ABSTRACTUniversity of ManchesterDiane Holt Whalley*Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)Policy and Practice for Children with Complex Needs2012The focus of this research is the relationship between policy and practice for those children who are classified as having multiple or 'complex' needs and are consequently deemed to require simultaneous, specialist support from education, social care and health services. The aims of the research are to determine: how children's 'complex needs' are conceptualised and represented in public policy; how they are identified and addressed in practice; and how the policy plays out 'in arenas of practice' where 'policies are contested, interpreted and enacted' (Ball, 2008 p.7). The scope of the study is framed by the three research questions:1. How are complex needs defined?2. How are public services for children with complex needs designed and delivered? 3. What is the relationship between policy and practice in the field of children's complex needs?The study is a policy scholarship underpinned by an epistemology that supports the notion of knowledge and reality as social constructions. It employs two methods of policy sociology, documents and interviews, and the tools of critical discourse analysis to examine written text of national and local policy documents and the spoken text of semi-structured interviews. The research examines empirical data through the typology of supporting theory building in integrated services research. The findings are presented as a triptych of portraits. Twenty two professionals from education, children's social care and children's health participated in the study from three local areas in England that, for purposes of confidentiality, are named Westborough, Broadshire and Midtown.The findings of the research suggest that the impact of the inter-connectivity of multiple variables in the field of policy and practice for children with complex needs suggests that they cannot meaningfully be addressed in isolation from each other or from their contexts by policy, practice or research. The variables include: the unique nature of the permutation, extent, fluctuation and contextual circumstances of the multiple needs experienced by some children; differing constructions and definitions of difference and diversity in childhood across policy and practice; the differing demands of different policy strands within the configuration of public policy for children; the multiple discourses that inter-act and strive for dominance across agencies, disciplines and sectors; and linear and non-linear approaches to change. The findings of the study suggest that future research would ideally: be conducted within a coherent and longitudinal frame; engage inter-disciplinary research networks, professionals, children and families; and focus on inter-connectivity within whole systems in context.