The ‘commodification’ of ‘children in need’ in welfare markets
Keywords:<i>welfare markets</i>, <i>children in need</i>, <i>child development</i>, <i>‘helping relationship’</i>
The well-being of children and young people in the UK has been shown to be poor compared to most other affluent countries. This paper argues that the market paradigm in welfare, ideologically driven not evidence-based, requires managers to implement services for ‘children in need’ that are short-term and fragmented and developed to suit the needs of adults. These services do not provide the well-researched conditions needed for the optimal development and well-being of children and young people. A deficit model of children is embedded in welfare assessment templates and the ‘child in need’ must be objectified, standardised, costed and subject to quality control mechanisms by managers at all levels in order to meet targets and performance indicators. This, in turn, has undermined the ‘helping relationship’ with professional adults. The article begins by reviewing the move from the Welfare State to welfare markets, current evidence as to the outcomes for children and young people in the UK compared to other countries and the conditions necessary for optimal development. The discourse of consumption and how this combines with market processes and leads to the ‘commodification’ of children is then explored. In conclusion it is argued this has undermined the ‘helping relationship’ and that a return to professional identities and practices, detached from party political considerations, is imperative.