What is the coalition government doing for children?
A report on a one-day seminar hosted by the Centre for Child and Youth Research at Brunel University
The Centre for Child and Youth Research at Brunel University was host to a one-day seminar on Friday 24 February 2012. Chaired by Professor Nicola Madge, the theme for the day was ‘Changing fortunes for children? A look at policy and practice for young people under the current coalition government’.
The ‘Big Society’?
The day began with an inspiring talk from Kathy Evans, Deputy Chief Executive of Children England. She presented a view from the voluntary sector on the ‘Big Society’, introduced with some flurry as a central plank of the coalition government ethos and representing David Cameron’s aspiration to shift power, responsibility and decision making from the state to individuals, neighbourhoods or ‘the lowest possible tier of government’. What meaning does it hold for young people? Currently there are very few areas in which they feature specifically in the government’s plans, opportunities for involving them appear to have been missed, and many pre-existing youth involvement mechanisms have recently been cut. How can this paradoxical situation be reversed?
To read Kathy’s recent article on this topic, please click here.
Crime and youth justice
Next to speak was Dr Jonathan Ilan, Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent, who explored coalition policy on young people in conflict with the law and asked if it is ‘one step forward, one step back?’ His authoritative presentation charted the changes that have occurred since New Labour’s policy avalanche, and concluded that the new government is in some ways more progressive than the last. Nonetheless the future remains uncertain.
To view Jonathan’s presentation, please click here. Child poverty and the media: lessons for the coalition government?
There was again a change of topic as Malcolm Dean, former Social Policy Editor of the Guardian, traced the troubled history of the End Child Poverty campaign from its inception to the present day. He talked about strategies to make child poverty headline news, and outlined the position inherited by the coalition government. Although David Cameron has tried to appear on the side of the poor as well as the rich, it seems that the present coalition government may be doing less well than the previous Labour government in reducing child poverty, albeit in the face of greater economic challenges.
Malcolm’s recent (2011) book Democracy under attack – how the media distort policy and politics is published by the Policy Press.
How are young people constructed in education policy?
The fourth speaker was Professor Rachel Brooks from Brunel University School of Sport and Education who set herself the task of examining how young people are viewed in coalition education policy. Focussing on three key reports on young people and education, she reported a detailed thematic analysis to establish how far messages have changed from those presented by New Labour. She concluded that while some constructions represent continuity, others are reconfigurations or innovations.
To view Rachel’s presentation, please click here. What do young people themselves think?
The next spot featured six young members of Hillingdon Youth Council and/or the UK Youth Parliament. They began their presentation by outlining the role of the Youth Council and UKYP and their motivation for becoming members, and then debated the coalition government’s handling of the recent riots. Three specific questions were addressed:
- Were young people responsible for the riots?
- How well did the police respond to the riots?
- Did the justice system become ‘unjust’?
Please click here to read one young person’s view of the day.
Research in progress
Two short presentations from Kate Byford, postgraduate student at Brunel University, and Mark Kerr, postgraduate student at the University of Kent, concluded the day. Kate talked about her imminent examination of the impact of the coalition government’s increase in university fees, and Mark reported on his investigation of outcomes for care leavers and current policy shifts.
To view Kate’s presentation, please click here.
Contributions from seminar participants
To view an article by Wendy Fitzgibbon on the implications of the Munro Child Protection Review for the future of probation, please click here.