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Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland 1950 to 1995


Susan Elsley

Appendix 1 Societal Attitudes to Children and Social Policy Changes 1950 to 1995

1. Challenges in undertaking a review
2. Methodology
3. Understanding children's lives
4. Scotland's experience
5. Post war Britain
6. Child welfare in 1945
7. 1948 Children Act
8. New understandings of children
9. Families and parenting
10. Reform in the 1960s: Kilbrandon and the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968
11. Rediscovery of poverty
12. Attitudes to children and childhood
13. Children's rights
14. Child abuse
15. Developments post Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968
16. Conclusions

1. Challenges in undertaking a review

There are major challenges in undertaking a review of social policy trends and societal attitudes to children and young people between 1950 and 1995. First and foremost, this is a long period historically, starting from just after the end of the Second World War and finishing shortly before the Labour government took office in 1997 and at the point at which the Children (Scotland) 1995 Act came into force. A brief review therefore cannot do justice to what changed and evolved during almost half a century. It can merely highlight developments during this time, emphasising, in retrospect, significant changes.

Such a long time span also requires at least some acknowledgement of what existed before. By starting this review in 1950, it is important to recognise the influence of social policy and attitudes to children in a period stretching back to between the two world wars and to the Victorian period. The importance of this historical perspective cannot be underestimated. In the same way that many of those working in child care and social services today have experiences which stretch back through the second half of the twentieth century, this was also the case for those in the 1950s.

Analysing the experience of children in the past can also be biased by a twenty first century perspective. Improvements in child welfare may appear more insubstantial from a distance than they did at the time. On the other hand, what may have been perceived as a small shift in policy and practice in the past can signal a fundamental change in approach in retrospect.

Finally, there is not a great deal of research which has taken an overarching view of this period in Scotland (Murphy, 1992). There is also, more generally, a paucity of empirical research which has examined the experience of children. This, in turn, impacts on what can be concluded from the information that is available.

2. Methodology

The review touches on significant trends and major changes during the period 1950 to 1995. It has drawn on academic literature, constrained by time and resources from exploring historical accounts or other non academic documents such as central and local government documents which would have added further detail and perspectives.

As there is a very substantial literature that could be explored, this review has focused on a discrete numbers of texts relating
to Scotland, the work of social historians, social work, social policy and research which has considered children and childhood. However, this could have been extended to other areas to provide rich sources of additional information. This paper is not an extensive literature review but aims to provide contextual background on the period of the Review.

The focus of this review is Scotland but it is impossible to look at this period without making reference to what happened in the UK generally during this period. Additionally, there are a limited number of academic texts on Scotland and some of the influences during this period were applicable to the whole of the UK.

3. Understanding children's lives

Understanding attitudes to children and childhood over period of time is a complex task (Frost and Stein, 1989; Hendrick, 2003; Hill et al, 1991). A number of particular factors make this particularly difficult.

Firstly, children's situation cannot be considered in isolation from adults, the state and social trends (Foley, 2001). The complexity of 'social, economic, political, biological and ideological factors' must be taken into account in children's welfare (Frost and Stein, 1989, p17). Focusing on improving the practice of those who are directly professionally involved in children in child care is too narrow. Influences on child welfare are therefore diverse and extensive and should not be limited to policies and trends which are solely related to children.

It is hard to define how children are regarded at any point in history. There are few texts which examine the history of children's lives. Sources of material which explored past ideas about children and childhood were not common until recently. In addition, children's lives are not all the same and there is no one single understanding of childhood (Hendrick, 2003). Children's experiences are influenced by their history, gender, class and culture (Frost and Stein, 1989). The evidence from the past is often insubstantial and indirect and those who try to interpret the past can be selective in drawing on evidence to validate their position (Hill et al, 1991). Children's perspectives were rarely sought until more recently (Abrams, 1998; Hendrick, 2003; Hill and Tisdall, 1997).

In spite of the challenges of defining attitudes to children and childhood, the position of children did change during this period (Hendrick, 2003). Shifts in understanding of children and childhood were, however, caught between opposing perspectives which saw children as both innocent and as threats (Cunningham, 2006). Frost and Stein(1989) highlight that children were the object of the 'good intentions' of society but also were an 'oppressed minority' who did not have a voice and were subject to abuse.

4. Scotland's experience

This review focuses on Scotland but also draws on commentary on social policy and child welfare changes in the UK1 during this period. It is important, therefore, to consider what policies, practices and experiences were similar and where they differed.

