Why don’t social workers have a sense of humour?

I had a very interesting conversation with a young parent recently and she was happy for me to tell you what she said.

We were talking about why relationships between parents and social workers can get so bad so quickly. Just what is going wrong? Obviously it is often a difficult and tense time for parents and social workers to try and talk about really important things involving people’s children and lifestyles, particularly if there are court proceedings looming and on going.

But at the end of the day we are all human. And we should be able to talk to one another as humans.

Is this another consequence of the ‘child rescue narrative’ that seems to be driving so much of current care proceedings? Sally’s experiences seem very common; a lot of parents complain that their behaviour and reactions are consistently seen in a negative light, whereas similar behaviour from professionals (such as being late to contact) is excused or explained by external events (such as traffic jams).

‘Sally’ speaks

Why don’t social workers have a sense of humour? Has it been removed from them? My partner and I coped with difficult situations by making light of it. I will give you an example

We were asked some intrusive questions about our sex lives and we tried to make a joke about it. It would have really helped if the social worker could have reacted in a more relaxed way, rather than making it obvious that she was shocked and upset by what we said.

It goes beyond ‘having a sense of humour’ . I really noticed that everything we said or did was seen in the most negative light possible. ┬áSo making lighthearted comments or jokes was used against us.

I know this is a serious situation and it isn’t always the right thing to try and joke about. But sometimes if we were scared or nervous we would try and lighten the mood. But anything we said that we thought was obviously a joke was taken seriously.

My partner jokingly kissed my neck and scooped me into his arms during an assessment. The assessor wrote that she thought we were intending to have sex in the office! and that we probably indulged in ‘inappropriate sexual activity’ in front of our child.

11 thoughts on “Why don’t social workers have a sense of humour?

  1. FamilyLaw_Dad

    I was distraught on being told by Social Workers I wouldn’t be allowed to see my children. I tried to set out the context for them as to where the allegations appeared to have come from (i.e. the other parent had, in a well documented history, been slowly cutting me out of the children’s life with gradually incremental breaches of the Child Arrangements Order). They were unwilling to listen and apparently my distress was not respecting their professionalism. They stopped my children from seeing me without even meeting me or seeing the children with me.

    Following a wholly inadequate process and subsequent report my legal team took up cudgels, initiated a judicial review and a new (much more experienced and senior) team of social workers was appointed, avoiding court on this point much to my counsel’s distress – she’d been quite looking foward to it. The new team listened carefully, observed carefully. Prepared a revised report (that frankly threw their earlier colleagues under a bus) and all returned to calm and normal. (later court hearings rebuked the other parent and kept the existing child arrangements in place).

    Some time later, once the dust was settled I requested a copy of all the records for the children and myself (under the well understood provisions of the Data Protection Act) and :

    1. Such records as were disclosed were disclosed massively beyond the statutory deadline.
    2. Had such clear omissions we pushed back for more disclosure
    3. We received more disclosure (having been told that everything was already disclosed).
    4. It turns out that the authority has not a single record from the original team.
    5. Apparently therefore the original team stopped children seeing their parent without keeping a single record of their interactions with parents, other social workers, children, police, courts, lawyers.
    6. What professionalism exactly should I be respecting exactly?
    7. And the Guardian asks why social workers don’t trumpet their achievements?
    8. And social workers feel unloved?

  2. looked_after_child

    As a natural parent whose child entered Care I know my ‘gallows humour’ is one of my last defences..it can seem savage (and I do a lot to keep it under control in a lot of situations) but SW’s should walk in my shoes for a day when my chest feels like their is a very tight band around it and indeed a night when my mind keeps whirling and twisting. Humour is my saviour. I’d recommend it.

    1. HelenSparkles

      I can’t comment on any other SW than those I know, but humour is fine, gallows humour in the face of challenges is also fine. It would be odd if professionals trained in human psychology, to some degree, didn’t recognise the function of humour. It would also be odd if parent used humour during a Section 47 investigation, just think about watching a TV drama where humour is used in a police interview, that would not ring true hun?

  3. Angelo Granda

    They say humour played a big part in Britain getting through two world wars but I have never seen any on this resource from professionals only victims of the system.
    SW’s ,in particular, have one guiding light and humour ( except in-house) is not included. They are taught to take notes, take notes, take notes! Should they happen to include snippets of a gag told by parents in their notes then any humour is lost on the manager who has to examine them and concoct a case against a parent. He will cite parts of it out of context, misquote etc.
    We have to remember two things: a) the notes on which cases rely to a large extent are NOT a record of events; they are what they are just hurriedly written down snippets of conversations ( usually led by the SW with one object only in mind).b) the SW’s, especially the team managers are very experienced and very skilled in deceiving council decision-makers in order to bring about their own aims. It is not difficult for those with CSAS and similar behavioural difficulties to doctor the meaning of notes and change the meaning especially when they are never seen, they are hidden away in ‘ files ‘.

