Overseas frameworks: Assessing the needs of each and every child

Overseas frameworks: Assessing the needs of each and every child

In the understanding of child well-being and what it means in terms of policy design and implementation, it is always useful to draw from overseas examples like that of Western Australia and the UK. They have certain differences in terms of their method of data collection and policy implementation. However, their objectives and spirits remain the same – their governments hope to understand better how life is going for their children. An important point to note is that in both countries, the emphasis on well-being is not exclusive to children and young people. They also measure the well-being of their citizens in general. As the British government asserts, “measuring national well-being is about looking at ‘GDP and beyond’ to measure what really matters to people. It aims to help to show how people feel their quality of life changes in relation to changes in circumstances, policies and wider events in society.” (British Government Office for National Statistics). Both governments therefore find well-being a useful tool for policy implementation and evaluation. Below is a brief comparison of their well-being framework.

Child-Centered Data – Assessing the Needs of Each and Every Child

Both the governments of Western Australia and Britain cover a wide range of child population in their analysis of child well-being. They are not merely collecting the data of children. Their data collection is centered upon children – it is a mapping of the entire child population in the country, detailing their specific characteristics, needs and challenges.

Western Australia Commissioner for Children and Young People for example collects the data of children under the age of 18 in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Within this 0-17 year-old group, it clearly segregates the data into different groups according to the specific characteristics, needs and situation of these population. Hence, policy makers and service providers can know clearly the seriousness of different child-related issues and the total child population that different policies and services need to cater. Below is an example of how it analyses the child population according to its religious affiliation:

The UK, on the other hand, ensures that it can cover even the most marginal group in its collection of child-related data. While the Office for National Statistics collects data of the general child population with reference to data collected by the Children’s Society and Understanding Society, the Children Commissioner specifically studies “the Wellbeing of Children excluded from Schools and in Alternative Provision”, “the Wellbeing of Children in Detention in England” and “the Wellbeing of Children involved in Gangs in England”. The Department of Education also studies “the Wellbeing of Secondary School Pupils with SEN”. This shows how different government departments cooperate with each other and with non-governmental organizations in the assessment of child well-being. These information are vital for the planning of different child-related government departments and organizations.

Understanding the Objective and Subjective Well-being of Children – A Comparison Between Western Australia and Britain

Not only do Western Australia and Britain ensure they can cover a wide range of child population in their research and data collection on child well-being, they also seek to understand different aspects of child well-being to make sure that they can have a comprehensive view on how life is going for children. The following table shows the areas that they cover when collecting child data.

Western Australia

The United Kingdom
Health & Safety

  • Smoke-free pregnancy
  • Alcohol-free pregnancy
  • Birth weight
  • Infant mortality
  • Immunization
  • Child health checks
  • Ear health
  • Oral health
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Body weight
  • Mental health
  • Self-harm and suicide
  • Hospitalizations from injury and poisoning
  • Deaths from injury and poisoning
  • Family and domestic violence
  • Parental use of alcohol and drugs
  • Abuse or neglect: substantiations
  • Out-of-home care

The Department of Health has conducted a more detailed analysis on child well-being in relation to health:

Health

  • Birth weight
  • Body weight
  • Disability or long term limiting illness
  • Mental ill-health
  • Subjective well-being: Level of happiness with health

More detailed analysis on children’s well-being in relation to health has been conducted by Public Health England

The Public Health Outcomes Framework data aims at reflecting how well people live in the UK at different stages of their lives. It enables comparison between data from different geographical area and age groups. It specifically includes the data of children and their households.

More detailed analysis on children’s subjective well-being in relation to health has been conducted by the National Health Service.

Its report is based on two measures:

  • The Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS)
  • Four measures of well-being developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Well-being measures are analyzed by age, sex, region and household income, and then by four health-related indicators: physical activity, body mass index (BMI), whether children have ever smoked, and whether they have ever drunk alcohol.

*Those written in purple are data related to the subjective well-being of children.

Education

  • Parents engaging children in informal learning
  • Early education
  • Children developmentally vulnerable on entering school
  • Students achieving at or above national minimum standards
  • Pathways for leaving school
Education and Skills

  • Early education
  • Students achieving at or above national standards
  • Pathways for leaving school
  • Subjective well-being: Level of happiness with school

More detailed analysis and planning on child well-being in relation to education has been conducted by various government departments.

