Children's Services a the Crossroads- A critical evaluation of contemporary policy for practice

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Edited by Patrick Ayre and Michael Preston-Shoot

Large format paperback 144 pages

Published June 2010

In response to widespread and persistent concern over the ability of social services to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children, UK governments have in recent years introduced some of the most far reaching changes ever encountered in this field.

However, this book argues that - in England especially - despite the best intentions of those driving these changes forward, the approaches to reform have substantially diminished the capability of children's social services to respond effectively to the complex challenges which they face.

In this book, leading authors in the field of social work explore the impact of the reform agenda on key areas of children's services practice, including child safeguarding, youth offending , children in care, family support, ethical practice and child welfare law.

They describe an oppressive, managerialist environment within which:

  • process and procedures are prioritised over outcomes and objectives
  • targets and indicators are prioritised over values and professional standards
  • compliance and completion are prioritised over analysis and reflection

Key themes include

  • failures of analysis
  • lack of effective engagement with research
  • the proceduralisation, technicalisation and deprofessionalisation of the social work task

Separate sections cover, the policy context, client group issues and research evidence on services.
Chapters include:

  • the understanding systemic caseworker: the (changing) nature and meanings of working with children and families
  • the deprofessionalisation of child protection: regaining our bearings
  • New Labour and your justice: what works or what's counted
  • inadmissible evidence? New Labour and the education of children in care
  • managerialism: at the tiping point?
  • technology as magic: fetish and folly in the IT-enabled reform of children's services
  • playing with fire or rediscovering fire? The perils and potential for eveidence based practice in chold and family social work
  • for my next trick: Illusion in children's social policy and practice

This book argues that effective practice requires research-informed, reflective, confident and critically-challenging practitioners supported by management systems which promote rather than undermine their effectiveness.

Learning on more positive developments elsewhere in the UK, it challenges ministers and senior managers to commit to the significant change of direction, both practical and conceptual, which is required if children's services are to escape from the vicious spiral of declining performance into which they are currently in danger of descending


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