The Every Child Matters policy came about as a response to the death of Victoria Climbie. Victoria was a young girl who was neglected, abused and tortured by her guardians. The people and organisations who came into contact with her such as social services, police and NHS did not do enough to protect her. Her death, and the failures and circumstances surrounding it, caused a public outcry. This led to a public enquiry which in turn produced major changes to child protection policies in the UK.
Who Did the Policy Apply To?
The policy applied to every child from birth until the age of 19. It listed 5 key principles which all children should have rights to. These were to:
- be healthy
- stay safe
- enjoy and achieve
- make a positive contribution
- achieve economic well-being
Anyone who worked in any capacity with children had to adhere to the policy. The purpose of the policy was to ensure that these five principles were at the heart of all interaction with children to ensure that children were safe and given the best chances in life.
In 2010 the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition moved away from the Every Child Matters policy. This Government put the emphasis on health visitors and social workers to carry out health checks at the child’s home. Under the 2010 government the terminology also changed. Anyone now working with children will be familiar with the term, ‘safeguarding’.
Currently, all organisations that work with or come into contact with children must have safeguarding policies and procedures to make sure every child, regardless of whether they are considered vulnerable or not, their age, gender, religion or ethnicity, are protected from harm. Current guidance and legislation apply to all children up to the age of 18.
For most parents, their children are loved and cherished. But sadly enough, some children are not so fortunate. Some children’s lives are dreadfully different. Instead of warmth and security of normal family life, these children’s lives are filled with risk, fear and danger. Victoria Climbie was one of these children. At the hands of those entrusted with her care, she suffered appallingly and eventually died. In this essay, the author will be discussing this issue further and why it was seen as the underlying social problem. Every child maters is a new labour government policy that was published alongside a detailed response to lord laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbie. For the purpose of this essay, The author will be looking at the Laming’s report and identify the key findings of what went wrong which was the main driver for change. I will then look at what the government has done following the recommendations presented in the Laming Report. This essay will be describing the context of the Every Child Matters policy. In order to effectively do this, the author will be looking at the aim of the policy. I will also be assessing the influence of political ideology utilising theoretical framework. Finally I will be discussing the issue pertaining to the nature and implematation of Every Child Matters how the policy was implemented, and the effect of the policy.
The welfare of children in the United Kingdom is one of the most important items for the government in terms of social policy. (Ellison & Pierson, 1998). Every Child Matters was produced by the new labour government, Some of the influences of ideologies for change are; new labour government’s focus on inequalities, parental fury and the response from lord laming’s report.
According to Heywood (1998), “ideology is a more or less coherent set of ideas that provides the basis for some kind of organised political action. All ideologies offer an account of the existing order (usually in the form of a word view), provide the model of a desired future (a vision of the good society) and outline how political change can and should be brought about.”
The Liberal ideology stands for the freedom of the individual to pursue happiness and well being at whatever costs necessary, which is also known as individualism. Broadly speaking, it emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Modern liberalism has its roots in the Age of Enlightenment. Liberalism today is located at the centre left and centre right of the ideological spectrum. Liberalism is the belief that we are free to make our own mistakes, decide our own lifestyle, choose our own way of living, pursue our own thoughts and philosophies, provided we don’t infringe on other people’s freedom.
Every Child Matters policy fits with the labour ideologies because it aims to give every child the chance to fulfill their potential thereby promoting equality and opportunity among children and young people. The Labour government opposed monarchism, inherited privilege and believes in everyone having equality in opportunity.
These ideas emerged from the revolutionary and Enlightenment periods, where uprisings against authoritarian religious states were evolving. John Locke and John Stuart Mill were two prominent thinkers that originally legitimized these notions prior to their widespread appeal and success. It did not take long, however, for these values to flourish, especially among individuals of societies emerging from an era of distinct oppression
National Service Framework (NSF) is the key conduit for the philosophies of the Every Child Matter green paper.
