Archive for the 'Young People and Families' Category

Blinded by science: when biology meets policy

Sue White and David Wastell, authors of Blinded by science out today, explain the rise of neuroscience and genetics and their influence and impact on social policy.

David Wastell

Sue White

“Biological sciences, particularly neuroscience and genomics, are currently in the ascent. These new ‘techno-sciences’ are increasingly seen to promise a theory of everything in the psychosocial realm.

Social policy has not been slow to conscript technological biology, and is making significant use of neuroscientific evidence to support particular claims about both the soaring potentialities and irreversible vulnerabilities of early childhood, and the proper responses of the state.

The far reaching implications of epigenetics

The last decades have also seen a profound shift in our understanding of biological processes and life itself.

Whereas genetics has conventionally focused on examining the DNA sequence (the genotype), the burgeoning field of epigenetics examines additional mechanisms for modifying gene expression in manifest behaviours, physical features, health status and so on (the phenotype).

It provides a conduit mediating the interaction of the environment on an otherwise immutable DNA blueprint, and invites a natural interest in the impact of adverse conditions, such as deprivation or ‘suboptimal’ parenting. The implications of this for social policy are far reaching.

Continue reading ‘Blinded by science: when biology meets policy’

Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book

Ray

Ray Jones

As part of our focus on impact for Academic Book Week, author Ray Jones talks about the terrible and tragic death of Peter Connelly, the devastating fallout for the social work profession, and how his book, The Story of Baby P, has made a difference.

The terrible and tragic death of 17 month old Peter Connelly in Haringey, North London, in August 2007 became a major media story in November 2008 when his mother and two men were found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ Peter’s death.

To avoid prejudicing a further trial, when one of the men was convicted of raping a little girl, the media was not allowed to publish Peter’s real name so he became known as ‘Baby P’. The press, politicians and police worked together on shaping the ‘Baby P story’ so that it targeted social workers and their managers who were described by The Sun newspaper as having ‘blood on their hands’.

The police and health services faded unseen and uncriticised to the margins of the media coverage, although it is now known that there were significant failings and omissions in their contacts with the Connelly family.

‘A campaign for justice’

It was The Sun newspaper and its editor, Rebekah Brooks, who had full page ‘Baby P’ stories day-after-day as she ran ‘a campaign for justice’ demanding the sackings of the social workers, their managers and, in particular, Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s director of children’s services.

“A shameful and sordid bullying use of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid power.”

Continue reading ‘Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book’

5 free articles all about mum #MothersDay

Springtime flowers Credit: Pixabay

Springtime flowers Credit: Pixabay

Mother’s Day is one of those beautiful first signs of spring and the one day in the year when the focus is supposed to be on mum.

Over at Policy Press however, we’re thinking about mum all year round and in our journal Families, Relationships and Societies we’re writing about her too.

We’ve picked a posy of five fabulous articles looking at how mothers navigate work and mothering, their aspirations for their children’s happiness, the mother daughter relationship in terms of sexuality and fashion and what buying second hand goods for children says about mum…. Continue reading ‘5 free articles all about mum #MothersDay’

Does child protection need a rethink?

David N Jones and Maggie Blyth are Independent chairs of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) and David Jones is also chair of the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs. In today’s post they explain why the review of local safeguarding children boards is an opportunity to improve accountability of schools, health and social care and police.

This was originally posted on the Guardian site Wednesday 13th January. To see the original post click here.

Maggie Blyth

Maggie Blyth

David Jones

David Jones

Buried in the prime minister’s December announcement about improving children’s services was a review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs), which coordinate child protection in England.

This is the first stocktake of these arrangements since the battered baby syndrome guidance was first issued in 1970. This review, undertaken by former director of children’s services, Alan Wood is hugely significant, with enormous implications for the protection of children. Continue reading ‘Does child protection need a rethink?’

How the Conservatives are ‘strengthening’ child poverty measures in the UK

Today’s guest blogger Fran Bennett, from the University of Oxford, is chair of the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. She discusses how the government intends to change the measurement of child poverty in the UK.

csm_Fran_Bennett_69933b0e83On 1 July the Government announced that it was going to ‘strengthen’ the child poverty measure.

From the statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, it is clear that the current range of child poverty measures, and accompanying targets, in the Child Poverty Act 2010 will be replaced by a statutory responsibility to report on only two measures: the proportion of children living in households that are workless, and long-term workless; and educational attainment at age 16 for all pupils and the most disadvantaged.

‘root causes’ of child poverty

The government will also develop other measures and indicators of what the Secretary of State calls the ‘root causes’ of child poverty to underpin a strategy on children’s life chances. It is unclear to what extent, if at all, poverty in work will feature, despite the fact that well over half (in fact, some two-thirds) of children living in households in poverty have at least one parent in work.

“…worklessness, educational failure, debt, drug and alcohol addiction and family breakdown, [are] repeatedly identified as causes of poverty”

The duties and provisions of the Child Poverty Act will also be repealed. And ‘child poverty’ will be dropped from the remit of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

This story goes back several years. Iain Duncan Smith came into office under the 2010-15 coalition government committed to the Centre for Social Justice analysis  highlighting worklessness, educational failure, debt, drug and alcohol addiction and family breakdown, and has repeatedly identified these as causes of poverty since then.

 

The consultation document on changing the child poverty measure in 2012 also hinted that these might be integrated into it. Many academics, NGOs and others responded to the consultation, with a large number of critical responses (for example, from the Poverty and Social Exclusion group of academics).

The Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto repeated a similar list of ‘root causes’ of poverty and said that better measures of child poverty would be introduced to drive change, by ‘recognizing’ these. There were rumours that the Treasury had blocked the proposed new child poverty measure not on principle but because it was unclear how to measure some elements. What seems to have happened now is that the DWP is going ahead with the feasible elements, pending more work on others.

“But with any poverty line, people on one side or the other will not have vastly different lives”

Opposition within the government also seems to have hardened to the relative income measure of poverty (60 per cent of median disposable equivalized household income). The Child Poverty Act in fact also contains complementary measures, including a fixed income poverty line rising with prices (confusingly labelled ‘absolute’); and a combination of relative low income and material deprivation. Persistent poverty and extreme low income and deprivation combined were added later. But the headline measure – used internationally, including in comparisons across the European Union) – is 60 per cent of median contemporary income.

Criticism

Indeed, before the 2010 election it was made clear by the Conservatives that they acknowledged and would act on relative poverty when David Cameron recognised it. Yet this is the measure now criticized by ministers. First, they argue that movements in the pension or overall income affect child poverty numbers. But this must be the case for a measure depending on median income, because it is about falling behind typical incomes. The existence of several measures in the 2010 Act is then valuable, in that we can also assess if more children are suffering material deprivation or living on an income fixed in relation to prices.

Secondly, ministers label the poverty line as arbitrary. But with any poverty line, people on one side or the other will not have vastly different lives. If we try to identify those in poverty, we need some dividing line. We can argue about whether 60 per cent of median income is the best, and there are currently explorations in Europe to find minimum budget levels; but this does not obviate the need.

Thirdly, ministers argue relative income is too narrow – more income does not transform lives. This takes no account of the evidence of improvements in children’s lives when real incomes have increased, as in this review, for example. And it belies what must be the core of any poverty measure: having insufficient resources to participate fully in the society in which one lives.

“As Ruth Lister argues, children are human beings, not human becomings”

This is the key problem with this redefinition of the child poverty measure. Because of a desire to incorporate certain supposed causes / consequences / correlates, it neglects the need for a focus on the essential factor distinguishing poverty from other conditions. Including all possible dimensions that may (or may not) be associated with poverty in a measure merely leads to confusion. As we know from the media, family breakdown or drug addiction, for example, may affect many families who live well above the poverty line.

This confusion arises from ministers’ real concern not being with child poverty in the here and now, but instead with two other issues. The first is social mobility, or life chances: the extent to which current circumstances dictate future outcomes. This is important. But it is not the same as child poverty. As Ruth Lister argues, children are human beings, not human becomings. And it is much harder to create equal opportunities for the future if poverty is not tackled in the present.

The second concern is ‘social justice’, which to the current government appears to have the limited meaning of a focus on the ‘most disadvantaged’. Indeed, the five causes of poverty cited by ministers were originally seen as markers of an ‘emerging underclass’. This tends to suggest that attention on a small group with multiple difficulties will solve the problem.

Ministers previously suggested that income is only one dimension of poverty. At least the government has undertaken to continue to publish Households Below Average Income each year, so that we will be able to track annually how many people live in households on under average (median) household income – including those below the various thresholds we now use as poverty lines, as described above. But the government now appears to have abandoned income as a measure completely, along with any targets to monitor progress towards eliminating child poverty.

JPSJ 2015 [FC] for e-marketingThe Journal of Poverty and Social Justice provides a unique blend of high-quality research, policy and practice from leading authors in the field related to all aspects of poverty and social exclusion.

Please see the latest issue here.

If you’d like to receive updates you can sign up for table of contents e-alerts at www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/jpsj, simply click on “Receive New Issue Alert”

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The politics of emotion: What we can learn from responses to child abuse and social work

In this blog post (originally posted on Discover Society, February 01, 2015), Senior Social Work Lecturer Jo Warner (University of Kent) discusses the political and social impact of media responses to child abuse.

WARNER_JoDS

Jo Warner, Social Work Lecturer

For some 40 years, responses to the deaths of children from abuse and neglect have been characterised by increasing levels of anger and hostility towards the social workers involved.

In the UK, this hostility reached its zenith in late 2008 with political, media and public responses to the death of Peter Connelly (‘Baby P’). When The Sun newspaper declared ‘Blood on their hands’ on its front page of 12th November 2008, it was not referring to Peter Connelly’s killers but to the professionals involved in the case. Wide-ranging reforms to social work followed and intense debate about the case continues. The ‘Baby P effect’ is reflected to some degree in the numbers of children in care, which have increased significantly since 2008 and are now at their highest level for twenty years. Continue reading ‘The politics of emotion: What we can learn from responses to child abuse and social work’

Food for thought for Father’s Day

Esther McDermott

Esther Dermott

Esther Dermott (University of Bristol) and Tina Miller (Oxford Brookes University) are the guest editors of a forthcoming special issue on contemporary fatherhood for Families, Relationships and Societies. A number of the articles from the issue have been made free in the lead up to Father’s Day in the UK.

From personalised beer to racing driver experiences – a full range of gender stereotypical presents are available branded as perfect for Father’s Day. So, it might be tempting to see the growth of Father’s Day in the UK (June 21st this year) as little more than another marketing opportunity; one that doesn’t say much about everyday fathering and certainly doesn’t give the impression that we have radically changed our ideas about fathers.

“men who are doing things differently have a higher profile”

Looking back over the last 40 years of research on fatherhood, there is evidence that things are different now. We can point out generational shifts in how men ‘do’ fatherhood; dads have substantially increased the amount of time they spend with their children and almost all now attend births and take time off work when a baby is born. It is also the case that men who are doing things differently have a higher profile, witness for example of blogs of stay-at-home dads and single fathers. And these changes are Continue reading ‘Food for thought for Father’s Day’


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