The lives of children & Health

However, there has been some progress within European Union policies which have a direct impact on the lives of children although many of the initiatives are aimed at older children and young adults through youth and employment schemes there have also been schemes funded which aim to eradicate issues such as violence and bullying surrounding younger children. Policies developed at national or regional level are largely influenced by the attitudes adopted by the particular government.

Policy making styles often differ between countries due to conceptual problems i. e.due to the fact the definition of family policy is so unclear and vague; views on family change and the social problems that accompany them are experienced and perceived in different ways, leading to different policy responses. Consequently this has led to strong differences among countries in terms of the government’s level of intervention and support to families and children. While some governments have opted for explicitly interventionalist policies aimed at encouraging fertility and promoting a traditional family structure, others have opted for a less interventionalist approach.

Gauthier who analyzed family policy has devised a fourfold typology of approaches to family policy (topic 4) The first being pro-family/ pro-natalist approach whose major concern is low fertility and because of this the main task of family policy is to encourage families to have children. In this approach high levels of support are provided for maternity leave and childcare facilities. The second is a pro-traditional approach which focuses on the preservation of the family. In this approach the Government aims to take some responsibility for supporting families, but ultimately it is the families’ responsibility to support them.

The pro-egalitarian approach is seeks to promote gender equality. Men and women are treated as equal breadwinners and equal carers and policy aims to support dual parent/worker roles. This approach is in deep contrast to the previous one. The final approach pro-family but non-interventionist, the main concern is the families who are in need. The participation of women in the labor force is not discouraged, but limited benefits are provided by the state to support them. Families are seen as self sufficient able to meet their own needs with minimal help from the state.

Policies which are developed at local level are often influenced by central government. Within the UK up until the 1980’s the pro family non-interventionist approach was undertaken by the government which in turn shaped local policies. In 1997 when New Labour Government was elected a review of existing family policies was bought about, and using the more pro family and pro traditional approach saw new polices in education and child poverty aimed directly at children. Policies aimed at families with an indirect affect on children were also addressed such as childcare and employment.

Under the new labour Government central government began to focus on local services provided for children and their families emphasizing on early years, education and childcare, an example of this the Sure Start government programme aimed at enabling the best start for every child, it brings together education, childcare, health and family support. Initiatives such as Sure Start were influenced by the Labour Governments need to eradicate poverty and anti-social behavior, although Labour was aware that poverty and anti social behaviour were just part of a bigger problem termed as ‘Social Exclusion’

‘… a shorthand term for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown. , (Social Exclusion Unit quoted in Topic Four p22). Social exclusion is central to policies aimed at disadvantaged children. Labour developed policies which saw about a change in funding and delivery of services.

Policies aimed at lone parents enabling them to go back to work through childcare making it more affordable and changes to tax and benefits in order to help with the costs were introduced. Parent line and The National Parenting Institute were set up in a bid to combat social exclusion. Policies were also introduced to create wider awareness of abuse within the family home and other childcare environments as particular cases that received high media attention such as the death of Victoria Climbie forced children’s services to undergo a heavy review.

The Laming Report stressed that there was a need for children’s services to work together. Both the media and the Laming Report were influences in new policies directed at the protection of children. These policies focused on effective communication enabling multiple agencies to work collaboratively with the emphasis on prevention and empowerment of children allowing them to have a say in the policies that affect them directly. Almost every action that the state takes has an impact on families and family life either directly or indirectly.

Different Governments still adopt different approaches to policy making. Labour Government has placed emphasis on good parenting, and initiatives such as Sure Start which aims to enable better education, health and childcare and the New Deal scheme which aims to help parents back to work have been introduced. Labour has emphasized on the expectations of the parents with new legislation allowing local authorities to fine parents whose children persistently truant. Policies have also been directed at eradicating child poverty and social exclusion.


A chapter in the K204 Course Reader: Sandy Ruxton, (2001) Towards a ‘Children’s Policy’ for the European Union? In Foley, P, Roche, J. and Tucker, S (eds) Children in Society: Contemporary Theory, Policy and Practice, Basingstoke, Palgrave.

K204 Course Team (2001) Children and Policy, Topic Four.

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