How Has ???Child Abuse??™ Been Conceptualised and Addressed in Terms of Policy and Law Since 1945

SPY2007- Policy and law for children and young people.
How has ???Child Abuse??™ been conceptualised and addressed in terms of policy
and law since 1945
This assignment will look at how ???Child Abuse??™ has been conceptualised and addressed in terms of policy and law since 1945 to the present day. It will do this by providing a historical and analytical summary of the policies and laws which have been put in place to prevent children from being harmed since 1945. The essay will firstly explaining what ???Child Abuse??™ is and what forms it can come in. It will then explain what policies and laws have been created and put in place since 1945 and if they have helped protect children, and decrease the amount of children being abused. The essay will then conclude by asking why is ???Child Abuse??™ still an issue today after all that has been done to prevent it since 1945.
???Child Abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions or process do or fail to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects of a safe and healthy development into adulthood. It is when a child dies or is harmed through emotional cruelty, physical cruelty, neglect or sexual abuse.??? (The National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty towards Children, NSPCC, 2009)
The term ???Child Abuse??™ is the title given to the act of an adult harming a child or a young person under 18 years old. Child abuse comes in four forms; these are physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. All of these forms can cause long term damage to the child that is being abused. Physical abuse is when a child is hurt or injured physically; this includes hitting, kicking, punching and other ways of inflicting pain onto the child such as poisoning them or smothering them. It is also seen as physical abuse to give a child drugs or alcohol, which are harmful to them. Emotional abuse is when an adult constantly threatens and ignores a child, gives them punishments which are degrading and undermines their self-confidence as stated by (NSPCC, 2009). It is also seen as emotional abuse if an adult continuously denies the child of their love and affection.
Neglect is when the child??™s basic needs, which include love, warmth, food, safety, medical attention and education, are not met by the child??™s parent or carer. Lastly is sexual abuse which is when an adult or young person kisses a child, touches a child in inappropriately, forces the child or entices the child to engage in sexual activities with them including penetrative and non-penetrative acts. Sexual abuse also involves showing and encouraging a child indecent magazines or videos. There are also other types of behaviour which are classed as child abuse including; racism, bullying and other forms of discriminating behaviour, as these behaviours can also harm and cause long term affects for the child physically and emotionally as stated by the (NSPCC, 2009).
It was noticed in as early as 1945 that there was a need for a more inter-agency coordination in child care work when the inquiry into the death of Dennis O??™Neil was reported. The local authority had placed Dennis in a foster home in another local authority and there was no communication between the two about their duties and responsibilities and six months later Dennis who was aged 12 years old was beaten to death by his foster father. Sir Walter Monkton who wrote the report was extremely critical of the systems and individuals involved who were responsible for visiting and reporting about Dennis while he was in the foster families care.
This now meant that the agencies needed better coordination in their work as they were not protecting the children in their care like they were supposed to be. After this happened the Children act 1948 was formed, which set up a children??™s committee and a children??™s officer for each local authority. Although the act did not mention much about the policy and law of child protection, and it did not change much. The children and young person??™s act 1952 (amendment) 1963, 1969, was then put into place which changed the children??™s power when it came to intervention and the 1953 act, allowed authorities to assess if a child was fit through a person??™s order before the parents were prosecuted for the first time.
In the 1963 act, section1 arranged local authorities to be able to provide financial assistance to keep children in their own home as it was cheaper than putting them in care; however they were supervised at home. The 1969 act however did nothing for children who were neglected as they were just treated the same as delinquent children as society seen them as being the same. This however changed in the 1970??™s though. In 1960 the Ingleby report was made which Corby (1998) states highlighted policy as being family oriented and sympathetic and it recommended a three stage to work from to prevent neglect in the home. The first stage was to identify if the family is at risk of neglect in the home before investigating into finding out what the problem was which was causing the risk of neglect. After this has been done the next stage is to provide the services and provisions the family needs to move away from the risk of neglect.
In 1970 the Local Authority Social Services act was created and a union was formed between the councils social care work services and their social care provisions into social services including the ones for children, as stated by Batty (19/5 2004). In 1974 the Maria Colwell inquiry report began. This was another example of the local authorities not communicating with each other as Maria was under a supervision order of one social services department, but she was living in an area which was served by a different one. As Maria attended school the teachers, social workers and education welfare officer were all involved during the last year of her life. Police officers, housing officials, general practitioners and an inspector from the NSPCC were involved also as there were accusations of Maria being ill-treated from the neighbours. The co-ordination and cooperation between professionals in the Maria Colwell inquiry were critical in establishing the future of the child protection policy for the next 20 years.