Victoria Climbie died in February 2000, at the hands of those entrusted with her care; she suffered appallingly and eventually died. Her case was a shocking example from a list of children terribly mistreated and abused. Her carers were later convicted of murder. This was one of the cases of child abuse which have exposed the weaknesses of the UK’s social services departments, and communications failures between the agencies involved. According to Blair as cited in Every Child Matters Summary(2003 p5), “The fact that a child like Victoria Climbie can still suffer almost unimaginable cruelty to the point of eventually losing her young life. More can and must be done”.
The most disturbing reality about the case of Victoria Climbié was that her death could have been prevented, she was known to several agencies empowered by Parliament to protect children. This led to the conclusion that her suffering and death was due to gross failure of the system. In April 2001 Lord Lamming was appointed head of the inquiry, along with four other professionals. It was found that her death was preventable on twelve separate occasions. Lamming found that services were not cooperating with each other and had difficulties due to staffing levels and resources. “The death of Victoria Climbie exposed shameful failing to protect the most vulnerable children. Social services, the police and the NHS failed as Lord Laming’s report into Victoria’s death made clear, to do the basic things well to protect her” (Every Child Matters 2003 p3).
The Laming report concluded that the child protection system failed as a result of a lamentable lack of basic good practice by frontline staff and, most significantly, senior managers failing to take responsibility for the failings of organisation. (Laming 2003).
The inquiry was responded to by a range of measures to inform and improve children’s care. In 2003, Every Child Matters was published alongside a detailed response to Lord Laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbie. The policy aims to ensure that every child has the chance to fulfil their potential by reducing levels of educational failure, ill health, substance misuse, teenage pregnancy, neglect and abuse, anti-social behaviour and crime among children and young people.
According to Lord laming, Victoria Climbe came into contact with several agencies, none of which acted on the warning signs. No one built up the full picture of her interactions with different services. The Every Child Matter green paper sets out the long term vision for earlier intervention and effective protection by focusing on improving information sharing between agencies,
The Every child matters policy was built on existing plans to strengthen preventative services by focusing on four key themes. Firstly, to increase focus on supporting families and carers, the most critical influence of children’s lives, The policy aim to improve parenting and family support through universal services such as schools, health and social services, also through targeted and specialist support to parent of children requiring additional support. Another key theme is the early intervention and effective protection; this is to ensure children receive services at the first onset on problems and to prevent any children from slipping thorough the net. This is done by improving information sharing between agencies, integrating professionals through multi- disciplinary teams responsible for identifying children at risk and also ensuring effective child protection procedures are kept in place.
The third key theme was addressing the underlying problems identified in the report into the death of Victoria Climbié; weak accountability and poor integration. According to Every Child Matters summary pg9, “Radical reforms is needed to break down organisational boundaries”. The government’s aim is that there should be one person in charge locally and nationally with the responsibility for improving children’s lives.
The fourth theme is the workforce reform, this is to ensure that people working with children are valued, rewarded and trained. It aims is to make working with children an attractive, high status career and to develop a more skilled and flexible workforce, including a common core of training for those who work solely with children and families and those who have wider roles to develop a more consistent approach to children’s and families’ needs.
“One very clear message emerges from the evidence we have received: there is almost universal support for the basic aims of Every Child Matters. We agree with witnesses—and therefore think it fitting to state at the outset—that the Government deserves substantial praise for embarking on such an ambitious and comprehensive programme of reform” (The United Kingdom Parliament, 2005).
Overall, the policy has been mostly welcomed by those working with children. Many dedicated staff work flat out to improve the lives and health of children. One of the intended consequences of the policy is the development of the framework for social work training. The two-year Diploma has now been replaced with a three-year degree. The degree was introduced to encompass greater practical experience and to improve the skills base and competence of newly qualified social workers. According to the Chief Executive of the General Social Care Council (GSCC), Lynne Berry, “good quality service starts with good quality training. The GSCC are working with universities to ensure that tomorrow’s social workers are clear about the standards they are expected to meet, inspire public confidence in social care and are able to work successfully with colleagues from other professions. The new degree will ensure that newly qualified social workers have all the skills they need to begin successful careers” (GSCC, 2003).
