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Conflicting ideologies of individual ‘responsibility’ are expounded in two aspects of Government policy which have specific implications for the family: the Children Act 1989 and the Government's strategy for health, as set out in Health of the Nation. These conflicting concepts underpin contradictions in the casting of both professional and parental responsibility for the health and welfare of young children. This paper examines assumptions about responsibility which underpin both welfare policies, and compares them with mothers’ accounts of concept and fulfillment of parental responsibility, revealed during research in the North-west of England. We then go on to consider how these conflicting concepts are played out in mothers ’ interactions with the health visitor, a key member of the primary health care team whose role in implementing government welfare policy for young children is to act both as mother's friend and parental inspector. The impact of this paradox is that the health visitor’s role under the Children Act in child protection may subvert her/his role in promoting health and contributing to the achievement of targets for health gain, as set out in Health of the Nation. © 1997 Routledge.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law

Publication Date





139 - 158