Speaking to student social workers about the Law – and some other stuff

 

On Monday 27th November 2017 I went to talk to some student social workers about the law around care proceedings  – how important it was for them to understand what the law demands. Without that understanding, social workers cannot analyse their cases effectively and they may not appreciate what kind of evidence they need to present to the court.

I have often wondered if it is lack of proper understanding of the burden and standard of proof which explains why so many care cases go off the rails. I spoke to the students for about an hour, largely exploring areas I discuss in this post about the importance of the rule of law and this post about achieving best evidence in Children Act cases.

“Whats the point in doing the job?”

But – for me at least – the most interesting part of the day was the discussion that followed afterwards. We spoke about the importance of discussion between the different professions to enable us to understand the parameters and limits of our different roles.

I spoke about how social media was still on balance a very positive force in my life as it had enabled me to meet and talk to people I would otherwise never have met. It also allows information to be widely shared.

I asked the students what their perception now was of the role of social worker. The answer was immediate and very sad:

We started the year excited but the constant social work bashing makes us think ‘what’s the point… there is no one who talks about us doing a ‘cracking job’.

The students explained that they were receiving negative messages from all sides – from the parents who visited the college to speak and even from representatives of their own profession.

Of particular note to the students was the way the profession was portrayed by Social Work Tutor. The students confirmed that the discussion on the Facebook groups could be really helpful but they were rightly wary and quite shocked by some of the discussion which involved revealing identifying details about families or encouraging a mocking attitude towards them.

This was a very timely discussion for me – only the previous evening I had engaged in lengthy discussion with a number of others on Twitter about our concerns about Social Work Tutor – which have been fairly and comprehensively assessed on Pink Tape here.

For those who haven’t been following the debate, there have been long standing concerns raised by many that Social Work Tutor promotes a message about the profession that is fundamentally unhelpful and really quite damaging – disseminating a view of social work as a dangerous and draining profession where parents are to be either feared or laughed at.

The alternative view is that SWT has provided a useful forum via his Facebook groups that allow aspiring social workers to exchange ideas and resources and that is reliance on humourous ‘memes’ was just typical officer worker banter.

The students were unanimous in their condemnation of use of ‘banter’ as a shield to poke fun at parents, pointing out that to the recipient of ‘banter’ it usually feels like abuse. There is a fine line between banter and bullying.

The students were also very concerned about the frequent use of memes to underscore just what a horrible job social work is – this was a very demoralising message for the students to receive. They also questioned why there couldn’t be more of a positive message about what social workers aspired to do, other than the ‘social worker as super hero’ message. The students recognised this as inherently unhelpful – not merely enforcing dividing lines between them and parents but as simply unrealistic in a culture of austerity and reduced resources.

This led to an interesting discussion about how difficult it is for the social work profession to celebrate their positive achievements, owing to various laws which prohibit dissemination of information about care cases. The recent Tower Hamlets Muslim foster carer row being one of the worst examples of this.

This was an interesting afternoon but also sad. What can we do to stop the initial excitement of these students draining away in the face of persistent negative messages about their profession? Social work is an essential profession in any civilised society and it is very sobering to think that the students did not feel they could be proud of wanting to be a part of this.

My only answer is that we continue to have honest, open conversations and we keep the bantering memes to a minimum.

 

2 thoughts on “Speaking to student social workers about the Law – and some other stuff

  1. looked_after_child

    Just as a small comment -A while ago I attended an event for professionals that aimed to increase understanding and skills around working with autistic people. There was an recently qualified social worker sitting beside me and we began chatting. I explained that I thought SW’s needed a lot more training about autism ( as I often do!) and she said she did’ent know if she should change jobs because it seemed so difficult to get things right and so easy to get things wrong. That shocked me because she clearly cared AND was at an event learning about autism so surely she would be the kind of SW any parent would want their autistic child to have? I had to reassure her because I suddenly thought ”If good people wanted to pull out of the profession, who would be left?” That was a very sobering thought…

    Reply
  2. Angelo Granda

    A Parent’s View.

    I offer this advice to students. FIGHT FOR CHILDREN’S HUMAN RIGHTS- DON’T LET L.A.TAKE THEM AWAY TEMPORARILY OR PERMANENTLY – MAKE FAMILY PRESERVATION IN THE CHILDREN’S PARAMOUNT INTERESTS YOUR MANTRA.

    Treat service-users as human-beings at all times. Listen to them! Always engage with them.

    Bad social workers appear to deliberately invoke a screaming feeling in parents with whom they are communicating. To banish it, students ,you have to understand why and take a new approach. Bad SW’S are in the realms of false doctrine and social worker ideology.

    Look up ideology in the dictionary. It means:-

    ‘Speculation that is imaginary or visionary’-

    ‘A body of ideas, theory that reflects the beliefs and interests of a particular system’-

    ‘An idea or set of ideas that is false, misleading, or held for the wrong reasons but is believed with such conviction as to be irrefutable’-

    Actually ideology is a trait of the self-ambitious, those who seek personal plaudits and promotion, politicians including dictators, storm troopers, blockheads, serious alcoholics and authoritarians. We might add social workers but clearly it is wrong to generalise because there are thousands of good, honest, hard workers in the CS. Parents often praise home support workers, for example. However these are the foot soldiers.

