This essay will discuss the law and the government’s present policies relating to the issue of children’s rights and protection. Aspects of the law, which are passed by Parliament as legislations then have to be interpreted by the Local Authorities so they can formulate policies for those who work with children young people and families. The Children Act 1989 and Every Child Matters are two of many policies which have been introduced.
It will also look into how such regulations relate to working with children, young people and families. As well as looking at the development of government initiatives, it will also explore the importance of knowledge of the law to children, young people and families, as well as some key concepts of the law such as ‘best interest’ where those working in this area concentrate on the prime concerns of the child or young person.
The British government currently has a comprehensive child welfare system under which all local authorities have duties and responsibilities towards children and young people within their community of care, which is designed in a way that advises practice changes and sets the standards of which to follow (K218, Learning Guide 11, Section 3). Not only has this laid the foundations for many of the features which can be seen in current legislation today, it has also formed the progress of social values and the major influence of these upon society as a whole.
Therefore within early twentieth century welfare policy there has been a major change in the way in which the British government recognizes that the needs of children, young people and their families need to be addressed. So with this in mind, the British government have become increasingly aware of developing such policies that remain particularly focused upon areas that impact on the welfare of children, young people and their families. Therefore leading to the development of polices such as the Children Act of 1989 (K218, Learning Guide 11, Section 3), which provides a framework for all those who work with children and young people.
It has transformed the rights of children and young people within law as it has introduced new concepts relating to the responsibilities of adults and changed the structure and functioning of the courts. Therefore the authority should make enquiries that they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Thus it is vital that practitioners have basic knowledge of the Children Act 1989, to be able to safeguard themselves and children, young people and families that they work with. It is important for those who work with children and families to have a clear understanding of the difference between legislation (i. e. issued by the government) and interpretations of legislation (i. e. in the form of policies)” (K218,Learning guide 11, section 3). Without such knowledge practitioners are not able to challenge poor or even unlawful practice. If a practitioner has some knowledge of the law they are able to offer practical advice to those they work with as well as being aware of the legal options and consequences in each given situation, thus being able to work most effectively.
When working with children, young people and families the law will shape and control practice in different ways, to help do this, new policies have been put in place. To achieve this re-organization of all children services new initiatives were put in place with the hope that they would change the approach to ways of delivering front line services with in all child care services. One of the developments with in this area has been the creation of the Every Child Matters group of policy documents (Foley, 2011), which the government published in 2003.
This initiative was developed in response to the death of Victoria Climbie who was abused by her guardians in 2000, while she was under the care of many health care professionals. Thus these policies were designed with the main emphasis being the protection of all children and young people. However there has been some debate about whether the main duty is to the children and young people or to the family as a whole unit. Often whatever the problem is for the child is also the problem for the whole family.
Therefore multi agencies would have to become involved to provide the best outcome possible for the whole family but most importantly the outcome with the best interest for the children or young people. The agencies in partnership may include children’s centres, early years, schools, children’s social work services, primary and secondary health services, play workers, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS). A key part of this practice when working with children, young people and their families is to recognise that such issues may not only affect the child but also their family, whether directly or indirectly.
Therefore it is important to follow the key points of good practice. “Good practice can be developed and enhanced when we discuss values and value issues alongside knowledge’s with other practitioners and with children, young people and families” (K218, Learning Guide 7, section 9). As suggested by The Children’s Workforce and Development Council good practice should be developed in a way that improves the range of supportive services. This should be done in a way that identifies a family focused arrangement and one that offers support and develops improvements to multi agency working.
This integrated working practice is clearly identified as being extremely beneficial to the child’s or young person’s holistic welfare. As recommended by Lansdown (Lansdown, 2011) children and young people should have as many opportunities as possible to input their ideas based on the way they live as they will often see things in a different perspective from adults. Therefore the task of any child care practitioner is for him or her to remain child focused and supportive at all times whilst also responding to the appropriate beneficial interests of the child or young person.
It is important for children and young people to be able to access and gain knowledge of the law and their rights to enable them to contribute to any decision making to do with their own lives. There are advice agencies like ‘No Limits, Southampton’ (No Limits, 2012) who offer confidential information, advice, counselling, support and advocacy for children and young people. However it often comes down to the opinion of a barrister as to if the child or young person can fully understand the consequences, this can been seen in the case of Hannah Jones (K218, Learning Guide 11, section 5).
Furthermore, as discussed by Lansdown (Lansdown, 2011) promoting the rights of children is not about giving children or young people full control of their lives but accepting children and young people are entitled to be listened to and be taken seriously. However in some cases like the one of Jodie and Mary (K218, Learning guide 11, section 2), where the children are too young to be involved in life changing decision the courts will look at what is in the ‘best interest’ of the child or children involved.
This case shows how the law has to balance the different rights, wishes and best interests of both the adults and children with the family. In this case the courts took the rights and best interests of Jodie, enabling her to have a good quality of life over the rights of Mary, which would have resulted in both children having a limited life expectancy. This case also shows that the social policy and political views of the time enabled the courts to overrule the wishes of the parents and their rights to choose how to raise their children.
Sometimes parents believe they have the ‘right’ to see their children, however the concept in law of parental responsibility was introduce by the Children Act 1989. If families have a clearer understanding of the law it may ease the interaction between themselves and the statutory agencies such as social services and foster carers. Having some knowledge of the law can empower families and prevent them from feeling victimised, enabling parents to know where to get appropriate advice. It can be seen that “there is often conflict between what is best for an individual as opposed to what is best for society as a whole.
The law has an important part to play in balancing the rights of individuals and society” (learning guide 11, section 1). Each case has a different set of circumstances therefore what is in the best interest of one child or young person will not be the same for the next. “What is in the best interests of the child depends upon the individual and his or her circumstances” (K218, Learning guide 11, section 6). In the UK, The Children Acts state that the best place for a child to be raised is within their own family and the state must do all it can to support this.
However there may be circumstances where the best interest of the child may not be to stay within the family, therefore the courts will instruct other agencies to become involved. In conclusion, it can be seen that the British government have developed many policies that are focused upon areas that impact on the welfare of children, young people and their families. One of the main policies is the Children Act of 1989, which has led to a transformation of the rights of children and young people. It also focuses on the best interest of the child or young person therefore promoting their wellbeing.
As Lansdown suggests all children and young people should be involved, where possible, in any decisions to do with their lives. He also recommends that practitioners should remain child focused and act in the best interest of the child or young person. It is important for children, young people and families to be able to access and gain knowledge of the law to empower them and to contribute to any decision making to do with their own lives. Having the knowledge may also prevent them from feeling left out as well as easing the interactions between themselves and the authorities.