Abrams (1998) states that what happened in Scotland in child welfare mirrored that of the rest of the UK, although there was something distinct about Scotland's unique urban and industrial experience. The pattern of religious affiliation and Scotland's education and legal system had a bearing on how children were protected. Murphy (1992) suggests that Scottish attitudes were strongly affected by three main influences; Scotland being a poor country, the dominance of a strong Calvinist religious tradition and an education influenced by both factors. In their study of the war time evacuation in Scotland, Stewart and Welshman (2006) describe how the Scottish experience of evacuation and the condition of children was understood through a structural explanation of poverty and social conditions rather than by blaming the behaviour of individuals.

The experience of Scotland in the Second World War influenced the work of the Clyde Committee which in turn impacted on Scottish child welfare and education policies (Stewart and Welshman, 2006). Murray and Hill (1991) state that although there were areas of common concern between Scotland and the rest of Britain, differences in the implementation of policies could lead to different outcomes.

Similar policies existed in Scotland, England and Wales until the early 1960s when different approaches to juvenile justice evolved and new organisational structures were put in place (Murphy, 1992). Murray and Hill (1991) describe four main trends in welfare in the period up to 1960 which reflect these similarities in policy. These were; linking juvenile offending to child welfare; the increasing role of the state in child protection; more focus on the use of foster care rather than residential care and greater attention to professionalisation and the co-ordination of services.

The picture that emerges is therefore of Scotland, England and Wales confronting similar problems and social trends but adapting policy and practice responses to meet particular cultural and structural differences.

5. Post war Britain

The Second World War was a period of great disruption for families in Britain. Following the war, there was a new sense of optimism and a desire to rebuild Britain social and economically (Lockyer and Stone, 1998). A burst of activity established the foundations for the welfare state with key pieces of legislation introduced in the immediate aftermath of the war: the 1944 Education Act, the 1945 Family Allowances Act, the National Health Service Act 1946, 1946 National Insurance Act and the 1948 National Assistance Act. The period was regarded as a watershed in British social policy with the Second World War stimulating a raft of welfare reforms and an interest in child care (Murphy, 1992; Holman, 1998).

As part of the process of rebuilding Britain, there was a strong focus on families and children (Cunningham, 2006, Heywood, 1959) with children regarded as an investment in the future (Abrams, 1998). This was demonstrated by the government's commitment to families through services for children in health and welfare (Foley, 2001) along with access to education and a range of work opportunities (Abrams, 1998). New collectivist ideas about welfare influenced childcare so that there was a wider concept of state responsibility than in the past with a move by government to have a greater involvement in families (Fox Harding, 1997).

6. Child welfare in 1945

The experience of the war was not the only factor that contributed to the new approach to child welfare. In the period up to the end of the war, there was a view that there needed to be significant changes in the way that services were provided.

The origins of the child welfare systems in 1945 stretched back to the beginning of the Poor Law in the first half of the nineteenth century. The 1908 Children Act was the first significant piece of child centred legislation of the twentieth century and separated the treatment of children who broke the law from adults (Murray and Hill, 1991). Juvenile courts were established in the 1930s which had a stronger focus on the welfare of the child.

The principles of the Poor Law remained intact up to the end of the war with child welfare and child protection responsibilities split between the Poor Law and voluntary organisations (Murray and Hill, 1991). Abrams (1998) views the contribution of the Poor Law and the philanthropic work of the late nineteenth century as providing a firm basis for child welfare which was adapted to meet Scotland's poverty and cultural diversity. However, Holman (1988) states that the central focus of the Poor Law was not on the well being of individual children but aimed to deter dependence.

By the end of the war there were improvements in the previously poor health and well being of Scotland's children. The death rate of children under one had dropped to 40 in 1000 by 1950, down from 77 before the Second World War and 100 before the First World War (Smout, 1987). There still remained major inequalities in society focused around housing, class and where people lived. Since the 1890s, there had been significant developments in early years education, but this was not the case in Scotland where there was not the same commitment to a child centred education. Instead an authoritarian culture remained predominant in the period prior to 1950 (Smout, 1987). In 1945 the school leaving age was raised to 15 years. The extended period that children spent in school was regarded as significant in changing attitudes with children no longer seen to have economic value due to their earning power (Foley, 2001; Cunningham, 2005).

There were a number of events during and immediately after the Second World War which gave additional momentum to the establishment of the 1948 Children Act. The experience of the whole population during the war and in particular the experience of evacuation had had a major impact on politicians, campaigners and the public (Cunningham, 2006; Heywood, 2001). The report, 'Our Scottish Towns: Evacuation and the Social Future in Scotland', produced by the Scottish Women's Group on Public Welfare (1944), the Scottish equivalent of the English 'Our Towns' report (Women's Group on Public Welfare, 1943), called for the greater prominence of the family in the rebuilding of the country and asserted the importance of the child guidance movement, nursery schools and closer co operation between home and school.

