Within this assignment I am going to look at the Every Child Matters Green Paper and its relation to the Sure Start programme and whether it is meeting its aims and objectives in the services it provides. As the green paper addresses the notion of welfare I will look at in general for children and its relevance to the Sure Start programme and if it is adequate.

Victoria Climbie died in February 2000 at the hands of her carers. She suffered physical and mental harm and it was not understood as to why a little girl could go unnoticed. An inquiry was set up to determine how Victoria died. In April 2001 Lord Lamming was appointed head of the inquiry, along with four other professionals. During the inquiry Lamming came into contact with those who were involved in the services that Victoria came into contact with. It was found that her death was preventable on twelve separate occasions, so why wasn’t it? Lamming found that services were not co-operating with each other and had difficulties due to staffing levels and resources.

He looked at their statutory rights which they failed to deliver under certain acts. In a speech by Lord Lamming in January 2003 he says that “the staff involved in this work have to tread a careful line between respecting the rights of parents and acting to protect a child from harm”. (http://www.victoria-climbie-inquiry.org.uk/keydocuments/lordstate/htm) Lamming says that minor interventions could have had a major impact on Victoria. Certain services were using policies that dated the 1989 Children Act, this meant that guidelines had to be met and this posed a problem for those working with Victoria. The inquiry made 108 recommendations for change for local services, which need to be acted on promptly.

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In 2003 the Every Child Matters green paper was published along side the Victoria Climbie inquiry, it was aimed a t prevention rather than picking up the pieces and was built on four key themes:

. Increase the focus on supporting families and carers, the most critical influence on children’s lives

. Ensuring the necessary intervention takes place before children reach crisis point and protecting children from falling through the net.

. Addressing the underlying problems identified in the report into the death of Victoria Climbie- weak accountability and poor integration.

. Ensuring that people working with children are valued, rewarded and trained.

It also identified five outcomes:

. Be healthy

. Stay safe

. Enjoy and achieve

. Make a positive contribution

. Achieve economic well being

With its key themes and five outcomes it aimed to make sure no-one fell through the net and every child had the chance to reach their full potential by reducing levels of educational failure, ill health, substance misuse, anti-social behaviour among young people and others, it was supported by research evidence which shows that early intervention is key in promoting well being for children. In its proposals it sets out for support for parents and carers, early intervention and effective protection and to put children at the forefront of policies. With this notion of inclusion it made sure that every child would have the same access to services and training would be provided for staff and services.

It encompasses children from birth to nineteen, regardless of background circumstances and provides support for children. It would ensure that services reflects the needs of parents and children, and that participation of children, parents and workers were needed to design and deliver them. Childrens trusts were set up to improve services by multi-agency working through co-operation with a number of services. Certain aspects of the childrens funds would be set up at local level with the promotion of better services in the area and also centrally as to provide a common framework for all agencies involved. Multi-agency working would mean that there would be greater sharing of information between professionals. Childrens funds, fund local projects for five to thirteen year olds and are hoped to be in every local authority by 2008.

Further papers have come from the green paper, Every Child Matters: Next Steps and Every Child Matters: Change For Children. As many reforms were proposed there needed to be a change in the statute. This came in the form of the Children Bill which was enacted in November 2004 into the Children Act 2004. Through the new changes a childrens commissioner would be appointed, this person would oversee the role of childrens services and their outcomes in relation to performance and quality among other things.

Services are overseen by Ofsted and follow a strict framework in determining whether the programme is proving to be successful. Many new initiatives have been introduced as a result of the Every Child Matters paper, such as Connexions, Extended schools and Sure Start.

The Sure Start programme is a government initiative to promote the best start in life “by bringing together early education, childcare, health and family support” (http://www.surestart.gov.uk/aboutsurestart/about/thesurestartprogramme2/).

Sure Start works in partnership with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). It is targeted on local disadvantaged areas supporting families and children under the age of five. It works to try and beat the Governments drive for tackling child poverty.

