, be involved in the strategy discussion. All attendees should be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their organisation and agencies. (Children Act 1989).
Every Child Matters (2003) therefore was introduced to set out proposals for major changes in children’s programmes to allow every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the needed support towards the achievement of a better outcome in the following key areas: “being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving making a positive contribution and achieving economic well-being” (DoH 2003) According to this policy, social work is a profession that operates within the margins of a series of legal frameworks, social policies and statutory guidance responding to society’s needs. The policy makes it the duty of S.W to investigate and complete initial enquiries under the Children Act 1989. “The Children Act 1989 introduced significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention and determines if a child is made subject to a protection plan or provided with support in the children and families arena” (O’Loughlin & O’Loughlin 2008) therefore a child may be supported on a child in need basis.
The policy asserts that social work practise is influenced and shaped by the professional guidelines of the policy so it is important to understand the context as it informs the assessment of their capabilities. It states that for consistency, social workers must familiarise themselves with the organisation’s interpretation and the implementation of the policy and the current policy drivers. Munro review (2011) recognised the adverse impact on social workers’ ability to intervene effectively, confidently and in an assertive manner due to the controlled system of recording and regulated interventions. The policy has made social workers more accountable and transparent for all their actions.
In discussing the positive effects of the policy, early intervention can protect children from harm and improve outcome. When children display risk taking behaviour, strategies can be put in place to act in the best interest of the child and supported to take measured risk. The provision of a framework where agencies and professionals agree to work together will promote consistency. In addition, statutory powers are used to protect the service user, therefore, when a child is likely to suffer significant harm, social workers use their power to remove the child to safety. Although it can be a traumatic experience for both children and parents. However, research indicates that in safeguarding systems disabled children are underrepresented although they face an increased risk of abuse and neglect as evidenced in Working together to safeguard Children,2006( par11.28)
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Meanwhile, negative effects can be that relevant knowledge to keeping a child safe could be lost when a child moves from one local authority into another. If relevant information is not shared on a need to know basis, the child’s welfare and safety will be jeorpadised. The potential consequence is the harm that the person at risk comes to because confidentiality can delay sharing information between professionals. Service users lose confidence and public credibility in social workers judgement due to bureaucracy. Risks cannot be eliminated fully by any system.
In conclusion, the effectiveness of interventions and compromising the safety of the child can be undermined when assumptions are made for children and families.
It has become distinct that social work is forever changing as governments aspire to protect and provide opportunities for all to develop, yet there are underlying challenges in transparency, decision making and multi-agency working. The advantages of the policy in terms of bringing professionals together, identifying the child in terms of his or her needs, giving voice to the child in need and challenging social workers to become more accountable in the discharge of their duties within the stipulated time frame have been numerated. Conflicts between maintaining code of practice and the execution of the policy have been raised. SWs through the policy it has become apparent that discharging their duties is a daunting task and they need to become astute with the policy and to be able to continue to honour their duties.
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