Universal service provision for children and young people

A challenge for policy makers

Authored by: Roger Smith

The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138942752
eBook ISBN: 9781315672960
Adobe ISBN: 9781317374749


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Service provision for children is motivated by our specific understandings of childhood and what that entails in terms of developmental need, potential and achievement and the future socialization of young people. The starting point for this conceptualization of the service framework might be an implicit assumption that children should all be entitled to the same opportunities in order to achieve material and social ‘well-being’, irrespective of their origins and the possible challenges they may face along the way. So, there is therefore assumed to be a common basis for the organization and delivery of welfare goods, but this might be tempered by the recognition that their lives and experiences are potentially very different. Thus, in order to achieve actual equality of outcome, it could be argued that services need to be organized and delivered in quite different ways, depending on the variable circumstances and characteristics of children themselves. Universal services, then, do not necessarily mean uniform services if they are to promote both general goals in terms of a good childhood, and the specific needs of children themselves, which are likely to be shaped by disadvantage, inequality and discrimination, for example. As Cockburn puts it, ‘[i]f we are to think of promoting children’s access to citizenship then it is necessary not to treat children as a homogeneous block of people but a rich variety of people with a common characteristic’ (Cockburn, 1998, p. 13). He makes the point, too, that the language of rights and citizenship has only recently been applied to children in their own right, and that this has also been a factor in limiting access to services geared to their distinctive needs and interests.

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