Concerns about the position of children who were looked after in institutional care had been prominently highlighted by a campaigner for children's welfare, Lady Allen, in 1944 and by the death in foster care of a young boy, Dennis O'Neill. The combination of these events led to the establishment of first the Monckton Inquiry in England, and then the Curtis Committee in England and the Clyde Committee in Scotland which conducted parallel inquiries into the situation of homeless children.

7. 1948 Children Act

The new 1948 Children Act was a response to the poor quality of care revealed by the Clyde Report (1946) and the Curtis Report (1946). The 'best interests' principle was enshrined in the act and indicated a move towards a much more child centred approach with welfare of the child regarded as central (Stewart, 2001; Ball, 1998). Children in care were to be treated as individuals, Packman (1981) states, rather than as a 'category' of young people. The intention was that that they were to have access to the same facilities as other children with provision no longer set at a minimal level. The influence of the new psychological understandings of children was evident with the importance of children's growth and development reflected in the act (Hendrick, 1997).

The 1948 Children Act was regarded as a major step forward for child welfare, paving the way for services through the 1950s and 1960s (Ball, 1998). Although it is generally regarded as an act which gave rise to significant reform, some commentators have questioned whether the act did actually signify a radical period in child welfare. Murphy (1992) states that there was not the same call for post war reform of child care in Scotland as in England and Wales with interest in better family services limited to a small group of professionals and politicians. In addition, the act did not support preventative work with the family. On the other hand, it set the scene for child welfare in Britain up to the early 1970s (Stevenson, 1999).

The Act, which applied in most provisions to Scotland as well as England and Wales, established Children's Committees. Murphy (1992) states that the act was not as fully implemented in Scotland as in England, with only four authorities and two counties meeting the Curtis figure of 400 children which was envisaged as being necessary to justify a children's officer. A part time and piecemeal approach to children's services was therefore adopted. Even where children's officers were appointed, this was sometimes seriously inadequate with the poor development of the structure affecting the service throughout the 1950s. Scotland did not take the opportunity to develop a new professionalism amongst those working with children (Murphy, 1992). Although the Clyde report and the act sought to tighten up the practice of boarding out, there was no attempt to look at the system from the child's point of view (Abrams, 1998).

8. New understandings of children

The two decades preceding the war saw a major growth in pioneering psychological research and practice which informed new understandings of children. These were instrumental in bringing about changes in the ways that children were perceived by adult professionals.

These developments had manifested themselves in a number of ways. Child psychology had begun to influence concepts of childhood and understanding of children's lives through, for example, the work of Cyril Burt on individual differences and Susan Isaacs on child development (Hendrick, 1997).

The new psychological understandings of children were given additional impetus by the establishment of the network of child guidance clinics. These had been set up across England, Scotland and Wales from the 1920s onwards with 13 clinics in place in Scotland prior to the war (Stewart, 2006). The child guidance clinics in Scotland, like the influential Tavistock Clinic in London, were underpinned by psychiatry and medicalised approaches to child mental health and well being. In Scotland, the influence of psychiatry in the child guidance clinics was balanced by its alliance with educational psychology which became stronger after the Second World War (Stewart, 2006). The clinics in Scotland were, according to Stewart (2001), the most significant influence on attitudes to children between the two world wars.

The child guidance clinics emphasised the importance of childhood in the inter-war period which, along with new psychological and medical understandings of children and childhood, meant that there was a greater depth of understanding of children and childhood than at any other time previously (Hendrick, 2003). In spite of this, there was little knowledge or understanding of abuse as a social problem in the early part of the twentieth century (Parton, 1979).

The work that had begun between 1920 and the late 1940s by Burt, Isaacs and others was developed in the 1950s and 1960s by sociologists, psychologists and psychiatrists, contributing to a greater awareness of children's well being and mental health (Hendrick, 1997). This work was influential in child care as well as coming to the attention of the wider public. However, Abrams (1998) indicates that it took until the 1960s for child welfare services to complete a fundamental ideological shift with a greater emphasis on the child's mind.

The contribution of these theories to child welfare was particularly strong in the work of bonding and attachment, drawing on the work of Bowlby (Stevenson, 1998). Where children were removed from home, Bowlby believed that a delay in returning them to their own homes could lead to the permanent separation of parents and children (Bowlby, 1953). He emphasised the importance of training for those working in family and child welfare and the proper care of children who were deprived of a normal home life (Bowlby, 1953). Psychology was the discipline that was used most widely for working with young people who were seen to be delinquent (Murray, 1992). Stevenson (1998), however, in more recent reflections on the influence on social workers of Bowlby and psychoanalysts such as Winnicott in the period from 1948 to 1970, states that skills from this discipline did not percolate through to the wider group of child care social workers. The predominance of psychological approaches also meant that children were seen as immature, requiring interventions which allowed them to grow into mature and competent adults (Heywood, 2001).

