Are the objectives of the “Every Child Matters policy” set by the government being met in actual use and practice?
Contents (Jump to)
Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – Method
Chapter 3 – Results
Chapter 4 – Discussion
Chapter 5 – Conclusion
In September of 2003 the policy initiative “Every Child Matters” was presented to Parliament, sparked by the death in 2000 of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was a victim of child abuse, and murder by her aunt Marie-Therese Kouao, and bus driver Carl Manning (BBC New, 2005). The striking as well as earth shaking factor in this tragic instance is the very strong possibility exists that Victoria’s suffering, and death could very well have been prevented. While it is impossible to predict what might have happened, the official inquiry into this case as headed by Lord Laming, investigated every facet, including the child protection system (BBC News, 2003). The preceding uncovered that there were at least twelve incidences whereby the system failed Victoria Climbie in terms of her welfare. Most noteworthy, in terms of the system becoming alerted to the potential of child abuse and or problems, were the child’s two visits for injuries to the hospital, the second, which entailed a two-week stay (BBC News, 2003).
The horrific summary just provided does not do justice to the details contained within this case that outraged the public as well as authorities. The Laming Report uncovered that information sharing between agencies failed to take the necessary and required steps to intercede (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). The Inquiry resulted in the recommendation of a structure that would eliminate the potential for ambiguity in the decision making process for children and families (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). This examination of child care policies shall analyze if the resulting Every Child Matters policies are meeting the purpose for which they were developed and devised.
The death of Victoria Climbie resulted in an Inquiry conducted by Lord Laming to investigate the childcare system and make recommendations based upon the findings. In keeping with the aforementioned, the Inquiry Report recommended the following changes as well as inputs to the system (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003):
- Elimination of what the Inquiry termed as “buck passing”, through guidance procedures,
- Implementation of a coherent set of practices, policies, protocols and strategies for service delivery,
- Placement of the preceding into statues that define a clear process for monitoring as well as decision making of performance and follow up,
- Reduction of what the Inquiry called the ‘gap’ between the intention of the agencies, and the achievement as demonstrated by actual performance, eliminating the unpredictable facets of service delivery though the improvement of efficiency as well as effectiveness,
- Addressing the preventive aspects with families and increasing the support invention process that has deteriorated through proper funding and staffing,
- Understanding that the protection as well as support of children calls for a broader scope than just the statutory agencies. The process needs to include close association with community-based groups to broaden the scope of involvement, information, alerts and resources.
- A change in the manner that the agencies approach, see and work, as represented by the utilisation of their resources. The preceding calls for all agencies to carry out their part of the process, with a clear delineation to staffing of their primary responsibilities to children and families. The recommendations in these areas consisted of the following:
- Services must be child as well as family oriented,
- Be responsive to needs and opportunities,
- Services must have adequate resources,
- Be capable to delivering measurable national outcomes with regard to children,
- Be clear in terms of accountability throughout the agencies and organisation,
- Be transparent in its work processes and open to detailed scrutiny,
- Services, procedures, guidelines, protocols and policies must be clear as well as straightforward in terms of being understood,
- Services need to be placed on a statutory foundation, given the powers to ensure delivery of the outcomes desired.
To achieve the aforementioned ends, the Inquiry set forth structure changes that recommended major changes within the structures that deliver services to children and families (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). It also identified that a key weakness in the system were the circumstances under which case reviews were conducted, adding that the that structure needs to be replaced by one that is more comprehensive as well as active (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). Another critical aspect in the problems uncovered by the Inquiry was the referral and response levels of the agencies. The Inquiry made specific reference to sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989 whereby (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003):
- Section 17
The segment of the Children Act 1989 places the responsibility as well as duty on the local authority for the safeguarding and promotion of welfare for children that are in need in their area.
- Section 47
The section of the Children Act 1989 calls for the local authority to make inquiries in instances where it is believed and or thought necessary whereby a child is suspected of being exposed to harm.
