The Labour government under the leadership of Tony Blair designed a program in 2004 to address all aspects of child development. This is the Every Child Matters program. It contained five key objectives. Improving and integrating diverse but related components of common child-care services was high up on the agenda. A more effective intervention system is required to prevent common problems and a sound contingency plan to mitigate their effects. Identifying and installing leaders who are committed to the cause of child welfare and make earnest efforts in fulfilling program objectives. The program also intends to place the responsibility of child protection across all involved agencies. Finally, to prime the involved institutions to come up with solutions tailored to suit the unique circumstances of each case.
Viewing this comprehensive child development program from a historical perspective gives us a better understanding of some of these objectives. For example, weak accountability and poor integration had for long been the bane of the support systems of yesteryears. Poor co-ordination and low standards of accountability had led to public distrust with these institutions. The various component agencies were not properly integrated which resulted in inefficiency and redundancy. For instance, “some children are assessed many times by different agencies and despite this may get no services. Children may experience a range of professionals involved in their lives but little continuity and consistency of support.” (Youth Justice: The Next Steps)
Another area of concern with the older system was the general sense of apathy on part of child health-care professional. Unless health-care professionals approach their work with dedication and compassion, their effectiveness is always going to be sub-standard. Hence, the Every Child Matters program proposes ways in which a career in child-care is seen as attractive by the professionals. The cultural norms of the English society is as much to blame for this situation; as the roles assumed by child-care workers largely goes unappreciated and undervalued. This is reflected in the fact that for long the national vacancy rate in these services had hovered around the 10 percent mark, which is one of the highest in the industrial world.
The relation between socio-economic background and child delinquency is an acknowledged fact. Hence, the government had realised that child protection should consider this important aspect of a child’s life as well. The Every Child Matters program tries to tackle this issue at its root by coming up with a needs-based support system. For example, lower income families, who need the greatest support, can avail of the Child Tax Credit. The same is applicable to parents of disabled children. (Youth Justice: The Next Steps)
Another proven fact is the relation between pre and post natal parental condition and child outcome. So the government framed National Service Framework for Children to cater to the needs of pregnant women and young mothers. Creating a more accessible primary care is one of the objectives within this framework. Lifting the overall standards of maternity services and alleviating the number of cases of post-natal depression are some other notable goals. Considering the fact that depressed mothers bring up depressed children, measures to reduce incidence of post-natal depression is of paramount importance. A large amount of tax-payer money is also being directed toward infrastructure projects. These include setting up close to 1 million new childcare facilities within the next few years and providing additional funding for childcare in poorer neighbourhoods. Free education programs are also being offered in these localities. (Youth Justice: The Next Steps)
Seeing the Every Child Matters program from a historical perspective gives us a better understanding of the urgency of such an effort. For long, the number of children in UK “who experience educational failure, suffer ill health, become pregnant as teenagers, are victims of abuse and neglect, or become involved in offending and anti-social behaviour” have been relatively high among the more advanced countries. Statistics released by the governments of Scandinavian countries show Britain in a poorer light. Hence, there was a widespread public thrust to bring about some radical changes to the existing institutions in order to make the country a better place to live in for the future generations. It was also recognised that prevention is a more sound practice than conjuring up quick fixes. So the Blair government was keen on inventing a new approach to child care that was centred less on crisis management and more on early intervention and prevention.