Behind the headlines

Last week a leading academic claimed the well-being of children
might be suffering because of an over-emphasis on protecting them.
Jonathan Bradshaw of York University criticised the mothballing of
plans by the former Children and Young People’s Unit to survey
children on how they feel about their lives. He said such research
should be a national priority and called for subjective measures of
poverty to be included in the government’s new definition of child
poverty, including a measure of absolute low income, relative low
income and material deprivation.

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Victim, villain or risky investment? Government policy towards
children and young people is chameleon-like, changing its colours
to suit the mood. It will only gain coherence and integrity when
established within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child. And, within the convention, participation is the
keystone. Without the participation of children and young people in
the promotion of all their rights to a good childhood, none will be
achieved effectively.”

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Centre for
Health Services Management, University of Birmingham

“The demise of the Children and Young People’s Unit is worrying.
The unpublished survey led to the articulation of the five key
outcomes said to underlie the children’s green paper. But, without
the publication of the full survey, these seem vague and
disconnected from the drive for structural reform. In the meantime,
the new Children and Young People’s Directorate is cutting the
budget of the Children’s Fund. There is a danger here that
resources gravitate towards child protection and youth

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and

“The government is right to place a high priority on child
protection, but this should not be the only response to children’s
issues. It is important to understand and deal with some of the
underlying causes of abuse, which can include poverty. Until we get
a clear and co-ordinated approach to child welfare we will not
succeed in meeting the challenges of protecting children.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“The well-being of children and young people should not be seen as
separate from the general duty on local authorities and NHS bodies
to take account and promote health and well-being. The integration
proposals for children’s services will help to bring a better
balance to our policies and how we implement them. We can afford to
be optimistic about this major opportunity to mainstream services
for vulnerable children into the universal services.”

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist and

“It is misguided to pitch the well-being of children against the
serious abuse suffered by so many of them. Of course it is
important that all of us should promote the care of all children,
particularly those brought up in low-income, no-hope families. The
government must not neglect this area. But child abuse must remain
the priority because it destroys the victims and often there is no
recourse. The hysteria over cot deaths, with the focus entirely on
parents’ rights is likely to lead to dangerously less protection
for vulnerable children.”

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