Child Protection Enquiry UK | Policy and History
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Published: Fri, 30 Jun 2017
The purpose of the essay is to discuss and explain the child protection enquiry, its process, purpose legislation and critical issues. An accompanying leaflet has been designed to highlight the Child Protection enquiry taking into account age, diversity, oppression and anti-discriminatory practices incorporated. The age group focused on the leaflet is Young Persons aged 11-19. In addition, a commentary to justify the rationale for the design, content and structure will be carried out. Finally, an evaluation of how the issues discussed in the leaflet and essay have contributed to learning and relevance to future practice.
The focus of the new millennium according to DfES (2005) is ‘safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child’ which by definition is the process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care which is undertaken so as to enable children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully (DfES 2005a, p11). Wilson and James (2007) citing Working together to safeguard children (HM Government 2005a p 19 Para. 1.19) define child protection as “the activity which is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm”.
In her view Gil (1970) considers that Child abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions or processes do or fail to do which directly harms children or damages their prospects of safe, healthy development into adulthood. This definition was adapted by the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse.
Bentovim (1998) sustain that there is strong association between significant harm and insecure attachments, citing Carlson et al (1989) who found out that more than 80% of significantly harmed infants had disorganised attachments compared to less than 20% in a non maltreated comparison group. Jones et al 1999 further supports that all disturbances in case of child maltreatment are linked to the relationship with parents own experiences. Attachment difficulties are associated with parental childhood experiences of Abuse and Deprivation, Parental Personality Difficulties as well as Functional Illnesses such as Depression. It is important to identify parent child attachment difficulties to make sound intervention where there is evidence in literature that persisting Parent/ Child attachment combined with evidence of psychological maltreatment on follow up is a consistent finding.
Additionally Wilczynski (1997) cited in Wilson and James (2007) ascertain that the most consequence of child maltreatment is death which indicates the necessity for early intervention to prevent the deaths of young children. It was estimated in 2003 that in the UK that the occurance of maltreatment leading to death is nine per 1 million children and as high as 24 per 1 million in USA. UNICEF (2003). The main perpetrators in most cases it was revealed were biological parents and the most affected age group was children under five years particularly babies under one year, (Brown and Lynch (1995), UNICEF (2003). This suggested that there is need to predict , prevent and protect children from birth, Axford and Bullock (2005) and the Assessment of children and families (DOH et al 2000, Brown et al 2006). As a necessity to prevent deaths and severe consequences intervention should take into account the family structure and normally comes in after a fatal consequence or maltreatment has already occurred. Protective factors need to be put in place as a deterent to raising family standards, resilience to social and environmental stress Brown and Herbert (1997).
Essentially it is through assessment that the needs of such children are identified that the needs of such children are identified as the starting point of intervention. Assessment as defined by Wilson and James (2007) is identifying the needs of children at risk of encountering significant harm so as to put in place safeguarding measures that will promote their welfare and wellbeing. Reder et al (1993), Munro (1999) and Buckley (2003) cited in Howarth (2005b) observed that in cases of maltreatment effective assessment is essential as the basis to inform meaningful planning/ intervention which will promote better outcomes for children and families. This depends on professional knowledge, skills and ability to engage in multi-disciplinary team work, the child and the family to identify family needs. Additionally practitioners need to be aware of challenges and factors that can distort assessment such as perception of abuse, their values and beliefs and the application of theory to practice.
Parton (1991) cited in Scourfield (2003) argue that one of the most contested social issue is child protection. The main reason being that the state is seen to intervene with families so as to protect vulnerable children, at the same time giving respect to the family unit structure. This has raised public scrutiny with concerns that the state has not intervened enough to protect children or social workers have been accused to negligent and not having identified significant harm. On the other hand they are accused to have intervened too much and unnecessarily impacting on families. Typical examples highlighting the controversy are (the inquiries into the deaths of Jasmine Beckford, Kimberly carlile, Ricky Nearve, Victoria Climbe and baby P. On the other hand too much intervention was cited in child abuse investigations in Cleveland 1987, Pooch dale and Orkney) just to name a few Scourfield (2003).