    In serious Public Law cases, only written and signed and dated statements should be used in a Family Court as in the criminal system.
    The problem was examined and discussed very ably by Jason on another thread . SW’s are adept at taking casual gossip, hearsay, mere allegations and so-called ‘intelligence reports’ and disguising them as FACT.


  4. Angelo Granda

    I was going to say ,These professionals may actually have a sense of humour but they disguise and use it only to their own advantage. The post writer describes a report that she began to have sex in the office! Was that the SW’s sense of humour in notes disguised as fact later by the team leader to demonstrate inappropriate sexual propensities on her part?

  5. looked_after_child

    On the point of SW’s humour, what I wonder is if it is seen as ‘unprofessional’ to show humanity/feel empathy – so there is no place for humour because it breaks down to many barriers?

    I’ve also noticed a number of weird and wonderful jargonistic phrases in the SW world – really rich pickings for a satirist..

    I came across this recently – ‘Inspections are necessary ( in my opinion) when children are at potential risk of neglect. All professionals are required to keep their skills and knowledge up to date and avoidance of desensitising is paramount.’

    So this I think when I read something like this:-

    Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is essential for all professionals and usually a condition of membership of a professional institute or equivalent. CPD that gives training on how to reach a broad non-specialist audience without resorting to jargon can really improve a professional’s effectiveness.

    All children are ‘at potential’ risk of neglect. All children are at ‘potential risk’ of being well supported.
    Is the issue one of being able to assess risk or the harm associated with the risk even if the potential for risk is small?

    When talking of ‘neglect’ – Are SW’s identifying the ‘neglector’ and ‘the neglectee’ or is it left to judges to widen the field of vision beyond the family unit?

    I suspectit is a component of resilience is to have a capacity for desensitising.’Desensitising’ must always have a context to have meaning.( so – About what exactly??)

    I can see why judges get so frustrated if they get reports full of phrases like this used unthinkingly as if the phrase alone is meant to get everyone going ”’Aaah, yes, so right” and instead non SWs are thinking ” Can someone who cannot put a case together without resorting to stock, meaningless phrases be right about much?”

    This picks up on another one – http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed17716

    1. HelenSparkles

      Those would absolutely be the worst examples of a SW statement. Fortunately I’ve read few like that, but I only read a v small sample obviously.

    1. Angelo Granda4PM

      Perhaps now this thread has started, those with a sense of humour could use it as a means of telling humorous anecdotes and facts about the CP system . People must have lots of hilarious stories.
      I have certainly come across funny characters over the years ( enough to write my own comic book).
      Many professionals see themselves as ‘gladiators’ dedicated to the salvation of children. An honourable cause indeed. I’ll never forget one particular female SW. We used to call her Ellen .I won’t give her surname but she was also known under the gladiatorial pseudonym of “THE PREDICATOR”. I am sure I have no need to explain she was at her happiest when predicating on antecedents. She loved it ! Does anyone know her?
      Has anyone come across “10 minute Tess of the Bar” from Leeds. She was a formidable barrister ,very hard-working who was forever telling us funny stories about her experiences travelling between cases in first class carriages. The hours she spent in them were so tiring .Obviously ,she had to have a quick glance through case papers before Court but most of her time was spent glued to her mobile ‘phone ,tweeting and taking part in social media. ” Much more interesting” she used to say.
      A kid of 18 from Birmingham ( whilst on his way to prison) who had spent over ten years in residential homes had funny tales of one of the care-home Social Workers. The kids used to call him ” THE GREAT BIG WOOFER”. It seems he once watched an episode of SuperNanny on TV and began to model himself on her. Hence his name WOOFER. He used to bark out like a dog at the kids “NAUGHT-TY STEP–NOW”. He reckoned smacking was hideously cruel (despite the practice being legal) and that the best way to bring children up law-abiding was confine them to their room or the naughty step.
      I look forward tom all contributions to the thread especially if anyone has any quotes.

      1. HelenSparkles

        I think having a sense of humour is not the same as telling anecdotes on a public forum to entertain you Angelo.


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