The contemporary refocusing of children’s services in England

Publication Date18 September 2017
Date18 September 2017
Pages85-96
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-03-2017-0008
AuthorNigel Parton,Sasha Williams
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services,Sociology,Sociology of the family,Children/youth,Parents,Education,Early childhood education,Home culture,Social/physical development
The contemporary refocusing of childrens
services in England
Nigel Parton and Sasha Williams
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of the changes in child protection policy and
practice in England over the last 30 years, in particular to critically analyse the nature and impact of the
refocusinginitiative of the mid-1990s.
Design/methodology/approach Policy analysis.
Findings While the period from the mid-1990s until 2008 can be seen to show how policy and practice
attempted to build on a number of the central principles of the refocusinginitiative, the period since 2008
has been very different. Following the huge social reaction to the death of Peter Connelly, policy and practice
moved in directions quite contra to the refocusinginitiatives aims and aspirations such that we can
identify a refocusing of refocusing. Such developments were given a major impetus with the election of the
Coalition government in 2010 and have been reinforced further following the election of the Conservative
government in May 2015.
Originality/value The paper places the changes in child protection policy and practice in England in their
political and economic contexts and makes explicit how the changes impact on the role and responsibilities of
professionals, particularly social workers.
Keywords Practice, Politics, Policy, Family support, Child protection, Refocusing initiative
Paper type General review
Introduction
The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of the changes in child protection policy and
practice in England over the last 30 years. In particular, it provides some critical reflections on the
nature and impact of the refocusinginitiative of the mid-1990s and how far developments in
recent years can be seen to be consistent with the changes it was aiming to bring about. It will
argue that while the period from the mid-1990s until 2008 can be seen to show, in a very uneven
way, how policy and practice attempted to build on a number of the refocusinginitiatives
central principles, the period since 2008 has been very different. Following the huge social
reaction to the tragic death of Baby Peter Connelly, policy and practice moved in directions
which can be seen as being almost contrary to the refocusinginitiatives aims and aspirations
such that it is not unreasonable to suggest that what we have witnessed is a refocusing of
refocusing. Such developments were given a major impetus following the election of the
Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government in May 2010 and have been reinforced
further since the election of the Conservative government in May 2015.
The Children Act 1989 and the refocusingof childrens services
Following the public inquiry into the death of Maria Colwell (Secretary of State for Social Services,
1974) and a series of other high-profile child abuse scandals in the 1970s and 1980s, child
welfare services in England came under growing pressure and were increasingly dominated by a
narrow, reactive and forensically-orientated focus on child protection (Parton, 1985, 1991).
It was in this context that the Children Act 1989 tried to establish a new set of balances between
Received 28 March 2017
Revised 12 June 2017
Accepted 13 June 2017
Nigel Parton is a Professorin
Applied ChildhoodStudies at
the Department of Human and
Health Sciences, University of
Huddersfield,Huddersfield, UK.
Sasha Williams is based at the
Department of Human and
Health Sciences, University of
Huddersfield,Huddersfield, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCS-03-2017-0008 VOL. 12 NO. 2/3 2017, pp. 85-96, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
j
JOURNAL OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES
j
PAG E 85

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