These contradictions and dilemmas are believed to originate from the increasing recognition that child abuse is socially constructed. This is dependent on different commentators’ perspectives of abuse and harm. Obviously this perspective will raise the argument whether the intervention to be carried is supportive or authoritative and reactive. Munro (2002) believes abuse is ways of treating a child in a harmful and morally wrong manner that impacts on their socio-psycho wellbeing. In trying to define abuse variations from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds/values is to be considered. However article 19 of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) agreed on an International formulation to condemn child abuse. This defined abuse as “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse. Furthermore it is important to acknowledge the British national commission of inquiry into the prevention of child abuse which broadened its scope outside the family. They hold that child abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions, or processes to or fail to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood National Commission, (1996:2). All the above definitions mention harm as a result of actions, omissions or exploitation. As mentioned earlier individual societies in conjunction with their legal systems supply more detailed definitions and guidelines. The UK society through the department of health and social security 1988 categorised the following specifications as guidelines and standards. These are physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Explain these or not see word count? Munro (2002).
The Children Act (1989) was set up as a measure to encourage partnership working between families and the state. It also encouraged the provision of family support to reduce the risk of severe consequences resulting in coercive state intervention. Prevention was expanded from simply to prevent children coming into care but to focus on providing services that helped and promoted families to up bring their children within their families Munro (2007). According to the Act family preservation is paramount and fundamental as well as partnership working with parents. Nevertheless it is not always the case that some parents who are neglectful and abusive sometimes see or have no capacity to constructively and systematically engage with social service intervention which try to help them. Some it is suggested become hostile, aggressive and abusive clearly not entertaining any advise or any interference with their family life. With such a contest going on the child will continue to be affected and further significant harm may occur during this contest. As said earlier social workers need to be aware of such parents and situations and act accordingly in this case in the best interest of the child who will be the focal point Bell and Wilson (2003).
In the early 1990s a number of cases involving organised and institutional abuse were revealed which were outside the family context. The most prominent one being the Orkney incident in which children were taken into care following allegations of organised sexual abuse. The court hearing dismissed the case after five weeks leading the children to be returned home. Media coverage concluded injustice on caring parents fighting injustice inflicted by intolerant inconsistent social workers. This enquiry led to the selling up of regulations and procedures for dealing with organised abuse Bell (1999). Messages from research (1995) published and summarised the functioning of the child welfare system. It revealed cumulative effect of adverse publicity and policy changes that pinpointed professional’s especially social workers as prioritising abuse concerns over other types of referrals. There was a division between child protection and child abuse and revealed an emphasis on tackling immediate risks to the child and ignoring the wider social and psychological needs. There was a call to refocus of child protection in a holistic child in need context not just protection from abuse. Messages from Research (1995). (Bell 1999, Thoburn, Lewis and Shemmings 1995) revealed that the emotional impact of investigation on families whether guilty or innocent is traumatic and intrusive. Professionals need to be aware of this impact on families and seek to minimise it.
