Professor David Berridge. Professor of Child & Family Welfare. He is a leading national and international child welfare researcher and is author/co-author of 13 books and numerous other chapters and articles.
David Berridge, Professor of Child and Family Welfare at the School for Policy Studies, considers the process of making an impact on policy and practice by discussing his research on children in care.
It is interesting, and advisable, at the completion of a research project to reflect on how it went. There can be a tendency to delay this process, encouraged by feelings of relief as well as driven, no doubt, by the need to catch-up with other, overdue responsibilities.
These thoughts were with me at the end of 2015 on the conclusion of our research on the Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England. Many challenges arose, including: obtaining and analysing large government databases; negotiating access to six contrasting local authorities; contacting groups of older teenagers in care, their social workers, carers and teachers; obtaining and analysing large amounts of qualitative data; and writing-up the results.
There’s an interesting debate that’s been going on for some time now about measuring poverty and getting the issue onto the agenda so people sit up and take notice in the right way. It’s an area of academia that I haven’t really engaged in before, but one where I have a personal interest in seeking to see the debate move in the right kind of direction. A direction that takes us away from the concept of demonising the poor and those living in poverty and instead acknowledges the levels of inequality and seeks to do something about it in a way that benefits those most in need. The recent Policy & Politics conference in Bristol had inequality and poverty as one of its main themes and at the time I wrote a couple of blogs on the plenary sessions – the human cost of inequality (Kate Pickett) and why social inequality persists (Danny Dorlling). Both these presentations provided plenty of evidence to illustrate just how significant a problem we have in the UK and how it is getting worse.
Last week I went to a seminar on this very issue run by the Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice at the University of Bristol, where the subject of debate was about how to gain traction and create change from academic research and evidence. The focus of the discussion was about using living standards rather than poverty indicators and the difference this can make when trying to attract the attention of politicians and policy makers. It was an interesting and thought provoking debate which gave some pointers on how we can translate measures and indicators into policy and action, as well as why it’s helpful to look at living standards for everyone rather than just looking at those in poverty.
From personalised beer to racing driver experiences – a full range of gender stereotypical presents are available branded as perfect for Father’s Day. So, it might be tempting to see the growth of Father’s Day in the UK (June 21st this year) as little more than another marketing opportunity; one that doesn’t say much about everyday fathering and certainly doesn’t give the impression that we have radically changed our ideas about fathers.
“men who are doing things differently have a higher profile”
Looking back over the last 40 years of research on fatherhood, there is evidence that things are different now. We can point out generational shifts in how men ‘do’ fatherhood; dads have substantially increased the amount of time they spend with their children and almost all now attend births and take time off work when a baby is born. It is also the case that men who are doing things differently have a higher profile, witness for example of blogs of stay-at-home dads and single fathers. And these changes are reflected (to some extent) in policy as well. In April 2015, shared parental leave was introduced in the UK, signalling the possibility of greater father involvement in the immediate post-birth period. It also ensured that fathers have the right to time off work to attend antenatal appointments.
Dr Jo Staines outlines the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies’ involvement in ‘Keeping children in care out of trouble’, an independent review of looked after children in the criminal justice system.
Some statistics that cause concern: only 3% of children in the community offend in any one year, yet over twice this number of looked after children do so (7.9%, Department for Education, 2011a). Furthermore, despite less than 1% of the UK’s child population being in care (looked after by local authorities), almost 50% of the children in custody are, or have been in care. And, while girls constitute only 5% of the youth justice secure population, 61% are, or have been, in care compared with 33% of boys (Prison Reform Trust 2014).
Justin Dillon, Professor of Science and Environmental Education, Head of Graduate School of Education
Ed Miliband’s pledge that Labour, if elected, would limit school classes for five, six and seven-year-olds to 30 pupils reignites a core question about how best to spend money to improve education.
In making this a plank of Labour’s emerging manifesto, Miliband blames the coalition government and, in particular, the former education secretary Michael Gove, for a trebling of the number of primary pupils in classes with more than 30 children from 31,265 in 2010 to 93,345 in 2014.