New understandings of children therefore made a substantial contribution to child welfare in the 1950s and 1960s, influencing the professional practice of those working with children although there is some question about how much this influenced professionals across the board.

9. Families and parenting

The work of psychologists and behaviourists from the 1920s onwards added to a greater knowledge of the developmental needs of children within the context of parenting. New notions of family rearing were more common in this period but, as Cunningham (2006) states, there was a tension between those who taught the principles of control and others who wanted parents to be aware of their children's feelings.

Family practices of parenting and discipline evolved during the 1950s and 1960s. Newson and Newson's well known work in the 1960s considered parenting practices (1965). They found that material changes of living compared with earlier generations had had an impact on families and that there was a move away from strict discipline practices with parents and children able to communicate much more easily.

In the post war period, the relationship between the state and the family was based on the ideal of a small nuclear family (Parton, 1985). The state took on more responsibilities for individual and family needs across areas of health, education and income. The notion of the 'problem family' who did not fit into the norms of good parenting became more popular after the Second World War (Hendrick, 2003; Welshman, 1999). This in turn had an impact on professionals work with disadvantaged families.

In the 1930s, experts in child care had come to the view that corporal punishment was more likely to do more harm than good (Cunningham, 2006). However, physical punishment was still prevalent in the period after the war with a widely held view that corporal punishment was necessary for the rearing of children. Murphy (1992) highlights that discipline in the home and in schools was frequently harsh and generally supported by society. Lockyer and Stone (1998), in their discussion of the Kilbrandon report and the development of the Children's Hearing System, indicate that discipline in schools was strict with corporal punishment accepted and widely used in Scotland.

Corporal punishment continued to be used in Scottish schools and was not banned until 1986 following a ruling of the European Court. Newson and Newson's 1960s study showed that 95% of parents hit children and 80% thought that they had the right to do so (1965). This study was repeated in the 1980s and it was found that this figure had dropped to 81% of parents hitting children with half thinking that they should not hit children (Newson and Newson, 1989). Families were using physical punishment to discipline their children but more parents were unhappy about this practice.

Physical punishment of children by adults was therefore a continuous backdrop during this period but its use diminished over the decades. Public, legal and political debate about whether parents should hit their children began to explore the possibility of legislative change in the latter part of this period. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Scottish Law Commission's Report on Family Law (1992), which informed the development of the Children (Scotland) Act, made a number of recommendations on physical punishment which were not taken forward in the Act. The law on physical punishment was amended in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, although the hitting of children by adults was not outlawed by statute.

Parenting practices evolved during this period with more attention paid to the needs and wants of children, influenced by child rearing experts. Children were listened to more. The term 'problem family' was used to define those who did not meet societal norms of parenting. Physical punishment as a method of discipline was used less by parents and was banned in schools.

10. Reform in the 1960s: Kilbrandon and the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968

During the 1950s, there was a realisation that child welfare was more complex than had been anticipated with the needs of the 'problem family' given higher profile and a rise in juvenile offending (Hendrick, 2003). Prior to social work reform, there were different groups working across child welfare in Scotland (Lockyer and Stone, 1998). These included volunteers in hospitals, a small number of psychiatric social workers, probation officers, welfare officers and a patchwork network of children's officers. There was little integration among these services. Titmuss (1967), writing on welfare in Britain, highlighted that the skills of trained social workers were fragmented and that there needed to be a move to integrated social services.

In response to these different factors, the 1960s saw major administrative reform in child welfare across Britain. The work of the Ingleby committee in England on juvenile justice was followed by the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 which applied to England, Scotland and Wales. This act gave local authorities the duty to provide assistance to families in order to keep children out of care (Murray and Hill, 1991: Titmuss, 1967). The McBoyle committee in its consideration of the prevention of child neglect recommended that a comprehensive social work service should be established in Scotland. However, this work was overtaken by the work of the Kilbrandon committee which in turn led to the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. This act brought together services which were previously separate as well as establishing procedures for the Children's Hearings System (Working Party on the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, 1969).

The impetus for juvenile justice reform in Britain was the increase in juvenile delinquency after the war, particularly among adolescent boys and young men (Hendrick, 2003, Lockyer and Stone, 1998). This gave rise to greater public concern about crime and young people (Murray and Hill, 1991). These concerns focused on the causes of crime, the appropriate way to assess guilt or innocence and the best approach for dealing with young offenders. On one hand, the young offender was a victim who needed care and treatment. On the other, the young offender was a 'miniature adult' who required to be dealt with through the law (Packman, 1981). In England, there was resistance to proposed changes which were similar to those of Kilbrandon.

A compromise was eventually reached in England with the retention of the juvenile courts with the intention of keeping as many children as possible out of the court system.