The death of Victoria Climbe was a shocking event that revealed abuse and inconsistencies within professionals who had seen her. A public inquiry led by Lord Lamming (2003) also revealed that the voice of the child was ignored despite so many professionals being involved. Laming Report (2003). Gough (1997) assets that research revealed that not too often children are ignored as a active participants either as a source of knowledge/ information about their family situation/ circumstances or a reliable source of opinion on what needs to be done. Laming Report (2003). Contrary to this shortcoming one of the Children’s Act 1989 is to respect the children’s views and wishes about key decisions affecting their lives. The Act guarantees that children’s wishes and feelings must be taken into account in any matter that affects or involve them be it in court hearings, reviews and conferences. This also applies to Looked after children by local authorities, they have greater rights and voice on the quality and care they receive. Coby (2006)
The death of Victoria Climbe prompted the safeguarding agenda and policy Every Child Matters: Change for the Children Treasury (2003). The agenda proposed a radical transformation of both the organisation and culture of practice from a reactive service for a few to a more pro-active approach where all children’s needs are identified addressed at grass roots level before escalating to major serious problems. Innovative ideas such as the integrated children’s services would be essential tools. The every child matters agenda highlighted 5 outcomes for children i.e. are healthy, staying safe, enjoy contribution, and achieve economic wellbeing. Every Child Matters (2003). Working together to safeguard children DFES (2006b) highlighted the new arrangements to be implemented by different agencies to promote inter-agency co-operation to safeguarding and respond to the concerns that a child might be at risk of significant harm.
The child protection policy and practice begins when a concern has been raised that a child may be at risk of abuse through neglect, physical, emotional, sexual harm. A number of sources could raise such a concern ranging from NSPCC, police, social services, a parent, neighbours, health worker, or nurse or teacher from school/nursery. It might be the case that some concerns are made anonymously or malicious. At times some anonymous concerns turn out to be true and this call that they are treated seriously. As soon as any concern is raised Social services will act as soon as possible Buckley (2003). The first response at the early stage is to make enquiries about the family concerned with other agencies linked to it such as schools, hospitals, GP, nursery or health services by carrying out an initial assessment following LSCB procedures. Initial assessment as defined by the Framework for the Assessment of Children in need and their families (DH 2000) is a brief assessment of each child referred to social services with a request for services to be provided.
If the core assessment concludes that a child is in need of further support they will be classified as a ‘child in need ‘ as defined by Section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989. The section mentions that it is the duty of the local authority to provide services to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and needs. If no harm is suffered the case is closed. If need be that the child needs to be seen by a S/W or police this is usually done within 24 hours after the allegation has been reported. When these initial enquiries are complete a decision is made as to whether there is need to pursue the matter or no further action required it is the duty of social workers to inform parents of any developments as soon as possible. Information such as the source of the allegation will be given to parents as long as it does not put the investigation into jeopardy or put anyone at risk. If for instance the allegation came from an institutional source like nursery, hospital or school it will be revealed. Members of the public names or identities are not revealed.
During questioning or inquiries if it becomes necessary to ask a child/ the victim parents may be allowed to be present or may not be allowed if they are the perpetrators mainly or for any other reason. Depending on circumstances, Social Worker will work with both parents and child but in the best interest of the child. This is the time when parents can explain their views, concerns and what actions to be taken to address the concerns. Parents are also interviewed with their language if they don’t speak English an interpreter will be available by social worker. If the need be the child may be seen by a doctor or paediatrician to ascertain what happened, treat the injuries or to seek clarity on injuries. Parents need to give permission for this if they refuse a court order will be sought for permission to have a medical examination. If a parent does not agree with proceedings they may seek legal advice. If a child is old enough to understand they may agree to be examined themselves if it is proved that they are old enough to, make such a judgement. All this is dependent on how well a child understands what is happening Merrick (1996).
The medical examination is dependent on the nature of alleged abuse. It is important for the doctor to have a full understanding of the child’s health and development. The examination forms part of the enquiry process as it is a way of gathering evidence and preserve any evidence to understand the abuse. The examination will reassure the parent and child that they will recover. The child may have preferences of who conducts the exam and who should be present. Social worker will also accompany or be present. If the results of the examination convince social workers that injuries were accidental not abuse no further action is taken. If the results conclude that there is likely to be significant harm or abuse further enquiries will be carried out. This may also involve enquiries regarding other family members so as to ensure that no harm has happened to them. A video recording interview may follow conducted by Social Worker and police if maybe they want to sue. This will also help if police want to pursue criminal proceedings. This is done by trained officers who specialise in these procedures. It may be the case that the police need to remove the child from parent’s care to safeguard their protection and welfare. All necessary arrangements will be made in line with the intention of keeping the child within their family. If necessary Social Services may call a child protection conference if there is evidence of significant harm. Parents are invited and all the professionals involved with the child as well. These include social workers, police officers, doctors and other people interested in the welfare of the child.
