The Limits of State Power & Private Rights : Exploring Child Protection & Safeguarding Referrals and Assessments book cover
1st Edition

The Limits of State Power & Private Rights
Exploring Child Protection & Safeguarding Referrals and Assessments

ISBN 9780367075590
Published October 18, 2018 by Routledge
224 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book tackles a complex area of law, social policy and social work, providing a comprehensive analysis of the theoretical, practical and legal boundaries of State power following safeguarding and child protection referrals in England. The book examines the history, rationale and implications of the current position, concluding that the balance of power is weighted in favour of the State.

The Limits of State Power & Private Rights is ground-breaking in its approach to the subject and its detailed, critical analysis. Traditionally the subject matter of the book is considered within a welfare framework. The analysis in this book argues that a policing agenda is embedded within policy but without appropriate safeguards and controls, creating potentially irreconcilable tension described by the author as the ‘welfare/policing dichotomy’.

This book is of importance to academics, lawyers, social workers, policy makers, practitioners and service users. The book is written so as to be accessible to a multi-disciplinary audience, but is sufficiently detailed so as to be suitable for specialists and non-specialists alike in this subject area. The chapters include introductory and contextual sections as well as doctrinal, theoretical and socio-legal analysis. Although the focus is on the English system, the book is equally applicable to the many worldwide jurisdictions adopting the Anglo/American ‘child rights’ based framework of child protection. It is also of use as a comparative work in countries where a family support based system is practiced.

Table of Contents


Exploring the issue: State power and private rights

Central themes and structure of the book

Chapter 1 - Development of the State’s role: child welfare & family policing

The State’s developing role in children’s welfare: good intentions and opposing narratives

The development of child welfare principles

The development of State principles for the protection of children

Moving from parental autonomy to parental responsibility

The refocusing debate

Safeguarding and early intervention

Conclusion: the modern categorisation of levels of surveillance and interference

Chapter 2 - Defining and measuring the problem

Defining child abuse

Issues of measuring the prevalence of, and predicting, child abuse

Prevalence: measuring of the amount of child abuse in England

Measuring the outcome

Risk prediction: can child abuse be predicted and prevented?

Conclusion: issues of measuring success

Chapter 3 – Identifying families for policing

The modern surveillance role of the state: identifying children for referral

Introducing mass surveillance and recording of information about children: part of the e-Government agenda

Policing by surveillance of all families: intelligence gathering and its limits

Conclusion: the challenge of balancing consent and coercion in the surveillance framework

Chapter 4 - The policing of parents: social work involvement

Social work response to referrals: State power and private rights

The framework of assessment

The Munro review of child protection: final report, a child centred system and changes to Working Together to Safeguard Children

The Public Law Outline 2014

The process of assessment

Consensual assessment

Coercive assessment

Conclusion: issues of safeguards and controls over State powers of assessment

Chapter 5 – Paradigms, policy & policing

Smith’s schema: exploring the ‘fractured lens’

The stages of the assessment procedures in ‘child protection’ and ‘safeguarding’ schema

Conclusion: implications for assessment

Chapter 6 – The balance of State power and private rights: considering protections for children and parents

Moving from ‘ownership’ to ‘responsibility’: disowned children and the burden of policing parental responsibility

What is the legal and policy framework of ‘child protection’ and ‘safeguarding’ trying to achieve?

By what mechanisms is the legislative and policy framework trying to achieve its purpose?

The issue of families harmed by State surveillance and assessment

Defining harm

Unsubstantiated allegations and unfounded concerns

Conclusion: power imbalance and individual harm

Chapter 7 - The question of remedies

Complaints procedures and Judicial Review


The European Convention on Human Rights 1950 and the Human Rights Act 1998

Common law negligence

Conclusion: remedies – an inadequate position

Chapter 8 – Reforming policy: the politics of change

The question of reform

Framework for a new approach

Privacy, data and consent: taking the Anderson recommendations seriously

Referrals: improving methods of making and recording referrals

Assessments: a bespoke investigatory body and code of practice

Outcomes: issues of exoneration and redress in unsubstantiated cases

Specific remedies in unsubstantiated cases

Conclusion: rebalancing – the basis for reform



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Dr Lauren Devine, Associate Professor of Law, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK is a Barrister writing about State power, private rights and child protection. Lauren is Principal Investigator of the Economic and Social Research Council funded project ‘Rethinking Child Protection Strategy’.