Previous chapters have identified and explored a number of themes that impinge on our thinking about child abuse: history, social unease, affluence, recession, moral panic, child protection, services to families, children's rights, partnership with parents, the law, the state of knowledge and the position of social work. These themes will reappear in this final chapter which speculates about the future for children and how they might be helped by the state both directly and indirectly through its agents. What should be evident is that child abuse only makes sense if we try to understand its social background; the last twenty years reveal dramatic changes in emphasis whether regarding definitions of child-care policy and practice. The political background as a distinct aspect of society also has a key role and at the time of writing, it is impossible to anticipate whether major shifts in ideology lie ahead; what seems likely is that no present-day government will make radical changes in child-care policy because of pressing economic and tactical problems.
In Chapter 2 use was made of Harding's four perspectives (1991) as a way of interpreting child-care policy and legislation. Although her conclusions are that the present position represents 'an uneasy synthesis' (ch. 7) it is also clear that state intervention is now well established. Partly, this reflects a modern world which has shrunk because information technology brings everyone closer and thus easier to label and monitor. The growth of European Community influence is likely to accelerate this process by emphasizing the interdependence of social and economic units within and between