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Child Abuse Review Vol. 16: 205–208 (2007)
Published online in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/car.994
Policies and
David Gough and
Nicky Stanley
olicy making has been defined as ‘the process by which
governments translate their political vision into programmes
and actions to deliver outcomes—desired changes in the real world’
(Cabinet Office, 1999).
What has been the political vision that over the last 40 years has
produced a plethora of policies and procedures in child protection
across the world? A major influence has been greater concern
for children’s rights and awareness of how these are frequently
violently and fatally infringed. Another key influence has been
political pressure from cases where children known to services as
being at risk have died or where service intervention has touched
concerns over parental rights. The policy makers have walked a
tightrope between preventing abuse of children while defending the
family against intrusion from the state.
Developing broad based approaches where there is a lower
threshold for child protection involvement may leave agencies open
to more criticism for policy failures. Whatever the system, there will
be some cases where children are still killed by their parents. The
broader the system and the greater the number of child protection
cases known to a service, the more likely services are to have prior
knowledge of families where deaths occur and so will be more
open to criticism for not preventing these. The cases creating such
political pressure may not be typical or may not represent a good
basis for planning service provision (Stanley and Manthorpe, 2004),
but in the UK such cases have led to a major investment in central
So, how do these policies measure up against government ideals
for policy development and implementation? The UK government
Cabinet Office’s paper on policy development (Bullock et al., 2001)
stated that policy making should clearly define the outcomes it aims
to achieve. Policies should be inclusive and take account of their
impact on all people directly or indirectly affected; for example,
those responsible for service delivery and those on the receiving
end of the policy should be consulted.
The policy-making process should be holistic and this can be
achieved though cross-cutting objectives and implementation strategies including ways of working across departments’ strategies to
overcome potential barriers to joined-up work (Bullock et al., 2001).
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
ideals for policy
development and
Child Abuse Review Vol. 16: 205–208 (2007)
DOI: 10.1002/car
‘How policies
and procedures to
protect children
from abuse are
being implemented
in practice in
the UK’
‘A potentially good
policy development
lacked an ongoing
implementation and
evaluation strategy’
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Polices should be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are meeting their objectives and be modified or curtailed if they are not doing
so. Evaluation should be built into the policy-making process and
should employ clear criteria for success (Bullock et al., 2001).
These ideals for policy formulation, implementation and review
provide an appropriate context for the five papers in this issue of
Child Abuse Review. All these papers consider how policies and
procedures to protect children from abuse are being implemented
in practice in the UK.
The first paper by Bell and Skinner examines the functioning
of new safeguarding boards in Scotland. These boards provide a
forum for developing local strategies to fit into the wider national
policies and procedures developed in Edinburgh and London. The
authors report that the boards are successful in developing policies,
procedures and training resources, although the process is dominated by lead agencies such as social work. The boards may aim to
be inclusive but in practice do not engage fully with all agencies
and disciplines or with front-line practice. Bell and Skinner argue
that the boards should not only focus on structures but also on implementation of authority, trust and negotiation of joint working.
The paper by Kay and colleagues also comes from Scotland and
evaluates the implementation of a system of safeguards for staff
recruitment in residential childcare. Although a detailed toolkit to
enable safe recruitment has been developed by government and
circulated widely, this advice has not always been applied rigorously. Most effort has gone towards identifying those who had
behaved inappropriately in the past and less effort has been invested
in seeking ways to recruit the best people and in developing strategies to provide high-quality care and safe environments. The study
provides a basis for developing the toolkit, examining the barriers
to its use and how it does and does not fit into local recruitment
policies and practices and into wider contexts of safe-nurturing
environments for children and young people.
In a very different context, Hartill and Prescott discuss the lack
of systems and structures for implementation of child protection
policies in Rugby League. The national organisations have developed a policy but this has not been communicated or implemented
with staff, parents or children and young people in local clubs. Some
respondents to Hartill and Prescott’s survey stated that they had not
previously recognised the relevance of safeguarding policies for
their work but aspects of the policy had raised their awareness in
ways they had not predicted. If these policies had been more broadly
introduced and fully communicated within the clubs then maybe
there would have been even greater changes in attitudes and awareness of child protection issues in the sport. The study provides another example of how a potentially good policy development lacked
an ongoing implementation and evaluation strategy.
Child Abuse Review Vol. 16: 205–208 (2007)
DOI: 10.1002/car
The paper by Bunting looks at professional practice in response
to cases of convicted female sexual offenders. The emphasis in this
paper is on the differential implementation of policies and practices
arising from the low frequency of such cases compared to those with
male offenders and common assumptions about female sexual
offenders. It may be that female offenders are a special case and
need specific polices and procedures or there should be more consistent implementation of current policies. This study reminds us
that a ‘one size-fits-all’ policy rarely works in the field of child protection and that policies need to be sufficiently flexible in their form
and operation to respond to the multiplicity of experience as well
as new developments in knowledge and understanding.
The final example of policy implementation is the Short
Report by Afza, Wardle and Light on general practitioners’ lack of
knowledge and training in child protection. A wealth of multidisciplinary policies and procedures is distributed to general practitioners but these are not well known and understood by many
family doctors and there is little uptake of the training opportunities
available. As the authors comment, this may not be surprising
when the doctors are unlikely to encounter many child protection
cases and have less direct involvement with the child protection
process than other professionals such as health visitors. Afza and
colleagues suggest therefore that the policies should be directed
at the primary care team as a whole rather than at doctors. The positive finding of this study is that it came about because of the
requirement of National Health Service organisations to audit the
quality of their child protection arrangements and to make recommendations for action. It is an example of implementation checks
being built into a policy.
All the papers in this issue concerned with policy implementation are from the UK which has a particularly developed policy
framework. Some of this development is due to concern about
the lack of earlier policy implementation with some elements of
the recent Children Act in England and Wales (2004) attempting
to ensure that the multi-professional co-operation advocated in
the Children Act, 1989, is achieved. Despite this, the papers in
this issue show that there are still many barriers to full policy
implementation. The aim that all policies should include implementation and audit (Bullock et al., 2001) is to be welcomed as an
aspiration but this policy itself may need to be better implemented
and audited.
‘A “one size-fits-all”
policy rarely works
in the field of child
‘Audit the quality
of their child
and to make
for action’
Bullock H, Mountford J, Stanley R. 2001. Better Policy-Making. Centre for
Management and Policy Studies Cabinet Office: London.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Child Abuse Review Vol. 16: 205–208 (2007)
DOI: 10.1002/car
Cabinet Office. 1999. Modernising Government White Paper, Cm 4310. The
Stationery Office: London.
Children Act 1989. HMSO: London.
Children Act 2004. The Stationery Office: London.
Stanley N, Manthorpe J. 2004. Introduction: the Janus Gaze of inquiries (2004).
In The Age of the Inquiry: Learning and Blaming in Health and Social Care,
Stanley N, Manthorpe J (eds). Routledge: London.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Child Abuse Review Vol. 16: 205–208 (2007)
DOI: 10.1002/car
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