Supporting Families

By Ruth Gardner
John Wiley and Sons
ISBN 0 471 49970 6

Ruth Gardner’s important study examines NSPCC projects to
prevent children coming to harm and to promote the strengths of
family members. She shows that, at least in the short-term, these
objectives are being met. Credit is given to project staff who
enable children to improve their social skills, who help parents to
address their parenting difficulties and who speedily make
referrals to specialist agencies.

The families in the study who did cope often received neighbourhood
help from sources such as relatives, friends and youth clubs.
Perhaps, in future research, Gardner can concentrate on locally run
projects which involve the same kind of families as those who
attend the NSPCC national projects but who come not through a
referral system but of their own accord as local residents.

Gardner points out that the Seebohm report – which is misdated
throughout this volume as 1972 instead of 1968 – made the classic
case for prevention. Yet today, she explains, “the predominance of
protection has continued”. She argues strongly that prevention and
child protection are part of the same continuum and should be taken
seriously by the voluntary and state sectors.

Bob Holman is the author of Champions for Children. The
Lives of Modern Child Care Pioneers
, (Policy Press,

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