Child Protection

A Change of Emphasis

by Keith Fletcher

Now in print from SSSP Publications ISBN 0 9533002 0 X

"The more time and money we spend on finding out where and how abuse has occurred the less we have to spend to respond positively to alleviate it and the more damage we may do to the majority of children in the process."

Child protection is changing rapidly. In order to respond effectively to produce the best services for children and their families we need to take account of the lessons recent research can teach us and the experience of the vanguard agencies who have sought to put it into practice. The Department of Health is intent on a significant shift in national policy. It is the ideal moment for everyone concerned with child protection to explore its implications.

This report is designed as a companion to "Messages from Research" and "Working together to safeguard children". Written by a former senior member of the Social Services Inspectorate, it addresses the policy and practice implications of those two key documents for ACPCs and child protection professionals and managers.

Keith Fletcher was Deputy Chief Inspector in the Social Services Inspectorate, Wales until the end of 1992. He in now a social services consultant specialising in inter-agency collaboration. He is the author of "Negotiation for Health and Social Services Professionals" published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Why Change?

The Children Act 1989 placed heavy reliance on fostering partnership with families and improving support for them. But there was always a risk that the pro-active intentions of Section 17 would be overwhelmed by the demands of the reactive child protection system. In some ways the reissued government guidance "Working Together" (1991) actually increased the risk.

The Department of Health acknowledged the problem. They commissioned and, in 1995, published eight research papers studying different aspects of child protection, and an overview based on these and other recent studies which drew some general conclusions. [Child Protection - Messages from Research, Department of Health, HMSO London £14.00] The overview highlights five key issues:

  1. sensitive and informed professional/client relationships
  2. an appropriate balance of power between participants
  3. a wide perspective on child protection
  4. effective supervision and training of social workers
  5. services which enhance children's general quality of life

Just last month (February 1998) the Department issued its key consultation paper on the policy changes it intends to implement to put these messages into practice.

CHILD PROTECTION: A Change of Emphasis is about disposals rather than proposals. Government and academics might say what changes should take place but it is down to the agencies in the field, working together, to find practical ways of making the change. Keith Fletcher considers some of the changes which have already been made and extrapolates from other similar developments to produce a valuable planning tool for everyone working in child protection.

Every child protection co-ordinator in England and Wales has had a copy of this report. If you work in the child protection field you should have one too. Just go to our orders page

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