Child Protection Enquiry UK

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 . 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.

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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 for children and families. This depends on professional knowledge, skills and ability to engage in , 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 professionals 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 Childrens Act 1989 is to respect the childrens views and wishes about key decisions affecting their lives. The Act guarantees that childrens 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 childrens needs are identified addressed at grass roots level before escalating to major serious problems. Innovative ideas such as the integrated childrens 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 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 Childrens Act 1989. The section mentions that it is the duty of the local authority to provide services to safeguard and promote the childs 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 dont 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).

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