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Exploring concepts of child well-being

Exploring concepts of child well-being: Implications for children's services

Nick Axford
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  • Book Info
    Exploring concepts of child well-being
    Book Description:

    Policy reforms to children's services in the UK and elsewhere encourage a greater focus on outcomes defined in terms of child well-being. Yet for this to happen, we need not only a better understanding of what child well-being is and how services can improve it, but also the ability to measure child well-being in order to evaluate success. This book investigates the main approaches to conceptualising child well-being, applies them to the child population using household survey and agency audit data, then considers the implications for children's services. The author: provides a clear conceptual understanding of five perspectives on well-being: need, rights, poverty, quality of life and social exclusion demonstrates the value of each perspective charts levels of child well-being in an inner-London community, including violated rights and social exclusion sets out the features that children's services must have if they are to improve child well-being defined in these terms This book should be read by everyone involved in developing, implementing and evaluating children's services, including researchers, policy makers and practitioners.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-339-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The concept of well-being has entered public policy rhetoric in the UK and other western developed countries as a companion to other buzzwords of recent years. It is linked with the new science of well-being and happiness, also referred to as ‘hedonic psychology’ – which studies self-evaluated overall life satisfaction – its components, causes and correlates. Recent years have seen a flurry of academic and popular publications in this area (eg Kahneman et al, 1999; Huppert et al, 2005; Layard, 2005; Martin, 2005; nettle, 2005; Haidt, 2006; offer, 2006; choch, 2006). This shift has arguably been fuelled by macroeconomic and social trends:...

  2. part one: defining child well-being

    • TWO Need
      (pp. 15-28)

      Recent years have witnessed a revival in the popularity of measuring need as a precursor to distributing services, particularly in health, housing, social care and children’s services (Percy-Smith, 1996 Axford, 2007). There are several reasons for this, starting with new legislation: the england and Wales 1989 Children Act, for example, requires every local authority to identify the needs of children living in their catchment area and to provide services accordingly (subsequently reinforced by the 2004 Children Act). Another factor is the growing expectation that agencies will achieve maximum benefit from minimum expenditure; this increases the pressure to chart the need...

    • THREE Rights
      (pp. 29-44)

      There is a general consensus that some individual interests and liberties are so basic that all states and human beings should respect them. Calling them rights means that they should take precedence over the private interests of those in power and the pursuit of other social goals and aspirations, and that societies should seek to secure them, irrespective of traditions, history or levels of economic development (Waldron, 1984, 1993). This belief is expressed in international law, for example in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, and many countries have a bill of rights designed to prevent government interference with...

    • FOUR Poverty
      (pp. 45-58)

      Nobody seriously defends poverty, and few doubt the intrinsic value of strategies aimed at its eradication, but there is less agreement on exactly what ‘poverty’ is. It conjures up images of starving children in Africa, homeless beggars outside the theatre or downtrodden parents struggling to make ends meet. numerous factors contribute to the confusion. Political values are influential, the right-wing perspective generally more at ease with harsher, subsistence thresholds. Then there are different languages and cultures; Persian alone has over 30 words for poverty (Rahnema, 1999), and Spicker’s (1999) typology reveals the many-shaded western understanding. Lister (2004) makes a similar...

    • FIVE Quality of life
      (pp. 59-72)

      Philosophers going back to Aristotle have struggled to articulate the meaning of ‘the good life’, and since the Garden of eden scholars have conjured up visions of ‘utopia’. The popular media seems obsessed with how the human existence can be enhanced, be it humorous depictions of assorted attempts to cheer up residents in Britain’s officially most miserable town (the BBC television seriesMaking Slough Happy) or earnest magazine columns on the ‘science of happiness’. The term ‘quality of life’ (QoL) is often at the heart of such discussions and appears in common parlance and in technical settings, bridging the worlds...

    • SIX Social exclusion
      (pp. 73-88)

      Exclusion and inclusion are universal features of human interaction, from global migration patterns to playground cliques. Divides are often given concrete form, for example the security gates that bar non-residents from elite housing developments, or the membership criteria that preserve the integrity of social clubs. These divisions are imposed formally, but often they arise from more subtle judgements about appearance and creed. The experience of being excluded can also be positive, although usually it entails a sense of losing out; this depends largely on whether it is volitional or coerced. Whichever way, one group’s inclusion implies de facto another’s exclusion...

    • SEVEN Relationships between the concepts
      (pp. 89-110)

      Chapters Two to Six have looked in turn at how each of the five concepts of wellbeing is defined and measured. This chapter explores how far each one makes a unique contribution to the understanding of child well-being. It starts by aiming to get to the heart or essence of each concept (see Table 7.1). The exercise might be likened to distinguishing between personality types using techniques such asMyers-Briggs, which are based on the premise that pure types do not exist but the key traits of different personalities may be identified. So it is with the five concepts discussed...

  3. Part Two: Measuring child well-being

    • EIGHT Child well-being through different lenses
      (pp. 113-130)

      This chapter presents findings about child well-being measured in terms of need, rights, poverty, quality of life (QoL) and social exclusion. They are drawn from a reanalysis of data from phase one of an exploratory study in the UK funded by the Department of Health and aimed at providing evidence on the nature of need among children in the community, the extent to which they and their families use children’s services and how these agencies, together with coping strategies, affect children’s development (Axford et al, 2003). The dataset contained information on 689 children and their families living on a moderately...

    • NINE Relationships between the conditions
      (pp. 131-138)

      This chapter continues to use the data analysed in Chapter eight to examine relationships between the five conditions (or types ofill-being). The starting point is the proposition that the five conditions would be significantly and positively correlated. The analysis shows that this is only partially the case. In theN=234 sample, four of the associations between the conditions are highly significant (p<0.01), but all are weak (phicoefficient <0.3) apart from that between need and quality of life (QoL) (0.470) (Table 9.1). These findings are surprising in two respects. one is that some pairs of conditions are not positively...

  4. Part Three: Implications for children’s services

    • TEN Matching conditions and service styles
      (pp. 141-158)

      One of the main contentions of this book is that the way in which children’s well-being is conceptualised will shape the service response to which it gives rise. The aim here, therefore, is not to detail what quantities of which service are required to match particular problems in order to achieve specified outcomes. To do this would require in-depth descriptions of specific interventions. Rather, the purpose of this chapter is to deduce the contrasting styles of service that the five conditions (or types of ill-being) require – in other words, the features that services should have logically if they are to...

    • ELEVEN Developing congruent children’s services
      (pp. 159-170)

      It is evident from the previous chapter that while the service responses required to address the five conditions (or type of ill-being) may help to foster a rich service or policy mix, and so arguably increase the chances of improving child well-being, they also exist in tension and potentially contradict one another. Initiatives to address one condition may inadvertently impair efforts to tackle another, thereby creating or perpetuating problems. Moreover, they will almost certainly use resources to generate apparently successful outputs and outcomes, which, measured in terms of another condition, are actually of limited value, even damaging. The first part...

    • TWELVE Conclusions
      (pp. 171-184)

      The study reported in this book has looked at child well-being in terms of unmet need, violated rights, poverty, poor quality of life (QoL) and social exclusion. owing to a confluence of several factors, including moral imperatives, legislation and scientific evidence, all five concepts appear currently as policy objectives in children’s services in the UK and other western developed countries. In many respects this is welcome; it should be evident by this juncture in the book that there is value in looking at children’s lives through different lenses. At the same time, varied terminology and multiple initiatives bring with them...

  5. Appendices