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Child Protection - A Change of Emphasis

     Published by Social Services Strategic Planning ISBN 0 9533002 0 X 10,000 words £7.70

"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.

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

Keith Fletcher considers the impact and implications which have followed this report.

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