The problem with the preceding, especially Section 47, is that the Inquiry found that considerable confusion existed as to what inquiries should be made, with permission from the child’s carer required before other invention measures could be introduced if the preceding was refused (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). Under Section 17, the social services could respond only when exceptional circumstances dictated, after permission as outline above had been obtained (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003). Furthermore, it was found that once the Section 17 designation assigned a label to a case, it was downgraded in terms of status and frequently poor follow up ensued (The Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003).
The aforementioned aspects were brought forth in order to have a basis for understanding the reasons and dynamics of the recommendations of the Victoria Climbie Inquiry (2003), the resulting policies, and performance since enactment. This examination shall investigate how the objectives of the Every Child Matters policy is being met through the use of council and agency support. This document is structured to present the methodology utilised, followed by the results of the research process, which is then discussed to determine the significance of the findings, and the implications. A conclusion has been utilised to summarise the examination, drawing upon the information and research uncovered to formulate what the preceding uncovered.
The methodology utilised in this examination entails a combination of evidence based research techniques and quantitative research. The term research in this examination represents a systematic inquiry “characterized by sets of principles, guidelines for procedures and which is subject to evaluation in terms of criteria such as validity, reliability and representativeness” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995, p. 5). In the context of this paper, social research represents “the collection and analysis of information on the social world, in order to understand and explain that world better” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995, p. 5). Key to the preceding process is the collection of evidence to support the research process, which requires much fuller information to fulfill its directive (Evans, 2006). The foregoing calls for a strong design in the research process to generate the evidence base (Potter, 2007). The foregoing was accomplished by reviewing the legislation as well as historical development of the Every Child Matters initiative, starting with the reasons that prompted its development.
Quantitative research represented conducting the gathering of information systematically, looking for relationships in the examination in the context of the study. Newman and Benz (1998, p. 2) tell us that “Most quantitative research approaches, regardless of their theoretical differences, tend to emphasize that there is a common reality on which people can agree.” With that underpinning, this examination strived to look for a clear delineation of facts that would closely approximate the preceding statement. To this end, surveys and studies were used as a basis for correlating facts, combined with the key purposes behind varied legislation. This look into the programmes that have led up to and are part of the “Every Child Matters” initiative shall utilise evidence based practice to uncover the facts, assess what has been gathered, and critically appraise the process and strategies in their present state.
The ”Every Child Matters” Green Paper (literacytrust.org.uk , 2003), contains four main proposal areas that were devised in response to the recommendations as made under Lord Laming’s Inquiry Report concerning the death of Victoria Climbie. These four key areas are (literacytrust.org.uk, 2003):
- support of parents and carers,
- early intervention, along with effective protection,
- accountability and integration,
- reform of the workforce
To aid in achieving the preceding, the Green Paper recommended a ‘Parenting Fund’ of £25 million to be added for a three-year period to underwrite the changes (literacytrust.org.uk, 2003). The critical aspect as identified under the Victoria Climbie Inquiry (2003) was early intervention, which the Green Paper advised represented improving the information sharing between agencies and authorities, the utilisation of a singular and unique identification number so that all information would fall under the same file, and the development of a common data network that is coordinated among all authorities and agencies to ensure that all information resides in one file database (literacytrust.org.uk, 2003). Governmental changes as identified under the Green Paper called for the creation of a Director of Children’s Services to deliver education to local authorities and children’s social services as well as the position of the Minister for Children, Young People and Families in the Department of Education and Skills that would have the responsibility for coordination of policies across all agencies and authorities (literacytrust.org.uk, 2003).
The Children Act 2004 put into place the legislative foundation to enable the policy changes as put forth under the Every Child Matters Green Paper (literacytrust.org.uk, 2004). The objective was the maximisation of opportunities, along with minimising risk for children and young people via the leadership of the Director of Children’s Services within the local authorities (Brachnell Forest Borough Council, 2007). The Children Act 2004 advises that the total number of children in the program has remained fairly consistent over the past ten years, with only minor upward and downward fluctuations (Department for Education and Skills, 2004).
The Children Act 2004 was enacted on 15 November 2004 and established (Department for Education and Skills, 2004):
- A Children’s Commissioner whose responsibility is to champion the interests and views regarding children as well as young people.