Although juvenile delinquency was a pre-occupation of the 1950 and 1960s, there was a more philosophical approach to juvenile delinquency in Scotland than in England (Murphy, 1992). Debate on the balance between welfare and justice had long been an important part of discussion about how to deal with young offenders in Scotland (Murray, 1983). A welfare philosophy was accepted as the framework for dealing with children who committed offences building on new theories of criminality from the early part of the twentieth century which had proposed an emphasis on adverse life experience as predisposing factors for offending ((Asquith, 1983; Murray, 1983).

In 1961, the Kilbrandon Committee was set up to examine measures for dealing with young people who were in need of care and protection. The Kilbrandon Report was published in 1964, followed by a white paper, Social Work and the Community (Scottish Education Department, 1966) which contained a significant number of the recommendations which were outlined in the Kilbrandon Report. Unified social work departments were to be established at local authority level as well as the Children's Hearings System.

The central aim of the new system was to ensure that children and young people did not have to experience the 'rigour' of the adult criminal justice system (Lockyer and Stone, 1998). Views on the response to juvenile offending were divided between 'corrective measures and institutions' and psychological approaches. The Kilbrandon proposals were based on a number of inter-related principles; the best interests welfare principle, the influence of home or wider environments, a central emphasis on family and the principle of prevention (Lockyer and Stone, 1998). The focus was on children in trouble, on their needs not their deeds. The Scottish approach was regarded as more radical than the equivalent changes in England (Asquith, 1983). In England, the report of the Ingleby Committee and Report (Report of the Committee on Children and Young Persons, 1960) had reiterated a view of 1933 legislation which linked neglect and delinquency (Hendrick, 2003). The Kilbrandon recommendations were more child centred and anticipated a future children's rights focus to services although this approach was not prevalent at the time (Lockyer and Stone, 1998).

The development of Children's Hearings System can be viewed as one contribution to an increased recognition of social welfare objectives (Murphy, 1992). The Children's Hearing System has been regarded as a unifying element in Scotland's juvenile justice and care and protection systems (Murphy, 1992; Murray and Hill, 1991. However, Asquith (1983) also warns that the welfare philosophy underpinning the hearings can also mean that children's rights are not adequately protected. When dealing with young people who commit offences, it is complex to reconcile welfare and more legalistic approaches. In addition, Children's Hearings do not have a monopoly over young people who offend. The age of criminal responsibility remains eight years in Scotland in the early part of the twenty first century, children can still be prosecuted and they have to go to court to have facts established.

The setting up of the Children's Hearing System along with the establishment of the social work departments were seen to be radical departures for Scotland's child welfare systems. The new approach to responding to the needs of troubled children was based on a welfare model, moving away from a more punitive approach for those young people who were regarded as delinquent.

11. Rediscovery of poverty

The experience of the Second World War highlighted the extent of poverty and provided an impetus for welfare reform (Hendrick, 1997, Stewart, 2001). In the 1960s and 70s, poverty was 'rediscovered' as the public perception that poverty had been eliminated after the war was found to be overly optimistic. The work of Abel-Smith and Townsend (1965) highlighted that poverty was about more than a lack of essentials but also was about the extent of social inequalities between sections of society (Holman, 1988). These new perspectives encouraged social workers to look at the relationship between poverty and children going into care (Holman, 1988).

Government itself began to consider again definitions and understandings of poverty. In the early 1970s the Conservative government's Minister for Social Services, Sir Keith Joseph, put forward his notion of the cycle of deprivation, focusing on the failings of families as the problem rather than on a lack of resources and structural inequalities (Holman, 1988, Parton, 1985). Abusing families were therefore seen to have an underlying pathology (Parton, 1985) with parents passing on poor child rearing practices from one generation to another (Holman, 1988).

The renewed political, social and academic interest in poverty was matched by changing social and economic trends with the developing recession of the 1970s. Between the 1970s and 1990s the impact of increased unemployment and changes in family make up had significant implications for society (Fox Harding, 1997).

12. Attitudes to children and childhood

Childhood has been viewed as a period when children are both dependent and powerless (Stein, 1989). This perspective was more prevalent at the beginning of this period, slowly changing during the following decades. In the first part of the twentieth century, children were expected to be silent and did not have a voice (Cunningham, 2006). After the Second World War, children had greater societal importance as citizens as well as members of families (Hendrick, 1997). However, although children were of central concern, this did not necessarily result in a child centred society or mean that children were seen as individuals (Cunningham, 2006). The Curtis Committee, in its report, for example, did not speak out as strongly as it could have about examples of harsh discipline (Hendrick, 2003).