Labour’s policy – which echoes a pledge by Tony Blair in 1997 – might appeal to parents and teachers, but it is also backed by evidence that smaller class sizes do help push up attainment in the first years of primary school.
Last week the UK’s Supreme Court held that the police owed no duty of care to a victim of domestic violence whose murder could have arguably been prevented had the police not acted negligently in handling and responding to her 999 emergency call. Michael v CC of South Wales is just the latest of a growing line of cases in which the UK courts have denied such claims.
By contrast, a number of other countries whose legal systems are significantly based upon English common law principles have recognised the possibility of law suits against the police in similar circumstances. For example, in 1998, a Canadian court held the police liable in negligence for failings in relation to the investigation of a serial rapist. The claimant, Jane Doe (Doe v Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality) Commissioners of Police) successfully argued that had the police not been negligent in investigating similar earlier allegations, she might not have been raped. In South Africa in 2001, the victim of a brutal attack by a man on bail for attempted rape and with a known history of serious sexual violence successfully sued the police and the prosecution service (Carmichele v Minister of Safety and Security).
The Telegraph this week carries an article titled ‘Mass Polygamy in the Muslim Community – Claim’, drawing on a report, ‘Equal and Free? 50 Muslim women’s experiences of marriage in Britain today’, by the West Midlands-based charity AURAT (woman). The article highlights the issue of polygamy – 31 of the 46 married women interviewed reported that their husband had more than one wife. Baroness Cox is quoted as saying: “You can’t extrapolate straight from this but you can make a reasonable assumption that if this is not unrepresentative, this is clearly very widespread, and we are therefore dealing with enormous numbers… The implications for the women are very serious and it violates the fundamental principles of our country that bigamy is illegal and yet polygamy is condoned and allowed to flourish.”
Several points need to be made about the coverage of this report.
The report into the abuse and sexual exploitation of children and young people in Rotherham[i] whilst shocking, is not a surprise. The report comes in a long line of reports, inquiries, research, and reviews which are consistent in their findings. That victims have been ignored or not believed; that busy professionals have been unable (for a variety of reasons) to respond appropriately; that officials have not adequately prioritised the work of those on the front line; and that existing legislation is not being used even in cases where it could be, to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
As British actor Samantha Morton made clear in her recent interview, every incident of child sexual abuse is a life sentence for that individual, their families, and those around them.
Dr Pauline Heslop, Reader in Intellectual Disabilities Research, Norah Fry Research Centre
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently been consulting on the scope of proposed guidelines on multimorbidity. Multimorbidity is, in summary, the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions in one person. Yet the proposed scope of the guidelines will not, in their current form, offer guidance on multimorbidity in people with learning disabilities. So is this a problem that needs attention? Yes.
The recent Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD) and other national and international studies suggest that people with learning disabilities have a greater number of health problems than others, and a greater variety of healthcare concerns than those of the same age and gender in the general population. This would suggest that particular attention must be paid to this population in any NICE Guidelines. Indeed, recommendation 3 of the CIPOLD report was that NICE Guidelines should take into account multimorbidity in relation to people with learning disabilities.
Dr Esther Dermott, Reader in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
In popular and political discourse it is parents who must take responsibility for children’s social, emotional and educational success or failure; as the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg phrased it in 2010, “Parents hold the fortunes of the children they bring into this world in their hands”. Following on from this dominant view, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is poor parents who have come in for most criticism, with the suggestion that their children’s relative lack of qualifications and difficulty in obtaining employment that avoids a reliance on benefits, is their fault.
The Field Report which was commissioned by the government in 2010 to develop a strategy to address child poverty explicitly refers to the role of ‘good parenting’ and notes at the outset that “We imperil the country’s future if we forget that it is the aspirations and actions of parents which are critical to how well their children prosper” (p11). Getting poor parents to be better at parenting has therefore become a central plank in the Coalition government’s attempt to improve children’s future wellbeing.