- Makes it the duty of Local Authorities to co-operate with other Local Authorities as well as agencies and bodies to improve the well being of children through information sharing and other forms of cooperation.
- Made it the duty of Local Authorities to implement local Safeguarding Children Boards that include key partners to participate.
- The provision for databases that contain information that enables better sharing capabilities between all authorities, agencies and other bodies.
- The development of an integrated inspection framework, along with Joint Area reviews to provide an assessment on progress
The important facets of the preceding changes and modifications to the Children Act 1989 is that it set forth the following (Department for Education and Skills, 2004):
- Duty to Cooperate
The Children Act 2004 under section 10 sets forth the duty for local authorities and agencies to cooperate with the guidance under the Act, thus representing the authority as well as framework for children’s trusts.
- Guidance on the Children and Young People’s Plan
Under section 17, it contains the key facet regarding the implementation of children’s trusts via a strategic plan for local authorities and allied services, partners and agencies.
- Guidance with respect to the roles as well as responsibilities of the Director of Children’s Services with regard to the Lead Member of Children’s Services.
- Guidance on Working Together with the objective to Safeguard Children.
- Guidance under section 11, on the Duty to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children
The preceding aspects were actualised under the Children Act 2004 through a national framework for change that specifies areas, working inwards to achieve targeted timetables as shown below:
Children’s Trusts represents the framework whereby all services for children and young people are brought together in an area, supported by the Children Act 2004 (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007a). The central foundation of the Children’s Trusts is that they represent the active core of support for those who work daily with children, young people as well as families, with the objective being the delivery of improved outcomes via more integrated as well as responsive services (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007a). The integrated strategy utilises the following methodology for effective results and working processes (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007a):
- the use of a joint needs assessment,
- sharing decisions on priorities,
- the identification of the resources available, and
- the devising of a set of joint plans to deploy the preceding.
The critical aspect of the foregoing is the joint commissioning that pools resources to deploy the best outcome by directing action to those resources and the people best qualified to complete the services (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007a). In March of 2007 a national evaluation of the Children’s Trust Pathfinders was conducted that took in all 35 units and included a number of evaluative reports conducted on various segments of the program (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007b). The evaluation resulted in a number of recommendations that identified shortcomings and limitations in the delivery of services (national children’s bureau, 2006):
- The evaluation stated that a clarification is needed regarding exactly what the term participation means as there were different interpretations uncovered in the analysis.
- The approach procedures concerning participation were determined to be less than effective in terms of being systematic.
- To move participation beyond listening to active engagement that involves users.
- The development of support systems to enables the end users, children – young people – families, to fully participate as well as engaging them in a strategic manner.
- To see that participation utilises a broad range of differing and diverse methodologies to solicit as well as gain the views of children, young people and families.
- Recognition that the community as well as voluntary sectors have important roles and have users that have difficulty interacting with official bodies.
- Take the time, along with the commitment to construct as well as improve the infrastructure needed for effective participation by end users.
The study of user participation that entailed case studies in eight children’s trusts, along with three additional sites involved 107 professionals from management as well as differing levels in education, health, social care as well as local authorities (national children’s bureau, 2006). The perception of professionals was positive in terms of the increased engagement with users, children, young people and families, commenting that it helped to raise their self esteem as a result of being part of the process (national children’s bureau, 2006). User perceptions among those surveyed indicated a lack of participation, and or limited experience, also commenting that there was a lack of information regarding this aspect (national children’s bureau, 2006). The users cited that they would be interested in participatory engagement, as long as it was meaningful, as opposed to being tokenistic, and if such participation actually resulted in change (national children’s bureau, 2006). In addition to the preceding, the surveyed users indicated that feedback in terms of important issues as to where they were, and the actions being taken, and or the outcomes would be useful in transparency (national children’s bureau, 2006). The survey participants also indicated that they felt more involvement would improve relationships.