Attitudes did become more liberal as the twentieth century progressed (Hendrick, 2003). This could be attributed to improvements in standards of living, the rise of new psychological understandings and the decline of strict religious views that saw children as being culpable, new approaches to education and increase in respect for children's rights (Hendrick, 2003). Increasing concern for the welfare of young people also meant new approaches to young offenders (Murray, 1983). However, attitudes to children remained torn between different perspectives. On one hand, children are seen as special and the focus of society's energies (Frost and Stein, 1989). On the other they do not have a voice and are subject to exploitation.

Mayall (2007) highlights that there has been a long history of seeing children and childhood as separate from adults and adulthood. She defines children as a minority social group who continue to have low status and are socially excluded. Power inequalities between adults and children remained a potent force during this period with adults using their power to forward their own interests at the expense of children (Abrams, 1998).

There was an ongoing tension between a new and growing understanding of children and a more longstanding view of the child, linking neglect and deprivation with being depraved. Colton et al (2002), discussing the experiences of victims and survivors of abuse in residential care, highlight that their experience reflected embedded social attitudes to young people who were 'troubled and troublesome' and were seen to be a threat to society. Hendrick (2003) points that much of the social legislation impacting on children characterised the child as helpless and children's presence as threats. Seeing children as threatening has often led to the reality of their experience as victims being disregarded. Stein, drawing on the work of major inquiries into abuse, states that many young people in residential care did not have adults that they could turn to when they were abused (Stein, 2006). There is therefore an inequality in relations between adults and children which is based on age as well as an additional disadvantage for children who are particularly vulnerable through a variety of circumstances.

Cunningham (2006) argues that the modern era of children began in the early 1970s with childhood being prolonged because of the raising of the school leaving age, children being seen as active contributors in family situations and the rights of children coming to be more predominant. Hendrick (1997) states that identifying attitudes to children and children from the 1960s through to the 1980s are more difficult. Although there were media and political concerns about child abuse during this period, these concerns did not necessarily have a central focus on the child.

13. Children's rights

Children's rights were not a new concept post war although there was not a wide understanding of children's rights for the majority of this period. Legislation began to incorporate limited elements of children's rights as far back as the 1908 Children Act. Children's rights had come to prominence in the early twentieth century when the Assembly of the League of Nations passed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924. In 1959, the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. During the 1960s and 1970s there was a growing awareness of children's rights with some arguing for children's liberation and for greater understanding of children's position in society (Archard, 1993; Franklin, 1986; Hendrick, 1997; Hill and Tisdall, 1997). In 1979 the International Year of the Child gave greater prominence to children's rights (Hendrick, 1997). However, it was not until the 1980s that there began to be greater international pressure for the establishment of a UN convention which would lay out children's rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into being in 1989 and the UK government ratified the convention in 1991.

This growing awareness of children's rights during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s did not manifest itself in a child rights approach to services. Instead, a welfare model remained dominant, focusing on the needs rather than the rights of the child (Hill, Murray and Tisdall, 1998). This dominance remained essentially intact in legislation and practice until the Children (Scotland) Act in 1995 which took greater account of children's rights in the principles of the act in a way that had not existed previously. In the period since ratification in 1991 and the Children (Scotland) Act in 1995, there has been a significant increase in the understanding of children's rights at a professional and, more moderately, at a public level. However, ensuring that children's rights are more than a rhetorical commitment has been problematic (Hill, Murray and Tisdall, 1998).

Attention to children's participation rights began to be more common in the late 1970s and 1980s although there was no indication that this had become embedded in professional practice. The lack of a focus on children's rights was highlighted acutely by the findings of the Cleveland inquiry (1988) which stated that children had not been listened to by professionals (Asquith, 1993). In undertaking work for this review it was noted that the literature on social work and child care for this period omits significant mention of children's rights up until the late 1980s and early 1990s, highlighting that a welfare based approach to services remained dominant.

By the late 1970s, new organisations were beginning to emerge which sought to listen to the voices of children such as Childline (Hendrick, 1997). In the 1980s, professionals working with children began to have a greater awareness of children's rights although child abuse inquiry reports showed that greater attention needed to be given to children's views. Abrams (1998) highlights that children in care were not viewed as having rights until the 1980s.This greater visible commitment to the rights of children in care was confirmed by Skinner's report, 'Another Kind of Home' (1992) which emphasised the need for children's rights to be central to their care while they were looked after.

14. Child abuse

One of the most challenging areas in child welfare since the 1948 Act has been the evolving definition of child abuse. During this period understandings of child abuse changed significantly. Child abuse was not a new phenomenon (Archard, 1993, Fox Harding 1997). However, up to the late 1940s, there was little recognition of abuse in the public consciousness (Abrams, 1998). The focus in the early twentieth century was on delinquency, neglect and the problem family rather than on abuse (Parton, 1979).