If the child is classified as having suffered or at risk of significant harm a strategy discussion meeting is pursued. A meeting consisting of all professionals from relevant agencies will meet to decide whether to proceed with a section 47 inquiry under the Children Act 1989. Under section 47 the Local Authority will investigate the case of a child in their area. Serious case review is conducted by the Local Safeguarding Children Board when a child dies or seriously injured, abused or neglected. This is an inter agency forum set up by Local Authorities to define and agree how best professional groups co-operate to safeguard children and also to ensure good outcomes for children are in place and achieved . Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance (2010)
Buckley (2003) identifies Child protection conference as a meeting arranged by social services if people are worried about a child’s Safety. Child Protection Conference is carried out to decide whether a child is still at risk of continuous significant harm. The purpose of child protection conference is to bring under one roof all concerned and interested parties who are key to the welfare /wellbeing of the child. These include care professionals, medical professionals, lawyers, police, teachers and nursery practitioners. An independent child protection advisor chairs the conference and will meet the parents before the conference to explain all procedures and objectives of the meeting. Previously it was observed before the conference was introduced that the Child Protection system was regarded as inefficient and lacking since all stakeholders were not united and did not communicate effectively amongst themselves exposing a child to further harm and creating opportunity for further harm by not addressing potential risks or communicating concerns. All professionals who attend the conference are required to evaluate the welfare of the child, determine if there is potential danger and decide whether to put the child on the protection register. Care professionals will also decide course of action, such as upholding legal proceedings or criminal investigation if a decision to put the child on the protection register. A child protection plan is designed to control future proceedings regarding safety/welfare of child. The plan will highlight roles within the inter agency and enhance productive communication between individual agencies. After three months a further meeting is held to review and monitor progress. Every six months review child protection conferences are carried out. If any concerns or any of the elements in the plan are not working well they can be altered. There will also be discussion on every conference whether your child needs to remain on the Child Protection register. Access to file, confidentiality and complaints procedures will be adhered to.
A number of legislation is relevant to the Child Protection agenda. The Children’s Act 1989 believes ‘Children are generally best looked after within the family, with both parents playing a full and without resorting to legal proceedings. The welfare of the child is significant and their wishes should be taken into account seriously. The act seeks where possible to protect children within their families. A number of provisions were designed to improve the family and home environment to protect children. Inter communication between multi disciplinary agencies was encouraged to indentify/ address risks to a child/children so as to safeguard and protect children. Sections 17. 27 and 47 (cite) the Children’s Act 2004 highlights the need for increased accountability, integrated planning, multi- disciplinary planning and delivery of services and above all providing for children with special needs. The Human Rights Act 1998 embraces the European Convention on human Rights into UK law. Although it does not specifically mention children because they are treated as persons in the eyes of the law just as adults. The adoption and Children’s Act 2002 amends the Children’s Act 1989 by recognising the definition of harm to include witnessing domestic violence.
Following Victoria Climbe’s death at the age of eight Lord Laming was asked to conduct an inquiry to establish whether a new legislation was needed or any other recommendations to improve the Child Protection in England. As a response keeping child safe report (Dfes 2003) and the Every Child Matters Green Paper DEFS (2003) which later became Children’s Act (2004). The Children’s Act (2004) does not add/ subtract anything from Childeren’s Act 1989 instead it sets out an approach to integrate services to children so that every child matters meets the five outcomes: being safe, healthy, achieve, enjoy, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.