Sure Starts childrens centres provide a wide range of services for children and parents. These centres are providing services to promote better outcomes to help them when they are placed in full time education so that they can reach their full potential. It is based on the governments’ idea that by 2010 all parents should be able to have affordable, high quality, flexible childcare. Sure Start provides a number of programmes for children and parents; it helps pregnant mothers get the support they need and helps them after birth and then toddlers when they go to school.

The 1989 Children Act was described by the then Lord Chancellor “as the most comprehensive and far reaching childcare law in living memory (Hendrick, H, 2003, Child welfare, pg 96.) At the time the Act made major headway in the provision for childcare and it still has its influences today. It promoted the welfare of the child as being paramount. This meant it was the first piece of legislation that put children at the forefront of its agenda. According to Hendrick (2003) although rights for children have been advanced, it did not consult any children in the process of the forming of the Act and it is stemmed from ‘Government authorities’.

Although the green paper has been seen as a great move forward in the way of childcare, policies and initiatives set up by the green appear have been going on in various forms for a while. Some schools have been using the multi-agency scheme for a while in tackling truancy and failing achievers. It was an extremely expensive and ambitious, and schemes are not reaching expected targets. But does expenditure mean quality and does target setting improve the service?

The committee set up by the DfES which looked at the green paper found that it promotes inclusion and integration but not everyone is keen to get involved, even through encouragement from primary care trusts and inspections from Ofsted it still seems unlikely they will become involved in schemes. Existing policies seem to undermine new policies especially those in the youth justice and immigration systems. The childrens commissioner is a good plan, but on paper yet when looked at in more depth the committee found that they do not promote any rights or safeguard children. Although a National Index for children was heralded as a bold idea into collectively gather information on children that meet with services, so that other services and agencies can use is not yet fully operational so they may be missing out on certain services.

With the governments aim to tray and have all primary and secondary schools to have become extended schools by 2010, the DfES conducted research and found that “ninety five per cent of school offered after school activities or childcare” (http://www.teachernet.go.uk/_doc/9186/Extended%20schools%Baseline%20Survey%Summary.pdf)

Trying to determine the meaning of quality in the relation to early years services proves to be difficult as there is many ways of looking at it. It is different to everyone involved in the process and is based on how the person involved feels about the service that is being delivered and what it offers for them and the other people using it.

In the early years services the main aim is providing a ‘quality’ service for children, for those mainly under the age of seven. When a parent chooses their child’s nursery or play group, they may choose it depending on the locality of the service or the reputation that it has gained, but are the parents meeting their own needs or are they looking at their child’s best interests and needs?

Many local authorities provide day care for young children for those who are in ‘need’. “Services for children in need are intended to offer positive support to families to help them bring up their children themselves” (Stainton Rogers, W and Roche, J, 1994, p 84). Those that are considered in need are provided by the local authority safety and a level of service that promotes that promotes the development of a child with a different range of services.

When referring to children and the process of childhood we have to take into fact that what we believe is to be true is socially constructed. That is the ideology surrounding children and childhood is constructed by society as whatever and however they want to see and perceive children, with no distinct guidelines this means that every culture and society is different in their interpretations.

This shown at the ages which a child is sent to school, It differs in age in different countries, there is also an age at which a person can vote, this again distinguishes the process of childhood and its social construction. According to Aries in the middle Ages children were seen as miniature adults, they would go and work with the adults, this was still apparent until the fifteenth century, but it began to change as at this time children were beginning to be seen as a separate group from adults.

When assessing the ‘quality’ that an early years service provides for children, there are no set of guidelines that can be filled. What is a quality service for one person may not be for another, for those involved it might be about power or performance. Those that are managers or employees, it may be about reaching certain targets, or guidelines set by the local authority. The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and child-care policy must try to sort out any problems that prohibit the development of children within childcare settings. They need to look at the family, and the economic status of the family. If this impeding the child’s development within the service we have to look at why it is happening and how the problem can be rectified?

Policies are put into place to ensure that no child is disadvantaged, those from different cultural backgrounds are not exposed to any form of racism and/or exclusion and those from different socio-economic backgrounds are also not disadvantaged.