From the 1960s up to the mid 1980s, understanding about child abuse became more widely known with increased societal awareness of child abuse. 'Battered baby syndrome' was first identified in America at the end of the 1950s and came to prominence during the early 1960s through the work of Kempe and others (Kempe and Helfer, 1980). While interest in 'battered baby syndrome' developed within the medical profession in Britain during the following years, Parton (1979) notes that this interest was not replicated in the social work profession which continued to focus on neglect and casework with the family. Although the term 'battered baby' was emotive, it identified abuse as a medical condition rather than something that was deviant. Dealing with delinquency influenced child and family work in the period after the war but this shifted in the early 1970s to concern about child abuse (Parton, 1985). In Scotland, child abuse was not well developed as a professional concept with the first professional course in child care in Scotland only available in 1960 (Murphy, 1992).

An understanding of emotional, physical or sexual abuse was absent until the 1960s. It was given a particularly high profile by the inquiry into the death of Maria Colwell in the early 1970s (Abrams, 1998; Fox Harding, 1997; Parton, 1979). Fox Harding (1997) identifies that the public and the media became sensitised to child abuse after the 1960s. The publication of the Maria Colwell inquiry report in particular signified a change in child welfare practice and public attitudes and was identified with much wider anxieties about the position of the family, an increase in violence and permissiveness (Stevenson, 1998; Parton, 1985) The discovery of child abuse in the 1980s raised questions about whether child abuse had increased during this period or if there was simply greater awareness of the existence of abuse (Hill et al, 1991).

The Department of Health's summary of child protection research highlights that there are many definitions of abuse and that these often described incidents such as 'beating, sexual interference and neglect' (Department of Health, 1995). However, this summary states that the context in which abuse takes place is likely is to be considered by professionals before these incidents are considered to be abusive. This, of course, emphasises the difficulty of identifying what is child abuse as what is considered 'normal' at one time can be considered 'abnormal' in another (Department of Health, 1995). In parallel to this, parental and societal views of what is good and bad parenting change over time.

Other writers also emphasise that child abuse needs to be understood within historical and social contexts. Jenks (1996), writing about childhood and the battered baby syndrome of the 1960s, says that our tolerance of what could be regarded as abusive conduct has lowered over time. How child abuse and child protection is constructed is a 'selective process' with certain risks seen to be socially problematic while other risks are marginalised (Hill and Tisdall, 1997).

While the inquiry into the death of Maria Colwell focused on physical abuse, inquiries in the 1980s began to focus on sexual abuse with the Cleveland inquiries being most prominent. Scotland found itself having to scrutinise its own practice with regard to child abuse during the Orkney Inquiry into the removal of children from their homes by social workers. The Orkney cases in 1991 raised the profile of child welfare among the public in Scotland in a way that had not happened before (Abrams, 1998).

The many inquiries that characterised the period from 1973 until the late 1980s led to high profile public debate on what was child abuse. However, there was a lack of reliable evidence which could help in defining and diagnosing child abuse and identify what was the most effective form of intervention (Department of Health, 1995). Parton (1985) describes how social workers felt inadequate to the task of dealing with child abuse because there were so many contradictions in determining abuse. Hill (1990) considers a DHSS summary of conclusions from 20 inquiries in the late 70s. He identifies six areas common to the inquiries where particular mistakes had been made. These included social workers not always prioritising their responsibility to the child, risk factors affecting children being overlooked, social workers making mistakes in their interaction with parents, legal procedures not being used appropriately and interagency co-operation not working effectively.

The focus in this period was on the family. Colton et al (2002) state that by the 1990s, awareness of child abuse had moved to the experience of those who had been living in residential care.

Child abuse has therefore proved to be a testing and complex area of child welfare and has been the focus of public and media attention since the early 1970s when child abuse became commonly accepted. Inquiries and research found that there had been failures across a number of areas and that social work staff needed to have better access to evidence, training and education. Inquiry reports began to acknowledge that children's views needed to be heard more.

15. Developments post Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968

The period after 1969 was one of rapid professional reform in Scotland with the percentage of qualified field staff rising from 30% to 97% in 1989 (Murphy, 1992). The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 brought together services which were previously separate including probation, child care services and welfare as well as setting up procedures for Children's Hearings. Overall the act was seen as a significant development in child welfare with an attendant significant increase in financial resources (Murphy, 1992). The Children's Hearings System remained in place with essentially the same philosophy and structure as when it was established in the early 1970s (Asquith, 1993).

In Scotland, the implementation of the Social Work (Scotland) Act was followed by local government re-organisation which took place in 1975. This resulted in a two tier system with nine regional and 53 district councils. Services for children were divided up between these two models with regional councils taking on the responsibility for education and social work and district councils responsible for housing and recreation.