Those surveyed added that they felt that listening was not a culture trait in the country, thus participation was not, in their opinion, a positive process unless they could see results based upon a broad feedback from issues they participated in, as well as those of other users (national children’s bureau, 2006). The users surveyed also added that they felt that participation was not really representative, voicing the opinion that the same people were asked about their views and opinions repeatedly, as opposed to the process seeking out more individuals to participate (national children’s bureau, 2006). The methodology, in terms of gathering opinions was also questioned, in that the field of reach could be widened through the utilisation of questionnaires as well as discussion groups (national children’s bureau, 2006). It was suggested that such measures should be advertised broadly, and utilise a wide variety of measures in order to make the process participatory as opposed to being selection based (national children’s bureau, 2006).
The manner in which the overall process operates, is designed and performs was also raised. Users, community and volunteer groups indicated that this represented a key area as the process is supposed to represent one of inclusion, thus, their inputs in these areas should be consulted (national children’s bureau, 2006). One specific example was the drafting of questionnaires. Users felt that they should be included in the process to design the questions that would appear on questionnaires as well as assist in the discussion panel formulations to make the process truly participatory (national children’s bureau, 2006). The preceding represent limitations that users felt did not involve them in the overall process that was designed to aid and benefit them.
The foregoing factors represent clear indications that users want to as well as should be a more active part of the process. Their views indicated that they desired to be included in the developmental phases as opposed to being interview subjects, and felt that they should have a deeper, and more meaning participation level as members of the public, especially as members of the public for whom the services are targeted. Strategic involvement represents an important issue in that it engages users and provides inputs that the overall process can utilise in modifying and improving service delivery as well as the notification process on the part of the public as to potential abuse issues. The foregoing view is brought forth by Petr (2004, p. 79) who points to the importance of the inclusion of parents and users in the process as a means to heighten participation. The foregoing approach is also espoused by Northridge et al (2005), who state research partnerships should be an inclusive process that involves participants and community agencies in the process. Boyden and Ennew (1997) also advocate the importance of users in the participation process in terms of taking part and being involved, as well as the benefits of gaining insights from their inputs.
The study concluded that users want greater participation in the process, and that a variety of methods and approaches need to be utilised to obtain the views, ideas, input and concerns (national children’s bureau, 2006). It also recommended that a broad variety of methods should be utilised and exploited in order to obtain the views of users as well as their recommendations and suggestions, providing more transparency in the processing and outcome of the aforementioned to make the system more effective and user, community based (national children’s bureau, 2006).
“Every Child Matters: Change for Children” (HM Government, 2004) represented the national framework to improve outcomes for children as well as young people (Brachnell Forest Borough Council, 2007). The policy indicates that it is committed to seeing that five key outcomes are achieved that are important to a child’s well being, these represent “… being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution, and achieving economic well being … (HM Government, 2004). The initiative sets forth key objectives and targets with regard to the underpinning of the entire framework of children’s services. The foregoing are represented by the following (HM Government, 2004). :
- The improvement as well as the integration of all services, covering a child’s early years, in the schooling environment, along with health services.
- To provide more specialised help to prevent problems, promote opportunities, and most importantly to act early as well as effectively in the event that problems arise.
- To reconfigure services so that they revolve around the child and family under children’s centres, extended schools, and through professionals engaged in multi disciplinary teams.
- To develop and have engaging as well as dedicated leadership throughout all levels of the system.
- The development of an atmosphere of shared responsibility throughout the system and across system lines that focuses upon the safeguarding of children, as well as protection from harm.
- To heighten the listen atmosphere, centring on children, young people and families in the assessment processes, along with planning facets, and especially in face-to-face encounters.
