Interpreting Children’s Needs: Contested Assumptions in the Provision of Welfare

  • Nigel Thomas


The aim of this chapter is to examine some of the different uses of concepts of ‘children’s needs’ and their implications for professional practice with children. I begin by revisiting Martin Woodhead’s critique of ‘children’s needs’ (1990, 1997) and asking how it can help us understand the use of ‘children’s needs’ in professional practice. Following this, I look at the use of the concept of ‘children’s needs’ in the Children Act 1989 in England and Wales and then at two specific examples — (1) the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, and (2) services to ‘young carers’. This is followed by considering some research into different conceptions of needs held by professionals and families, which leads to the suggestion that the concept of ‘children’s needs’ may perhaps be reclaimed. To do so, it is necessary to look at the philosophical foundations of ‘basic human needs’, and then at how children and young people can contribute to defining their own needs. Finally, this brings us to consider the political marginalisation of children, the relationship between needs and rights discourses, and the alternatives to deficit models of needs and of childhood.


Child Welfare Child Protection Social Work Practice Cultural Construction Child Welfare Agency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Palgrave Macmillan 2005

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  • Nigel Thomas

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