    What is the other type we come across? The morally weak; those without ethics; the cruel ones who will laugh openly when they achieve their aims illicitly; the brazen ones who will openly admit it is wrong to remove a person from the family home but go ahead and do it anyway, threatening children’s welfare should you not obey them. This is the unacceptable face of social work.

    They are attracted to a social work career because it gives them power over the vulnerable. Unfortunately, these are the types who rise to the top of the heap and take up positions of authority. The donkeys! These are the types who, in high positions, negotiate lucrative contracts and accept huge bonuses for failure. That is for swelling the community care system. They are the ones whom, when they are finally found out, receive six-figure golden handshakes from Local Authorities. They shame an honourable profession.

    Is it coincidence that, out all of my schoolmates, only the class-bully became a social worker?

    In every walk of life, we will always find those whose only talent is to torment, oppress, persecute and harass others. Quite what personal satisfaction and feelings of power or elation they achieve is alien to us. It requires a very special kind of person to swear false evidence on oath and pervert the course of justice and a certain amount of expertise to deceive other professionals throughout a child-protection process.

    When dealing with the CS, we actually face people who specialise in the creation of what are works of fiction confident in the knowledge that when they present them to decision-making bodies and courts, the power and trust granted to them makes their evidence irrefutable. They often announce openly their plans to remove your children for adoption before any assessments have been made. Like every bully, they have a disposition towards unfairness and they enjoy flaunting their power over you. They will brag “we always win in Court” or “you can’t beat Children’s Services”.

    The bad social workers trample on fair procedure. There are clear frameworks but they habitually disrespect them. Most significantly, they often ignore their duty to apply to court for an order before placing children into care. They have contrived methods to bypass the Court process. Perhaps they will instigate Police proceedings maliciously or perhaps they will threaten the security of your children and coerce you into agreeing to an S20. Students,FOLLOW CORRECT PROCEDURE SCRUPULOUSLY.

    Once they have gained control over your children, BAD SW’s need to maintain their position of supremacy and your vulnerability. Parents are to be informed of advocacy services; they aren’t. They are to be told of all concerns and given the right-of-reply; they aren’t. They are to be told what they need to do to have their children returned; they aren’t. They are to be given clear guidelines as to timescales; they aren’t.

    They should disclose all written evidence to you in good time for parents to put disagreements; they don’t. They should present all evidence to court including that in your favour; they don’t.

    An essential failing is that they make no attempt to listen to you and your accounts, rather they deliberately ignore them. At assessment meetings with them, how often are honest minutes kept or tape-recordings made? They sit you down across the table and plonk a notebook down. They proceed to take notes; at the same time they deter you from making your own and disallow tape-recordings. They start a conversation off. Whatever you say, they are simply not listening to you. They are engaged in creating their works of fiction. They are writing down choice snippets of your utterances. A qualified minute-taker knows one cannot take genuine and comprehensive notes of a conversation whilst actively engaged in it. It is physically impossible to make proper notes and talk to you simultaneously even with a stenograph machine. Of course, this is why Police always have two interviewers, an independent witness and/or advocate present and possibly a tape-recorder when interviewing suspects to ensure fairness. Neither will a Policeman pass notes of informal chats as a bona-fide record of an official enquiry or statutory assessment.

    Bad social workers are not listening to you and making a true record, they are making notes. You ARE talking to a brick wall. It may be days later when they or perhaps another social worker or manager refers to them and concocts as many ‘concerns’ and as much false evidence they can from them with which to create their work of fiction. Rather than make any effort to establish facts, they merely look at the incomplete, garbled notes and speculate what might have been, what possibly might arise in the future and all the what if’s , maybe’s and excuses they can concoct for taking your children.

    So the CS ignore fair procedures and exceed their power in many cases. We know it. The CPR knows it. They know it. Thus the course of justice is perverted. In such cases, it is a grave mistake to trust that you are involved in a genuine exercise being conducted by the system in order to ‘protect’ or ‘safeguard’ your children. That is pretence and a confidence trick. Students, guard your personal integrity and be truthful at all times to yourself especially in Court evidence.

    Read this quotation:

    “I was a councillor for 6 years and have experience of working with fostering panels. I also have legal experience and qualifications. But the most relevant experience is that I was going to lose my son after a child protection investigation- I managed to challenge social services to ensure they followed procedure and the law which they tend not to do. Social Services are out of control in terms of understanding and acting within the law mainly due to poor training and low calibre individuals taking life changing decisions for families and children. They do not understand the legal limits of their power.
    I am also in contact with specialist solicitors who are taking class actions against the government for the abuse of power by local authorities and breach of human rights of children and families.
    It is pure prejudice. Simply striving to comply with their ever increasing demands will not be enough- they relish the power and they will have written you off already-they will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent you from ever seeing your child again and they will not ever let your child know how hard you fought to be a good mother.”

    2012.

    Students, Good luck in your chosen career . Keep to procedures and be wholly honest throughout. Treat families as you would wish to be treated yourself and check all your evidence diligently.

    Reply

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