However because there was no communication between the service providers and professionals and because Maria was in a different social services departments supervision from where she was living and there was no communication between the two the system failed to protect her. Even though all these professionals were involved in the inquiry Maria died at age 7 after being neglected and beaten by her step father. The report was very critical of the individual service provides work who were involved but it held the social worker who was supposed to be supervising Maria under an order and the NSPCC inspector as responsible for not protecting Maria from harm. The report??™s conclusion stated: ???The overall impression created by Maria??™s sad history is that while individuals made mistakes it was the ???system???, which failed her. (DHSS, 1974:p.86)
After the death of Maria Colwell the child protection system was formed as a consequence directly from the findings in the report. The structure of the report was established between 1974 and 1976 and it is fundamentally what the child protection system consists of today. The structure consists of three key components, which included area review committees (now called area child protection committees), non-accidental injuries registers (now called child protection registers), and case conferences. This coordination between the agencies was seen as the solution to develop effective systems to help deal with the problem of child abuse. However there were no legal requirements for the professionals to report abuse or attend conferences, the only agencies that had responsibilities that were laid down by law were the police, NSPCC and the social services department.
Therefore the coordination between agencies was experimental and uneven at this point in time and looked firmer on paper than in practice itself. Between the time the Maria Colwell inquiry report was being publicised and the inquiry of Jasmine Beckford in 1985, there were 29 other further inquiries into the deaths of children who had died because of abuse as stated by (Corby, 1998). The majority of the inquiries were dealt with by using the new child protection arrangements, therefore a greater stress was put on the individuals that were involved in operating the systems, a the reason for what happened in these cases. Professionals??™ failure to work together and share information were recognised by a DHSS inquiry of reports which was published in 1982 stating these as the main reasons that contributed to the failure to provide children at risk with adequate protection.
As Hallett and Stevenson (1980) state there were four reasons why the system was failing to protect the children that were at risk of abuse. These reasons included firstly that the persistent lack of co-operation between the professionals might be because of their training as they were trained by themselves and not as a team. Therefore they have developed their own identities which are separate and may not be used to working with other professionals as equals. The second reason they gave was, the professionals have differences in their social statuses, educational levels and pay which caused divisions especially with doctors. Thirdly the professionals had different views about child protection, which was especially obvious between the views of the police compared to the views of the social workers.
Finally the fourth reason was that there was no fixed meeting point for the professional to express their issues except when they were in a conference. Hallet and Stevenson (1980) then go on to say ???One of the ways professional workers coped with these differences and difficulties was by resorting to stereotyping. However, this was a major barrier to the type of communication and good collaboration that child protection work requires.??? (Hallet & Stevenson, 1980 cited in James & Wilson, 2007). Regardless of these continuing difficulties, there were few major improvements in the working of the child protection system in the early 1980??™s. The main developments were broadening child abuse concept so that neglect and low standards of care of children were included in the meaning. Social services personnel also increased the dominance of the system.
However the system was shook out of satisfaction when an inquiry report was taken into the death of Jasmine Beckford in 1985, as the report gave a plain view that all the different statutory agencies should take responsibility for what had happened, the report stated:
???On any conceivable version of the events under inquiry the death of Jasmine Beckford on 5th July 1984 was predictable and preventable homicide….The blame must be shared by all these services (health, education, social services and magistrate??™s court) in proportion to their various statutory duties, and to the degree of actual and continuing involvement with the Beckford family.??? (Jasmine Beckford inquiry report, 1985: p.287)
This was because Jasmine and her sister had both been abused seriously by Morris Beckford in August 1981 and were put into a foster home and made subject of care orders but were later returned to live with him and their mother in April 1982. The report questioned if it was wise to return the children home and how the decision to return the children home was reached, as only the social services personnel and the chair line manager were present at the conference and it was felt that the children??™s health visitor and paediatrician should have been invited as he had been involved since Jasmine and her sister were hospitalised. The report went on to criticise the monitoring arrangements that were on-going and the lack of health professional involvement. There was no contact between the health visitor and the social worker during the first six months of Jasmine??™s ???home-on-trial??™ period and there were no checks of her and her sister??™s health and development at the local health clinic.
Jasmine??™s GP and health visitor were both unable to attend the case conference where she and her sister were taken off the child protection register and in January 1983 Jasmine was placed in a nursery school. However the social worker did not think it was important to tell the head teacher that Jasmine had been abused and was still on a care order as she felt it was not necessary for Jasmines health and welfare for the head teacher to be involved in monitoring it. As a result of this when Jasmine??™s attendance declined the head teacher didn??™t think it was a particular cause for concern. Jasmine was only visited once by her social worker and not at all by her health visitor between the summer of 1983 until she died in July 1984, and there was no liaison working between the social worker and the health visitor, so there was no communication between agencies again.
