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Significant Harm
Nathan Loynes
Structure of this Presentation
• The following questions (as seen in the slide
headings) are prompted by a reading of
Harw...
Legislative Recap:
• The Children Acts 1989 and 2004 remain the
legislative framework for child protection
policy and prac...
Which piece of legislation introduced
the concept of ‘significant harm’?
The Children Act 1989
s.47 Local authority’s duty...
Significant Harm
The legislation does not set absolute criteria for
significant harm, guidance states that in reaching
dec...
Which two scandals of the 1980’s
contributed to 1985 Review of Child
Care Law?
Cleveland Jasmine Beckford
Significant harm was the new legal
threshold regarding compulsory
intervention into family life, on whose
interests?
• Chi...
On what ‘P’ basis was family support
to be provided wherever possible?
• In Partnership with parents.
The Act deliberately set out ‘b’ criteria
for significant harm.
The Act deliberately set broad criteria for
significant ha...
If the harm is significant, it must be
‘what’ to the care given? How do you
think poverty affects this?
s.31 Care and Supe...
Which Act widened the definition of
significant harm, to include what?
• Adoption and Children Act 2002
• Section 120 of t...
What was the general finding of
Masson et al’s research?
Of particular note was the
young age of the children:
57% were be...
According to Masson, what was the
commonest type of harm?
• Three-quarters of cases reflected actual harm,
and most of the...
Why did Rose and Barnes say that
older children were a high risk group?
What could you say about Brophy’s
research?
Brophy’s (2006) research review of child
care proceedings under the Children A...
What point does Dickens (2006) make?
Views on what constitutes reasonable parenting
can be at variance between social work...
What did Packman and Hall (1998)
find? Do you understand what this
means?
Packman & Hall (1998) found in their study of
th...
Why is it problematic to bring cases of
neglect to court, what do they ‘lack’?
What is the ‘standard of proof’
required to bring care proceedings to
court?
• On the ‘balance of probabilities’
• Even th...
How does The Children Act 1989
define ‘significant’?
• The Children Act guidance defines ‘significant’
harm according to t...
What were the findings of the case Re
M [2009]
• it was further ruled that extrapolation from
past events involving one ch...
What happened after the death of
Baby ‘P’? What name do the authors
refer to this as?
• ‘Panic’ and patterns of referrals ...
What point did the House of
Commons’ Children, Schools and
Families Committee (2009) make
about ‘pessimism’?
• About The L...
What did Lord Laming (2009) allude to
regarding court fees?
The higher costs of court fees as
introduced by the Public Law...
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Significant harm

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This presentation was designed to consolidate student's understanding of 'significant harm' following group work and a reading of Harwin and Madge's journal article, "The concept of significant harm in law and practice".