The preceding bear strong similarity to the recommendations and findings as set forth under the study conduced by the National Children’s Bureau (2006), which pointed out that these lofty objectives have not fully been met. The five outcomes as represented by “… being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution, and achieving economic well being …” (HM Government, 2004), upon deeper examination entail the following:
- Be Healthy
- physical health
- emotional and mental health
- sexual health
- lifestyles that are healthy
- the election not to partake of illegal drugs
- and that carers as well as families actively promote healthy choices
- Stay Safe
- safety from maltreatment, violence, neglect and exploitation sexually
- safety from accidental injury as well as death
- safety from bullying and discrimination
- safety from criminal activities, crime and anti social behaviour
- that security and stability are seen to
- Enjoy and achieve
- that children and young people are ready for school
- that children and young people attend school
- that they achieve social as well as personal development and have recreational activities they enjoy
- Make a positive contribution
- that children, young people and families are engaged in decision making as well as support their communities
- that children, and young people engage in behaviour that I law abiding, both in an out of school
- that they develop self-confidence
- that they develop behaviour that is enterprising
- Achieve economic well-being
- that young people engage in higher education, training and or employment
- that young people are prepared and ready to be employed
- that children and young people live in homes that are decent in sustainable communities
- that they have access to transport
- and that they live in households free of low income
All of the preceding have been set as objectives to foster the development of children and young people through adulthood as well as address the tragic situation as brought forth by the Victoria Climbe situation. In order to attain the foregoing, local children’s services under the Children Act 2004 are held accountable for the deliverance of improved outcomes via inspection (HM Government, 2004). The preceding is to be accomplished by (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007c):
- Robust and active inter-agency accountability and governance
- The “local authority director of children’s services” establishment of cooperative arrangements with like service units and local authorities (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007c).
- The partners in this arrangement include entities from the “public, private, voluntary and community” sectors (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007c).
- Area child protection committees are replaced by local safeguarding children boards
Under the foregoing “Every Child Matters: Change for Children” (HM Government, 2004), the integrated strategy represents the following elements (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007c):
- The joint assessment of the local needs that involve users.
- The utilisation of a singular plan that is shared between all children’s service units.
- The pooling of budgets.
- The use of joint area reviews for the inspection of children’s services on the local level.
- Integrated frontline service delivery to improve user outcomes at the strategic level.
In terms of integrated processes, “Every Child Matters: Change for Children” (HM Government, 2004) calls for (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007d):
- The use of “new common initial assessment” frameworks to “reduce duplication and improve referrals” (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007d).
- Improved information sharing.
- The re-engineering of “local processes and procedures … to support integration around the needs of children.
The integrated frontline delivery represents the manner via which the foregoing is accomplished within the overall framework (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007e):
- “Integrated, accessible and personalised services “ represent the manner via which the preceding will be approached, building the processes “around the needs of children and young people” as opposed to service, and or professional boundaries (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007e).
- The shift of focus to prevention as well as safeguarding.
- Services to be co-located in locations such as children’s centres as well as extended schools.
- The reform of workforces to result in staffs that are well trained, with the credo that children are the focal point, understanding that their needs are uppermost.
- The “development of multi-disciplinary teams” along with professionals.
The strategy representing the improvement of outcomes is founded upon “changing the behaviour of those working with the users via more integrated as well as responsive service delivery (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007e). The foregoing calls for the use of specialist support that is embedded throughout the system, and which can be accessed by all service units (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007e). The key to the process is in workforce reform in terms of attitudes, trained staff, the internal development of common skill sets and knowledge base, utilising the element of trust as well as information sharing (everychildmatters.gov.uk, 2007e).
In equating the results achieved under the programmes established for Every Child Matters the Department for Children, Schools and Families published a report equating evidence in support of the plan (2007). The Report assessed the achievements as well as shortcomings and limitations of progress thus far as achieved:
Table 1 – Results Findings – Every Child Matter Be Healthy
(Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007)
More Work Required
Most children are happy, however
room for improvement
Infant mortality rates are
Suicide rates are low
High rates of low birth weights
Breast feeding rates increased
Increase in obesity rates
Rates regarding physical activity
School lunch rate usage is down
Rates for teenage pregnancy are
high, but falling
Sexual activity disease rates
Smoking rates have decreased
Alcohol consumption has increased
Trends concerning drug use
are down among the 11
through 15 age group
Cannabis usage remains high overall
Table 2 – Results Findings – Every Child Matter/Stay Safe
(Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007)