The Children’s Act 2004
The Children’s Act introduced in 2004 aimed to address concerns about the protection of children. As such, to a significant extent it built on the provisions of the 1989 Children’s Act. Above all, the main motivation for establishing a new act relating to children was a series of high profiled cases involving abuse against young children. Moreover, many people felt that the provisions of the 1989 act failed to fully unite the various different organisations that are involved in the protection of children.
The purpose of this essay is to examine the aims and provisions of the 2004 Children’s Act. Above all, we will see that the 2004 act aimed to bring about a series of changes that would allow for greater cooperation between various different agencies and organisations. This change has also taken place across the wide general area of social policy in Britain. The name given to this process of greater cooperation is collaborative partnerships. The idea behind this new initiative is that if differing groups involved in social service provision work together then there will be greater possibilities for safeguarding the security and interests of children. However, before I go into detail on this subject let us first examine the reasons and cases that brought about the 2004 Children’s Act.
Ultimately, the aim of the 2004 Children’s Act was to build on the previous legislation passed in 1989 and further the possibilities for effective child protection. However, another further motivating factor was the murder of Victoria Climbie in 2000. Nine-year-old Victoria was abused and murdered by her guardians in her London home. The public and media outcry following the case was enormous. Furthermore, it was widely felt that the case had highlighted serious problems within the children protection service. Above all, it was felt that different agencies had failed to act in unison in the months and years prior to Victoria’s murder. As such, a series of new ideas and approaches were adopted towards the protection of children.
This new wish to provide better and more effective protection can be seen in the form of two moves. Firstly, the establishment of the Every Child Matters programme and secondly the passing of the 2004 Children’s Act. Every Child Matters was launched in 2003 and aimed to ensure that all children regardless of the financial or social background would be able to achieve their full potential in life. Furthermore, Every Child Matters was set up in an attempt to allow for greater cooperation between varying agencies and organisations involved with children. The setting up of Every Child Matters was a prelude aimed at laying the basis for the Children’s Act of 2004. The Children Act itself aimed to put in place a legal framework, which would provide better protection for children and greater levels of efficiency in the organisations charged with child protection. Local authorities were to receive more support and advice on how to carry out better service for children. There were also changes to the law with regard foster homes, caring and babysitting services, and adoption services. However, although all these issues are very important provisions within the act, the ultimate purpose was to create far greater levels of cooperation and multi agency action in relation to the protection of children.
Above all, the Victoria Climbie case had highlighted the extent to which there was little cooperation between different agencies in terms of child protection. Furthermore, it was now realised that there were a considerable number of organisations and agencies that could play a role in child protection. Naturally, local authority child protection services were seen as the most important agency. However, it was clearly vital that child protection services needed to work in close collaboration with other agencies. Therefore, agencies such as the police, school authorities, social services, doctors and charity organisations now all work together in order to provide better protection for vulnerable children. Because each agency has a unique role to play in relation to children it is hoped that such collaborative partnerships will produce better services for children. For example, if a social worker feels that a particular child is in possible danger, they can call upon the expertise and opinion of a variety of other professionals such as the child’s schoolteacher or doctor. Therefore, with everyone working together for same purpose possible problems can be highlighted and dealt with in a much more effective manner.
Now although the 2004 act and Every Children Matters has brought about significant changes to the way in which child protection services operate, there have nonetheless been serious problems. For example, it is sometimes difficult to bring different agencies together in combination when they have previously not worked in collaboration. Also, different agencies may have very different ways of understanding a particular situation, such as that of a social worker compared to a police officer. Very recently such problems have been highlighted in the form of another tragic and horrible case. The case of baby P shows above all the extent to which collaboration between multi agency organisations can break down with terrible consequences. Doctors, police and social services failed to work together effectively enough to protect baby P and therefore the case shows the possible problems that could continue in the future.
In conclusion, the main reasons behind the 2004 Children’s Act have been discussed. Above all, it is clear that both the act and the Every Child Matters initiative came about because of perceived failings within the child protection service as highlighted in the case of Victoria Climbie. Above all, government has attempted to enact a system whereby agencies involved with children work in collaboration to achieve better levels of protection. However, although such moves are positive the case of baby P highlights the extent to which there are still serious problems. Ultimately, it will take a considerable time for such moves to work effectively.
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UK Government, Every Child Matters: Change for Children, “Children’s Act 2004: guidance on the duty to cooperate” http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/strategy/guidance/, date accessed, 01/01/2009.
UK Government, Every Child Matters: Change for Children, “Aims and Outcomes”, http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/aims/, date accessed, 01/01/2009.
 UK Government, Every Child Matters: Change for Children, “Aims and Outcomes”, http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/aims/, date accessed, 01/01/2009.