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Significant harm

  1. 1. Significant Harm Nathan Loynes
  2. 2. Structure of this Presentation • The following questions (as seen in the slide headings) are prompted by a reading of Harwin and Madge (2010), “The concept of significant harm in thaw and practice”. • The ‘answers’ are taken from the Harwin and Madge article, alongside more detailed material from elsewhere.
  3. 3. Legislative Recap: • The Children Acts 1989 and 2004 remain the legislative framework for child protection policy and practice in England with Section 47 as the cornerstone. • Section 47 is the investigative duty required of local authorities when there is reasonable cause to suspect actual or likely significant harm to a child.
  4. 4. Which piece of legislation introduced the concept of ‘significant harm’? The Children Act 1989 s.47 Local authority’s duty to investigate. Where a local authority are informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area. . . . . . . . . . . . .have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm s.31 Care and Supervision On the application of any local authority or authorised person, the court may make an order— court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied— that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
  5. 5. Significant Harm The legislation does not set absolute criteria for significant harm, guidance states that in reaching decisions, consideration should be given to: • The degree and extent of harm • Duration of harm • Frequency of harm • Extent of premeditation • Presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements
  6. 6. Which two scandals of the 1980’s contributed to 1985 Review of Child Care Law? Cleveland Jasmine Beckford
  7. 7. Significant harm was the new legal threshold regarding compulsory intervention into family life, on whose interests? • Children’s • However,h ow do social workers’ expectations of ‘normality’ impact upon their assessments i.e. ‘preventing the child from participating in normal social interaction’ (Emotional Abuse). • Parental final say: Without the ‘diagnosis’ of ‘significant harm’ parents may reject support, whether or not the child would benefit or indeed requests the support themselves.
  8. 8. On what ‘P’ basis was family support to be provided wherever possible? • In Partnership with parents.
  9. 9. The Act deliberately set out ‘b’ criteria for significant harm. The Act deliberately set broad criteria for significant harm and identified three main areas of concern: 1. ill-treatment (eg. sexual abuse and emotional harm); 2. the impairment of physical or mental health; 3. and the impairment of physical, intellectual, emotional or behavioural development.
  10. 10. If the harm is significant, it must be ‘what’ to the care given? How do you think poverty affects this? s.31 Care and Supervision (1)On the application of any local authority or authorised person, the court may make an order— ( (2)A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied— (a)that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and (b)that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to— (i)the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or (ii)the child’s being beyond parental control
  11. 11. Which Act widened the definition of significant harm, to include what? • Adoption and Children Act 2002 • Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 extends the legal definition of ‘significant harm' to children to include the harm caused by witnessing or overhearing abuse of another, especially in a context of domestic violence. • It is important to remember that the responsibility for the harm lies with the abuser.
  12. 12. What was the general finding of Masson et al’s research? Of particular note was the young age of the children: 57% were below five years, with 29% under a year.
  13. 13. According to Masson, what was the commonest type of harm? • Three-quarters of cases reflected actual harm, and most of the rest involved infants. • Neglect was the commonest type of harm • Almost half the families had been known to services for five years or more.
  14. 14. Why did Rose and Barnes say that older children were a high risk group?
  15. 15. What could you say about Brophy’s research? Brophy’s (2006) research review of child care proceedings under the Children Act 1989 had earlier found that neglect coupled with emotional maltreatment was in fact the most common form of harm to children. Indeed, very few cases were based on just one category of ill-treatment, with most containing two or three categories from physical ill-treatment, sexual abuse, emotional ill-treatment, neglect and ‘child beyond parental control’.
  16. 16. What point does Dickens (2006) make? Views on what constitutes reasonable parenting can be at variance between social workers and legal representatives, reflecting the more general point that decisions on significant harm can lack consistency due to the many views that need to be taken into account (Dickens, 2006, 2007).
  17. 17. What did Packman and Hall (1998) find? Do you understand what this means? Packman & Hall (1998) found in their study of the operation of section 20 that parents were in effect being coerced to agree to their child being accommodated so that the local authority never had to test out the threshold conditions.
  18. 18. Why is it problematic to bring cases of neglect to court, what do they ‘lack’?
  19. 19. What is the ‘standard of proof’ required to bring care proceedings to court? • On the ‘balance of probabilities’ • Even though the standard of proof is lower in civil cases the use of such a standard is that in some cases the question of the probability or the improbability of a happening is an imperative consideration to be taken into account in deciding whether that event has actually taken place or not.
  20. 20. How does The Children Act 1989 define ‘significant’? • The Children Act guidance defines ‘significant’ harm according to the dictionary entry of ‘considerable, noteworthy or important’, • This judgment raises the question of quite what is implied. • To decide whether harm is significant, the health and development of the child is "compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child" (The Children Act 1989).
  21. 21. What were the findings of the case Re M [2009] • it was further ruled that extrapolation from past events involving one child to another was unsafe because a parent may treat individual children in different ways. • In Re M [2009], the key point is that there needs to be convincing evidence, based on the balance of probabilities, to support decision- making.
  22. 22. What happened after the death of Baby ‘P’? What name do the authors refer to this as? • ‘Panic’ and patterns of referrals for care proceedings • The Baby P Effect • http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/n ov/27/nao-children-care-highest-25-years- baby-p
  23. 23. What point did the House of Commons’ Children, Schools and Families Committee (2009) make about ‘pessimism’? • About The Looked After Child (LAC) System deterring agencies from seeking orders. • However, an alternate view: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2006/d ec/06/childrensservices.guardiansocietysuppl ement1
  24. 24. What did Lord Laming (2009) allude to regarding court fees? The higher costs of court fees as introduced by the Public Law Outline (PLO) would deter Local Authorities from making necessary Care Order applications; putting children at risk.

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