When looking at childhood services and quality, we have to look at Quality of Life (QoL) as it “allows us to question whether a traditional concern with the welfare of children is sufficient enough basis for work with children and families” (Foley, P; Roche, J and Tucker, S, 2001, p79). When looking at the concept of QoL there is no one single definition that research can be based upon. It covers many different areas and its definition differs depending on the area being covered, it looks into social, psychological and political factors.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a body that tries to look and examine Quality of Life, they see it as a perception of an individuals and the culture that they live in and the way in which they see their life is in terms of what they wish to achieve and the goals, concerns and aspirations that the individual has. It looks at many things such as the person’s state of well being, in relation to their relationships, and their mental and physical health among other things.

Sen (2003) believes that it is not about goods that are handed out to people, but what a person can and is likely to achieve within the society that live. So if an area is deprived and there is a lack of services available it can affect their goals and attainments and cause them not to reach their full potential. He also believes that it is not just about being given things directly to you ready for you to take, but making sure that you have control over what you do and that you have freedom of choice, and that only you are controlling your destiny.

In relation to children’s early years services, this idea looks at not just the children but also what the parents gain from their child going to play group or nursery. In the Childs perspective it will look at the service providing the needs of that child for their appropriate stage of development, does it have the right toys and equipment to stimulate the Childs play and learning? It is similar for the parent, they will look at the service as providing basic learning and functional skills that promote the Childs well being and development, things such as, is my child happy here? Are they safe?

As a child is succeptable to change whilst they are developing it is best trying to achieve a better QoL from an early age, this will play a big part on what the service will go onto provide, although parents can make choices in the Childs best interest they can not make decisions that are totally specific for their own child. Children have their own views and concerns about what they want, although they may not fully understand the context and the impact it has on later life, for that moment it makes them physically and mentally happy, then that is providing a good QoL.

According to the Children Act 1989 the Childs best interest is paramount, and they should be treated as individuals and whose needs should be met and catered for. It also states that there are differing backgrounds varying in children; race, culture and religious aspects of a child should be taken into account when looking after the welfare of the child. It also has guidance on the factors that affect the quality of the service, things such as interactions between adults and children, and interactions between children among other things.

According to Moss et al (1995) the “quality of the interaction between the child and the adult has been identified as the single most important factor in the intellectual development of young children in group day care” (Rodger, R and Barnes, S, 1997, p144) caregivers can give adequate tasks to stimulate a Childs educational and emotional needs and expand developing skills such as language and play. Children who are constantly challenged in this way tend to have better social skills and cognitive development. The interaction of other children in the day care setting also promotes social skills as they are mixing with other cultures, backgrounds and abilities. Where children are asked to play with other children they become focused and try to help other members, they are less likely to think about race and gender and get involved with tasks.

The Children Act (1989) also sets out guidelines for sizes of groups and how many carers should be involved with a group of a certain size. In trying to maintain a consistency of good quality in childcare services, relationships need to be built between parents and carers. If a relationship is formed and maintained information is passed freely between the parent and caregiver about the Childs development and how they are progressing within the setting. Child carers and professionals need to be aware of the developmental theories and practices in relation to the role of play, and how best it can be put into the setting of the service.

Children, who are involved in their own learning, find the experiences fun and enjoyable. In the setting of an early years service, toys and equipment needs to be provided in the aim to promote successful play, the toys need to be suitable for all ages, types and abilities, and in no way are discriminatory to any of the children in the care setting, e.g. there should be a mixture of black and white dolls of both sexes for children to play with.

As there is a wide variant in the provision for children in an early years setting some schemes do not deliver all the necessary schemes for all children. Some schemes are based on the welfare approach. Local authority nurseries tend to be subject to promoting care and health and put emphasis on the well being and the mental development of emotions rather than skills and knowledge. Those who are involved in the running of a childcare service usually have many needs that they want to meet. A good manager or director will know the conditions that make a good service, the ratio of caregivers to children, the hiring and training that is provided, resources for both parents, children and caregivers in maintaining a service that they are all happy with. They will understand that diversity within their staff is good for the children involved.