According to Campbell (2007), A spokesman from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which is responsible for child welfare, said: ‘In response to the Victoria Climbie inquiry, we have substantially strengthened the framework of law, guidance and supporting systems to help keep children safe, and that work is continuing. Tragically we know some children still suffer abuse and neglect.
Despite the universal support for the basic aims of Every Child Matters, there are still children that slip through the net. The horrific list of children killed by their parents or relatives includes ten months old Neo Craig aged who lay dead for several hours before emergency crews were called to Rush Green Gardens in Romford, Essex, in December 2006. James Craig, 26, and Sharma Dookhooah, 25, were each jailed for five years after admitting causing or allowing the death of their 10-month-old son Neo. The Old Bailey trial heard that there had been a series of failings by police, doctors and social workers who knew about the boy’s ‘derelict’ home life but did not intervene, despite a number of warnings”.
In May 2007, one -month- old Luigi Askew was beaten to death by his violent father. Social workers and police were accused of disastrous failures after he was left at the mercy of his violent father Duncan Mills, who was convicted of murder at Ipswich crown court.
Slack and Doughty (2008) reported that, “one child a week is a victim of murder or manslaughter, in a single year, the number of under-tens killed went up 30 per cent form 38 to 49, according to latest government figure”. The figure from the year to 2006- 2007, the latest available, emerged as the mother of Victoria Climbie, who was murdered in 2000, said she was shocked that lessons from the case have still not been learned. According to the report, “Apparent or disguised cooperation from parents often prevented or delayed understanding of the severity of harm to the child and cases drifted”. Social workers were often conned by parents thereby, children went unseen and unheard.
According to the Palmer (2007), “the overall poverty levels in 2005/06 were the same as they were in 2002/03. Child poverty in 2005/06 was still 500,000 higher than the target set for 2004/05”.
In conclusion, Victoria Climbie’s death was seen as a ‘wake up call’ for practitioners and professionals who are supposed to be safeguarding and protecting children’s welfare. Every Child Matters constituted the Government’s policy response to the findings and recommendations of Lord Laming’s Inquiry.
Campbell, D. (2007) Health Correspondent, Doctors ‘failing to spot child abuse. The Observer, Nov 11, p.18.
Ellison, N. & Pierson, C. (1998) British Social Policy. Macmillan: London
Every Child Matters Summary (2003) Department Of Health, London, The Stationary Office Ltd
General Social Care Council (25/09/03), First students start new social work degree [online]
Available at: <http://www.gscc.org.uk/News+and+events/Media+releases/2003+archive/First+students+
start+new+social+work+degree.htm> [Accessed: 10/05/08]
Laming, H (2003), Victoria Climbié Inquiry, London: Stationery Office
Heywood, A. (1998) Political Ideologies an Introduction, 2nd edition, London: The Macmillan Press Ltd.
Palmer, G, MacInnes, T. and Kenway, P. (2007) monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2007. Joseph Rowntree foundation: York
Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills, and Home Office (2003) Keeping Children safe. The Government’s Response to the Victoria
Climbié Inquiry Report and Joint Chief Inspectors’ Report Safeguarding Children [online]
Available at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/_files/684162953674A15196BB5221973959E3.pdf [Accessed 21 May 2008]
Slack, J. and Doughty, S. (2008) one child under 10 every week becomes the victim of a killer. Daily Mail, May 29, p.19.
The United Kingdom Parliament. (2005), House of Commons, Education and Skills – Ninth Report [online]
Available from: <http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmeduski/40/4005.htm>.Accessed: [29 May 2008]