It includes areas such as:

  • Health and safety in school
  • Sports education
  • Relationships and sex education

Government departments involved:

  • Department for Education
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
  • Department of Health and Social Care
  • Public Health England
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • Ofsted: the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills
Material Well-being

  • Low-income households
  • Jobless families
  • Overcrowded households
  • Homelessness
Personal Finance

  • Low-income households
  • Jobless families
  • Households with combined low income and material deprivation
  • Subjective well-being: level of happiness with their possession
Participation

  • Participation in sport and cultural activities
  • Internet access
What we do

  • Participation in sport and cultural activities
  • Internet access
  • Subjective well-being: level of happiness with their time use
Behaviors and Risks

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Births to teenage mothers
  • Youth justice: Diversion
  • Youth justice: Community-based supervision
  • Youth justice: Detention
In the latter half of 2017, the Children’s Commissioner released a series of report on the well-being of different groups of children.

  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children excluded from Schools and in Alternative Provision
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children in Detention in England
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children Subject to Immigration Controls in England
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children involved in Gangs in England
Environment

  • Access to green spaces, parks, and community facilities
  • Drinking water quality
  • Air quality
Where we live

  • Access to the natural environment
  • Whether they were a victim of crime in the last year
  • Whether they feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood after dark
  • Subjective well-being: level of happiness with their accommodation
  • Subjective well-being: level of happiness with their neighborhood

Source:

The State of Western Australia’s Children and Young People – Edition Two
Commissioner for Children and Young People

Source:

Children’s Well-being Measures, March 2018 release (Data are the latest available at March 2018)

Office for National Statistics quoting from organizations such as the Children’s Society and Understanding Society

Subjective / Personal Well-being*

Western Australia The United Kingdom
The Commissioner quoted from the research of three different organizations in its report “The State of Western Australia’s Children and Young People” on:

  • How concerned children are about specified items on a five-point scale, from “extremely concerned” to “not at all concerned”
  • Who children turn to for information, advice and support.

These organizations include Kids Helpline, Mission Australia and Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

Other reports conducted by the Commissioner for Children and Young People on the wellbeing of children:

  • Speaking Out About Wellbeing (2010)
  • Speaking Out About Mental Health (2011)
  • Speaking Out About Living in Regional and Remote WA (2013)
  • Speaking Out About Disability (2013).

In all of these projects, children and young people emphasized the importance of family and friends to positive wellbeing.

Personal well-being

  • Level of satisfaction with their lives overall
  • Level of happiness
  • Level of how worthwhile the things they do are
  • Level of happiness with their appearance

Relationships with others

  • Frequency of quarreling with a parent
  • Frequency of talking to a parent about things that matter
  • Frequency of being bullied at school physically or in other ways
  • Level of happiness with family
  • Level of happiness with friends

Personal well-being in specific areas

In addition to collecting data on the subjective well-being of children in general, the British government also studies the personal well-being of specific groups of children and young people as indicated above in blue.

In both countries, child participation and the collection of data related to child subjective well-being are conducted by both the Child Commissioner and the non-governmental organizations, as they have more expertise in engaging children and collecting their opinions.

*The UK uses the term “personal well-being”. Nevertheless, it is actually the same as subjective well-being.

Well-being for Specific Groups of Children

Western Australia The United Kingdom
The Commissioner for Children and Young People specifically makes a comparison between the well-being of aboriginal and non-aboriginal children and young people. “Children’s Commissioner’s Report on Vulnerability” was released in July 2017 giving a general overview of children living in vulnerable situations. It discovered that over half a million children were so vulnerable that the state had to step in. 670,000 children in England were also growing up in ‘high risk’ family situations. Hence in the latter half of 2017, the Children’s Commissioner released a series of report on the well-being of different groups of vulnerable children.

  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children excluded from Schools and in Alternative Provision
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children in Detention in England
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children Subject to Immigration Controls in England
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children involved in Gangs in England
  • Children’s Voices: The Wellbeing of Children with Mental Health Needs in England

The Department for Education has also conducted a report in 2017 on “The wellbeing of secondary school pupils with special educational needs”

Conclusion

Both Western Australia and the UK cover different aspects of a child’s life experience in the analysis of their well-being. They strive to be inclusive in understanding the needs of children of all age groups, backgrounds and circumstances. Their data is also readily available to the public. Indeed, there is no child well-being framework that can fit into every society. It is the obligation of each government to develop the framework that best suits the needs of children in their society, and with the participation of multi-disciplines and children themselves.

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