Inquiries and concerns about child abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s became levers for exploring policy and practice change. The Cleveland Inquiry (1988) in the late 80s was followed by the Orkney Inquiry (1992) in Scotland. Although the two inquiries had very different contexts, they revealed a number of ongoing difficulties in protecting children's rights at the same time as acknowledging parental rights and responsibilities (Asquith, 1993).The two inquiries added to more longstanding demands for changes in child care law but this was balanced by concern about a growing picture of poor quality care. To undertake changes in law also required changes in services. Asquith (1993) highlights some of the issues where progress was required at this point including improving the knowledge base of professionals in child abuse, exploring the adequacy of training, ensuring parental rights for early appeal against removal of children from home and the need for better inter-agency working.

In England, the Cleveland abuse inquiry was followed quickly by the Children Act (1989). Most of these provisions were relevant to England and Wales with some provisions relating to Scotland around services for younger children. In Scotland, there was a perception that there needed to be a similar overhaul of legislation for children (Hill, Murray and Tisdall, 1998). As a result the Child Care Law Review Group was established in 1988 to consider options for improving child law. The review reported (Scottish Office, 1991), making 95 recommendations but no substantial changes (Hill, Murray and Tisdall, 1998). However, this more muted response was overturned by Scotland's own major child care scandal in Orkney. In the same period, a child care inquiry was undertaken in Fife by Sheriff Kearney (Fife Inquiry, 1992) and the children's reporter system was reviewed. By the early 1990s Scotland was following England in reforming its child care legislation, publishing a white paper, 'Scotland's Children' (Scottish Office Education Department, 1993). The proposals were not necessarily seen as radical but incorporated many of the Child Care Law Review Group's recommendations (Hill, Murray and Tisdall, 1998). The subsequent legislation, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 signalled a break with previous child care legislation and incorporated children's rights principles.

During the early 1990s, local government re-organisation was once again on the agenda with the abolition of two tier local government and reorganisation into 32 unitary authorities in 1994. By the end of this period, the statutory sector had a central role that would be unrecognisable from the beginning of this period (Murray and Hill, 1991).

16. Conclusions

There are major challenges in undertaking a review of social policy trends and societal attitudes to children and young people in the period 1950 to 1995. First and foremost, this is a long period historically. Those who have explored this period have suggested that there is not a great deal of research which has taken an overarching view of this period in Scotland. There is also, more generally, a paucity of empirical research which has examined the experience of children. This, in turn, impacts on what can be concluded from the information that is available.

Understanding attitudes to children and childhood over period of time is a complex task. Children's situation cannot be considered in isolation from adults, the state and social trends. The influences on child welfare are therefore diverse and extensive.

It is hard to define how children are regarded at any point in history with a lack of texts which examine the history of children's lives. Children's experiences are influenced by a variety of factors. Children's perspectives were rarely recorded in the past with their views not actively sought until more recently.

Substantial changes in social policy and attitudes to children took place in the period 1950 to 1995.In the 1950s, there was a new focus on the family with the development of the welfare state and the development of legislation which sought to secure the social and economic well being of society. Many of these developments focused on the family and, in particular, on children.

The 1948 Children Act was the first significant piece of post war legislation and laid down the foundations for children service departments. This legislation, which also applied to Scotland, did not manifest itself in the same level of children's services developments in Scotland in the 1950s.

Greater understanding of the needs of children developed during the period through the work of psychologists and psychiatrists. This new knowledge influenced professionals as well as parenting practices although physical punishment continued to be used during this period.

During the 1950s there was concern in Britain about the level of juvenile delinquency. This led to the different jurisdictions in Britain exploring how to respond to this trend. In Scotland, the Kilbrandon Report recommended the establishment of the Children's Hearing System, a welfare based approach to responding to the needs of troubled children and young people. The new unified social work departments were set up under the same legislation, the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.

The period reflects a growing understanding of the impact of factors on children's lives, particularly those who were most vulnerable. Although the notion of the 'problem family' emerged during the Second World War and was still present as an explanation of both abuse and poverty into the 1970s, the 'rediscovery' of poverty in the 1960s and 1970s increased understanding of the impact of structural factors on children.

Attitudes to children did change with a stronger perspective emerging of children as individuals and greater commitment to their rights towards the end of this period. This was given greater status by the UK government's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. However, there were conflicting understandings of children and childhood. On the one hand, children's vulnerability, their individual rights and their well being were increasingly recognised. On the other hand, children were seen as depraved and difficult. Although there was inequality between adults and children based on age, children who were vulnerable through a range of circumstances were additionally disadvantaged.

During this period understanding of child abuse developed although commentators highlight that abuse was not a new phenomenon. In the 1960s 'battered baby syndrome' became more known with a greater understanding of child abuse emerging in the 1970s and child sexual abuse in the 1980s. Much of the work on child abuse focused in the 1960s and 1970s on the family. Only in the 1980s did there being to be an acknowledgement of the impact of child abuse on those who lived in institutions.


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