This report shows social services checking up on Jasmine alone and there in no coordination between the two agencies. The child protection system that had been constructed after the death of Maria Colwell had not improved the communication problems that were an issue before the child protection system was made. The DHSS??™s response to the Beckford inquiry report was to integrate into the Working Together guidelines 1988 as stated by the DHSS (1988). The Working Together guidelines stated that there should be more of an importance put on protecting children who were at risk and it used the phrase ???child-protection??™ for the first time. More responsibility was give to specialist child protection managers to operate the system which then tightened its procedures. It was also stressed that there was a need for professionals to play a more active role in the child protection process, especially health workers and teachers. It finally they tried to encourage a broader responsibility for policy and training at area review committee by having the health authorities be involved more.
Before the Beckford report shock had settled down the Cleveland report had began where there were 6000 cases of children being sexually abused. Examinations were done on the children at hospitals to make sure that what the inquiries where stating were right. In 1989 the Children act was formed, it changed a lot for children n terms of law as it gave the children rights and children had a say in their decision, stating that the welfare of the child is paramount. Parents were given responsibilities aswell as rights, which means they reinforce the state by knowing how to look after their child the most in a family setting. As the state says living with the birth parents is the best place for a child and if this cannot happen a child should be placed with a permanent family as soon as possible as the child??™s attachment is important especially at a young age. The act also states that the child has the right to be protected from ???significant harm??™ and they should be removed from their carer if they are being harmed.
If a child is seen as being at harm the family home is still seen as the best place for them with extra support given if they needed it after being assessed. In 1999 the Protection of children act was created, this act made sure that anyone working with children had to have a Criminal Records Bureau certificate, which needed to be renewed every couple of years, in order to make sure that no paedophiles where working with children in childcare and educational settings. A year later in 2000 was the death of Victoria Climbie, she had been beaten and neglected for months by her Aunts boyfriend which showed that children were still being failed to be protected. Then followed The Every Child Matters government green paper which was published in 2003, which set out to improve services that worked with children and families. The Every Child Matters paper was a backing paper for the soon to follow Children Act 2004, which was also followed up with The Every Child Matters act: Change for children 2005. There were 108 changes made to help safeguard children as the Every Child Matters paper came out after the death of Victoria Climbie, to make sure this was prevented from happening again to another child.
The Every Child Matters paper had five main elements, which included being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving well-being. The Every Child Matters paper suggested a link between family support and child protection and improving the system so that information is shared by setting up a database where all the children being abused could be tracked by the agencies and therefore the child will be known by more than one agency and will be watched over carefully. The Children act 2004 seen children as the future and stated that they should be given the best start in life so recommended placing a selection of agencies in the same building so that they will be able to coordinate with each other easily and provide children with all the services they need.
In August 2007 Baby Peter (Known then as Baby P for confidential reasons) died from being neglected and beaten by his mother??™s boyfriend. The Children??™s secutary, Ed Balls stated ???Failure to identify children and young people at risk of immediate harm, lack of coordination between agencies and poor sharing of information.??? (Carvel, 2008, The Guardian) This showed that the system was still failing to protect children after all this time and after all had been done to try and change the ways of agencies communicated with each other. The government and policy makers were so disgusted that Baby P??™s social worker was dismissed from her job and some of the other agency workers resigned after finding out that Baby P had died.
To conclude the acts and policies put in place to try and change the way the agencies work together and communicate have improved the system slightly but it has not tackled the issue of child abuse and protecting children at risk of harm as children are still being abused today. There is not enough being done by the agencies when they have seen children in hospital as a result of abuse and social workers have visited children at home and seen the injured they have because of abuse but they still think it is right to keep the children at home with their parents, in order to prevent breaking an attachment. It is clear to see that children being abused should be taken away from the people that are abusing them in order to keep them safe and away from harm. A child??™s life is more important that their attachments with their parents if all their parents do is abuse them and don??™t show them any affection and love. Therefore the system is still failing by keeping these children at home when they are being harmed as they are not protection them from abuse and children are still being killed because of this reason today.Bibliography
Corby, B (2006) Child Abuse Towards a Knowledge Base, Open University Press, Buckingham
DfES (2006) Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter- Agency Working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, the Stationery Office, LondonFerguson, H (2004) Protecting children in time: Child abuse, child protection and the consequences of modernity. Palgrave Macmillan, United Kingdom.Ingleby Report (1960) Report of the Committee on Children and Young Persons. Cmnd 1191. HMSO, London.James. A, Wilson. K (2007) The child protection handbook, Bailliere Tindall, London. NSPCC, 2009., N. (2006) Safeguarding Childhood, Palgrave New York.