According to Sue Bredekamp that children who are from diverse cultural backgrounds need role models who are similar to them in maintaining responsibility and power in reaching an adequate service. According to Owusu Bempah. Black and ethnic minority children are less favourably treated than other children in the same settings; teachers do this by sending out negative messages and attitudes within their teaching. He says that professionals should that professionals should monitor and successfully try to achieve any aspects that jeopardise the future of ethnic minorities. He also says that emphasis should be placed on achieving equality wherever and whatever setting they are in. removing discrimination and promoting equality will help to promote the future of ethnic minority children.

Even though some parents may have their children’s interests at heart, their actions may still have an adverse effect on the outcome of their Childs development. Policies and practices have been put into place in the promotion of the welfare of children. Attainment targets which are proposed by the government are lowering the age at which a child has to meet certain criteria pass onto the next level of learning, but this is limiting the children in early years services to shorter periods of play and affecting their overall social development. They are interacting less and less with children of the same age, ethnic minorities, different cultural backgrounds and not developing bonds with caregivers. We are losing the idea that the welfare of the child is paramount as indicated in the 1989 Children Act and teaching children what they should and should not know. We are gain creating little adults that ready to go into society with a wider range of academic skills and no social skills.

Even when public policy is made with the concern of children, their interests are usually ignored in favour of the powerful people who it will have an effect on if they are not seen making the right decision for all interested, without asking children.

Early years services are not about promoting the welfare of children but also their rights. The UNCRC set out rights for children in its 1190 assembly. The fact that children now have rights means that parents and caregivers are not just about the promotion of care and welfare but of there rights too. The UNCRC say that children have needs that should now be met. With the introduction of rights for children, Gerison Landsdown says that we should be moving away from a welfare model of childcare and that their needs and rights should be met with the involvement from children themselves. He says, “children, even when very young, can act, for example, as peer counsellors, mediators and mentors for other children” (Landsdown, G, 2001, p93).

In this he is saying that children are contributing how their own needs are being met with the involvement of the process of this happening. Landsdown also shows that in the UK there is a “resistance” (Landsdown, G, 2001, p96) to children’s rights shared by politicians, professionals and policy makers, and that control will not be maintained if they are to have their way on their needs being met. Although it does not mean that children are going make exaggerations within view of their rights, it does have the understanding of children’s views and aspirations, as they grow older they can exercise their rights. Working with children and assessing what their needs should be a skill that all caregivers and professionals should have as children’s language and communication is different to that of adults.

Nigel Thomas says that whilst listening to children in the decision making process, it is about respect and understanding the age of the child and whether they are competent enough to make sufficient decisions for themselves, giving children respect is good but we also need to make sure that they are given time and adequate information in the decision that they are making.

Within the assignment I have looked at the green paper and how it has changed the services which are provided for children and how the death of Victoria Climbie jump started the Government into promoting better welfare for children of young ages, although it has proved to be a success there is still a lot to do in relation to welfare and quality childcare for children, even though changes in legislation have proven to help children and parents find better ‘quality’ welfare and childcare there will still be changes that make current policies seem outdated, if current legislation and policy for are forever changing does this mean that they are outdated already? Time will tell whether we can provide an overall service for children which encompasses every child in every aspect of society.

Bibliography

Aries,P

Constructing childhood, Constructing child concern

Foley, P; Roche, J and Tucker, S

2001

Children in society: contemporary theory and practice

Palgrave

Hampshire

Bredekamp, S

Issues and barriers in the credentialing process

Culkin, M,L

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Managing quality in children’s programs: the leaders role

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Foley, P; Roche, J and Tucker, S

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Children in society: contemporary theory and practice

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Hampshire

Hendrick, H

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Child welfare

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Landsddown,G

Childrens welfare and Childrens rights

Foley, P; Roche, J and Tucker, S

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Children in society: contemporary theory and practice

Palgrave

Hampshire

Owusu Bempah, K

Racism: an important factor in practice with ethnic minority children and families

Foley, P; Roche, J and Tucker, S

2001

Children in society: contemporary theory and practice

Palgrave

Hampshire

Rodger, R and Barnes, S

Registration and inspection

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Managing quality in children’s programs: the leaders role

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(2001)

Development as freedom

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Websites

http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmeduski/40/4002.htm

http://www.surestart.gov.uk/

http://www.victoria-climbie-inquiry.org.uk

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