The Children’s Act further places a duty to Local Authorities to appoint children’s Commissioner for England who is accountable for the delivery of service. Local authorities and their partners (police, health services and the youth justice system) have a duty to co-operate in promoting the wellbeing of children and young people and to make necessary arrangements to promote children’s welfare and wellbeing. As required in the lay out working together to safeguard children statutory guidance, non statutory ( area in protecting committees are replaced by the new local safeguarding children bears. They are trusted with further functions of reviewing and investigating (section 14) which they use to review all child deaths in their area. It also revises legislation regarding physical punishment by making it an offence to hit a child to an extent of causing mental harm on the skin (section 58) which repeats the defence provided to parents on reasonable chastisement of the children and Young Persons Act 1993.
The 2006 Children and Adoption Act enforces contact / contact orders when separated parents are in dispute giving more flexible powers to facilitate contact. As recommended in the Care Matters White Paper (Dfes 2007) the children and Young Persons Act is expected to give and provide high quality care and services for children in care and places a duty on registrars to notify local safeguarding board on all deaths Daniel and Ivatts (1998).
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 requires UK Border Agency to recognise and promote safedguarding children’s welfare section 55 in line with other public organisations that have contact with children. The apprenticeships,skills, children and Leaarning Act 2009 requires two local lay community members sitting on each local safeguarding children board. Some of the provisions in the Act have been targeted for repealing by the coalition government including the duty on schools to promote the wellbeing of children and the requirement to set up children’s trust and draw up children and Young People’s plans (Dfe 2010)
There is also legislation that has been set up to protect children by monitoring adults who pose a risk,creating offences which they can be charged and stopping them from working with children. These are the sex offenders Act 1997, Sexual Offences Act 2003, Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, Domestic Violence , Crime and Victims Act 2004 guidance on offences against children,the serious organisational crime and police Act 2005, the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 after the death of Holly and Jessica. The forced marriages Act Civil Protection 2007 and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. Out of all the legislation it is important to mention that they do not cover the minimum age at which a child may be left alone and how old a baby sitter should be.
Having explored the child protection system and legislation it is important to address one of the critical debates in the topic which is: Does child protection work in all communities especially the ethnic minority and disabled groups? Most recent research carried out has revealed so far some of the issues which are far reaching as shortcomings. It has been suggested that new research shold explore the family structures and values on how different ethnic minority groups slip into situations requiring child protection. Highly focused studies are neede to focus and understand how some practices and beliefs in specific minority groups such as genital mutilation or the racial abuses of mixed heritage children brought up in white families. Qualitative studies into attitudes towards sexuality in different cultural and faith groups. Maybe the time limits regulating initial assessment s into culturally sensitive work re impacting on complex work to be properly carried out (such as refugee families) The courts , conbferences and social work practice must be aware and pay attention to the needs of ethnic minoritoies . If these are addressed then the child protection system will be ethnically tolerant and culturally competent in the best of the chid and as hood practice. Thoburn et al (2006).
Disabled children are more still likely to be abused and neglected because they rely on institutions which have a history of failing over the past decades. The institutions either lack the resources, capacity and transparency in addressing abuse/neglect and also inefficient procedures to guarantee disclosure to assist disabled children to overcome the communication barrier especially on abuse. Worse still there is more vulnerability to children whose parents are disabled. There is more likelihood of them being taken into care on the grounds of neglect than those children whose parents are not disabled. Organisations and local authorities need more structures in place and transparency to help vulnerable children and families to be able to communicate and express their worries, fears and anxieties Corby (2006).
LEAFLET COMMENTARY 500 WORDS NEGLECT AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE. WHY THIS AREA? It has been a neglected area since the death of Maria Colwell Professionals focused on physical and sexual abuse. This meant the neglect and emotionally abused children and their families were not adequately represented thus getting limited resources and being filtered out of the Child protection system. When the Children’s Act 1989 was introduced it tried to address these issues and further went on to introduce registrations in the neglect/ emotional abuse category. This commitment is of great significance to practitioners whose objective is to tackle any form of child maltreatment as resources became available.
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