Planning for looked after children under the Children Act 1989
This thesis examines practice in planning for looked after children after the implementation of the Children Act 1989. It is a case study of policy and practice in looking after children, and outcomes in terms of looked after careers, in one local authority between 1991 and 1997. A systemic approach is taken in which social work practice is seen as an interactive process, and decisions about children are 'situated actions'. This means that social work practice has to be considered within the context of the law (the Children Act and associated Guidance and Regulations), policy interpretations of the law made locally, and the circumstances of the children and families themselves. Looked after career patterns and outcomes, and patterns of social work practice in planning for children, are described and examined and related to the policy aims of the Act. The thesis concludes that the Act has led to some changes but local policy interpretations of the Act were influential and some aspects of the Act were not encouraged in written policy. 'Drift' as experienced by children in public care in the seventies and eighties was no longer evident and social work processes introduced by the Regulations played a role in planning for children. But the thesis concludes that the paradigm shift that was required by focusing practice on 'social needs' as opposed to 'problems' had not been sufficiently recognised in the implementation of the Act. Social workers and their managers were still relying on pre-Children Act ways of thinking and conceptualising client' situations and some new processes had been grafted onto old ways of thinking.