Social Policy and Society

Themed Section on Partnerships, Governance and Citizenship

User Outcomes and Children's Services Reform: Ambiguity and Conflict in the Policy Implementation Process

Bob Hudson a1
a1 School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Durham E-mail:

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hudson b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The reforms to children's services in the UK brought in by the Every Child Matters Green Paper and the subsequent Children Act 2004 represent the most significant change in this area of social policy since 1948. The policy approach has two distinguishing features – an ‘outcomes led’ approach rooted in the views of children and young people about what constitutes ‘wellbeing’ in their lives, and a partnership approach that recognises these outcomes can only be achieved through high levels of inter-agency and inter-professional working. This article suggests that the two features may be in tension, and that during the process of implementation there is a danger that user defined outcomes will be re-interpreted to fit in with other organisational and professional agendas. The analysis draws upon Rick Matland's framework for exploring the impact of conflict and ambiguity respectively upon the implementation process.

(Published Online April 26 2006)