Experts plead for financial backing to build on Children Act’s potential

The Children Bill became law this week as experts warned the
government to throw its full financial weight behind the measures
contained in it.

“A fundamental weakness of the Children Act 1989 was the failure
to resource its implications properly,” said John Coughlan,
co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services
children and families committee. “We think the same could happen to
this piece of legislation.”

Widely accepted as the most significant piece of legislation for
children for 15 years, the new act’s focus on outcomes for
children has been praised. Coughlan said this had “renewed the
impetus about putting children at the heart of the agenda”.

But he urged the government to acknowledge that many local
authorities were already funding children’s services above
government expectations. There would also be additional costs
associated with implementing the act.

Nigel Parton, director of the centre of applied childhood
studies at the University of Huddersfield, said the new act was
potentially even more important than the previous one as it would
contribute to the reconfiguring of departments and to new
information-gathering and sharing systems.

But he warned there was more dissent this time round. “I
don’t think we’ve got everybody on board clapping their
hands at the birth like we had 15 years ago.”

Parton highlighted the cost implications for local authorities
now responsible to every child in their borough, not just those in
need. “The capacity for admission has widened to potentially
include every child,” he said.

Lisa Payne, principal policy officer at the National
Children’s Bureau, praised the act’s push towards
partnership and wider integration of services, but criticised the
lack of detail and “woolly wording”.

She said the 1989 act had been an attempt to support children
and families, but its child protection element had taken

“The new act is almost trying to make what we wanted to happen
then happen today,” she said. “But this is going to be

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