Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 April 2022
The capability approach (CA) has been used to assess individual wellbeing and the evaluation of social arrangements, and to develop policies and practices to effect social change. In recent years, the CA has gained attention and influence in a broad number of public policy areas and across academic disciplines. This chapter explores child protection policy and practice in England, an area of social policy that has hitherto received very limited analysis from the perspective of the CA. It presents an overview of child protection policies and practices, their historical development and their current manifestation in contemporary England, where the political context is dominated by neoliberal policies and an ‘austerity’ agenda. It then explores what the CA can offer to further our understanding of the impacts of the child protection system. We make recommendations for the development of a more humane and socially just system that promotes children's and their parents’ capabilities and rights, and recognises their necessary interrelatedness.
In this chapter we analyse two particular aspects of the child protection system from a capability perspective. We critically examine the ways poverty and parenting are constructed in the dominant discourses and the policies and practices that have developed within this context. In addition, drawing on qualitative research with families who have experienced the child protection system, we explore the impact of interventions on parents, and conclude with recommendations for policy and practice that strives for greater social justice. Prior to analysing these aspects, we present an overview view of child protection policies and practices, their historical development and manifestation in contemporary England.
By using the term ‘child protection’ in an English context, we are referring to the laws, policies and practices relating to children deemed to be at risk or likely to be at risk of abuse and neglect. We acknowledge, as Waterhouse and McGhee (2015, p 13) do, that ‘the same words are used to mean different things at different times and different words may be used to mean the same things’. Differences in use and understanding of the terminology around ‘child protection’ and ‘child abuse and neglect’ can be particularly divergent when working across professional and international boundaries (Pösö, 2015).