This study reports on an analysis of the transcripts of four focus groups involving social workers from four English social work teams working with children and families. In the groups, social workers discussed the process of coming to a decision in care proceedings (where decisions are made about the future care of a child where there are concerns about the care provided in the family of origin). It explores how social workers described themselves coming to conclusions about cases, and how they perceive the courts as doing so. Noting the need in such important proceedings both for thoroughness and for speed (for delay is likely to be harmful to children in need of a secure home), the authors consider ways in which decision‐making might be distorted or delayed and discuss the perception of the social workers that some kinds of evidence are under‐ or overvalued by the courts. The authors conclude that, while it may seem that there is a trade‐off between thoroughness and speed, this is not always the case and that factors that cause poor decision‐making can also cause delay.
A B S T R AC TEvidence from focus group discussions with social workers in child care and child protection was collected for a research project exploring decision-making in care proceedings and seeking a better understanding of the causes of delay in the process. Here this material is used to examine social workers' feelings about their work and to explore the anxieties they expressed. Isabel Menzies's work on containing anxiety in institutions is used to provide a conceptual framework for thinking about the ways in which individuals' unconscious defences against anxiety may affect the structure, policies and practices of the organization in which they work. It is suggested that this dimension needs to be taken into account in understanding difficulties which arise in putting policy into practice.
In spite of section 1(2) of the 1989 Children Act,* the time taken to conclude care proceedings has been getting longer year on year since the Act's implementation. The average length of proceedings in 2001 was about 47 weeks and a significant number of children are having to wait over two years for a court decision. Chris Beckett and Bridget McKeigue looked at a small group of cases where children have waited for over two years. In this article they examine the consequences for the children of this long wait in immediate terms, such as number of placement moves and assessments experienced, and in the long term as a result of reduced options and possible psychological harm. They then consider the possible causes of these long waits, identifying a number of factors but focusing in particular on the long and repetitive assessment process that seems to have typically taken place.
SummaryThis paper reports on the views of a community sample of 428 parents with primary school aged children. In a previous study parents had identified that they need 'support'. This study was designed to try to understand what types of support parents already have and what support they think needs to be available to them. Most parents use informal support of family and friends and have limited awareness of what is available to them in the way of locally based services. They propose services which are already available, like Parentline, but of which they are unaware. There seems a need for universal, non-stigmatising services which design their programmes with parents and can refer on to more specialised services, e.g. Social Services or Family Centres. These services need to be located in agencies which parents frequent and are comfortable with, such as schools and health settings.
SummaryAmong the most important changes that it was hoped would flow from the 1989 Children Act were, firstly, a reduction in delay in care proceedings, since this was recognised to be harmful to children and, secondly, a shift away from the use of compulsion towards working in partnership. In this article Bridget McKeigue and Chris Beckett demonstrate that, in both respects, the Act has not only failed to deliver, but been followed by rapid change in the opposite direction to the one hoped for. However many commentators, both within and outside of government, continue to speak of the Act as if it had been a success. The article considers a series of characteristic rhetorical manoeuvres which seem to allow the Act's failings to be passed over in much of this discourse. They conclude that progress is more likely to be made if the Act's failure to deliver is frankly confronted. Introduction:If a commentator in 1992 had suggested that over the next decade the number of care orders made per year would triple and the average duration of care orders would more than double, she would surely have faced a chorus of protest. The 1989 Children Act, she would have been told, was designed precisely to prevent court delay and to steer local authorities away as far as possible from the adversarial approach which care proceedings represent.Described by the then Lord Chancellor as 'the most comprehensive and far-reaching reform of child care law which has come before parliament in living memory ' (Hansard, HoL Debates, 6 th December, 1988, Col. 488), the 1989 Act was the first piece of childcare legislation to specifically state as a basic principle -second only to the 'welfare principle' itself among just five basic principles enshrined in the Act's first section -that delay 'is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child' (1989 Children Act, s 1 (2)). And, while the Act does October, 1991, which greeted the newly implemented Act as 'a fundamental shift from the adversarial legal system. The new emphasis is away from courts imposing solutions or orders and towards parents, relatives and local authorities working in partnership…consensus not conflict…. The Act should mean fewer court orders.'As it has turned out however, our hypothetical commentator would have been right and her critics would have been wrong. As we will show, about three times as many care orders were made in 2001 as in 1992, while the average set of care proceedings took more than twice as long. Nevertheless the 1989 Children Act continues quite frequently to be described as a groundbreaking piece of legislation which has succeeded in its main objectives.Our aim in this article is firstly to bring together information about the length and duration of care proceedings, updating earlier articles here by Beckett (2001a, b), and secondly to examine some of the rhetoric within which discussion of the Children Act is characteristically couched. Our suggestion is that the net effect of this rhetoric is to obscure the extent to which the increased use of compulsio...
This article is the second to look at the fifty-nine children who were made subject to care proceedings in one local authority area in the financial year 2004-05. It focuses on what happened to children during the proceedings and considers how well those responsible for their care during this time (the local authority and others involved in the court process) performed in terms of providing the children with parental care during the process. While the local authority in question performed well in relative terms, nevertheless, in respect of the duration of the process and the number of placement moves to which children were subjected, many of the children were subjected to a great deal of bewildering change, complex routines and large numbers of adults going in and out of their lives. The authors suggest that the process will tend to objectify children if it becomes too focused on decision making for the future, at the expense of thinking about their needs in the here and now. We conclude with some suggestions as to possible ways of improving things.
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