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.
|The United Kingdom|
|Health & Safety
The Department of Health has conducted a more detailed analysis on child well-being in relation to health:
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.
Its report is based on two measures:
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 and Skills
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:
Government departments involved:
||What we do
|Behaviors and Risks
||In the latter half of 2017, the Children’s Commissioner released a series of report on the well-being of different groups of children.
||Where we live
The State of Western Australia’s Children and Young People – Edition Two
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:
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:
In all of these projects, children and young people emphasized the importance of family and friends to positive wellbeing.
Relationships with others
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.
The Department for Education has also conducted a report in 2017 on “The wellbeing of secondary school pupils with special educational needs”
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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