A social worker wants to investigate how I am caring for my child

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore. 

What gives a social worker the power to investigate my family?

Children’s Services have two basic functions; to help and support families stay together but also to make application to the court to remove children from those families if they think there is a risk of serious harm. There is clearly a tension between these two different roles and the dividing line is not always clear between ‘support’  – which must be something you agree to have – and ‘removal’ – which is usually something forced on parents against their will.

However,as Lady Hale said in Williams v Hackney in 2018 when talking about children in section 20 accommodation, who might be there to provide their parents with some respite, or might be there because of worries about how safe they were at home:

In practice, the distinction between these categories is not always clear cut. Some accommodated children in need may also be at risk of harm if they are left at or returned home. In law, however, the distinction is clear. Compulsory intervention in the lives of children and their families requires the sanction of a court process. Providing them with a service does not.

Section 47 and sharing information

If the social workers at your local authority (LA) are given information that makes them worry your children are at risk, unless the situation is one of obvious and immediate danger (when the police should probably be called), the LA will need to carry out an investigation to decide if it should  make an application to the court or instead offer the family some support.

The important statutory provision here is section 47 of the Children Act 1989 which sets out the LAs duty to investigate:

Where a local authority—

(a) are informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area—

(i) is the subject of an emergency protection order; or

(ii) is in police protection; . . .

(b) have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,

the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

When it goes wrong – AB and CD and the London Borough of Haringey

A case involving the LB of Haringey heard in November 2012 makes an interesting read.

There is a good blog post about it here if you want more detail.

Someone got in touch with the Haringey child protection team, making an anonymous allegation about two parents who happened to be child protection professionals. A social worker contacted the child’s GP and school for information before calling the parents. The mother reacted very angrily to the call, as no one had informed the parents before trying to get this information. Haringey was alarmed by her response and decided to carry out  a full child protection inquiry under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. No concerns were found; the original allegation was suspected to be malicious.

The parents then took legal action by way of judicial review and were awarded damages against Haringey.

What went wrong? The tension between support and investigation.

There will always be a tension between the role of the social worker in carrying out child protection investigations and assessing a family to offer help and support. Obviously, the more serious the worries about a child, the quicker they may have to act. But to act too quickly and on  limited information could also be very damaging.

Hilary Searing comments on this tension:

It strikes me that parents need to be very clear about whether there are actually grounds for a social worker to become involved. Social workers carry dual responsibilities – for welfare and protection. In the welfare role the focus is on the child’s development in the broadest sense and in providing appropriate services. Social work support is only provided with the voluntary agreement of parents, and parents have the right to decline the offer of an assessment.

However, in the child protection role the social worker has powers and duties defined by the 1989 Children Act which includes powers to investigate suspected abuse and neglect. When a sec 47 is carried out social workers are also permitted to obtain confidential information without consent.
 In ‘welfare’ situations there is an important principle of informed consent but I get the impression that social workers are too relaxed about this and tend to forget this principle.

It is worrying if some social workers do not understand the difference between ‘welfare concerns’ and ‘risk of significant harm’ and are incapable of explaining this to parents.

Hilary further explores this issue and the importance of understanding what is meant by ‘significant harm’ in this blog post. 

When can a social worker try to get information about your child?

The Data Protection Act sets out the limited circumstances in which it is permitted to share data:

  • If you agree
  • If the data has to be shared to enable someone to do what they are required to do by statute (‘the statutory gateway’)

Section 47 of the Children Act is a clear example of such a ‘statutory gateway’ to data sharing.

But in the case discussed above, Haringey had NOT started a section 47 investigation when they tried to get information from the child’s school or GP. The parents certainly hadn’t consented because they didn’t know. Therefore Haringey’s actions were unlawful.


But why is this a bad thing? Shouldn’t we be able to share any information we have in order to keep children safe?

Procedures matter and failure to follow them can have a number of serious consequences. Not only can this undermine the ability of the parents to work together with the LA, there are also legal implications if you fail to give sufficient protection to an individual’s right to privacy. In addition, as the court set out in the Haringey case, the consequences of a section 47 investigation can be very serious.

Section 47 enquiries are multi-agency in their scope and they will usually include such agencies as the child’s school, medical practitioner, social workers and the police. The police have an important role to play given the likelihood that in most cases where a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm, the perpetrator or perpetrators of that risk or that harm will have committed or will still be committing serious criminal offences whose victim is a child.

A section 47 enquiry involves an in-depth child-centred assessment of a child’s developmental needs, of the harm she is suffering or may suffer, of the capacity of the child’s parents or carers to respond to the child’s needs and of the family and environmental factors that are playing a role in the harm she is suffering or may suffer. This intrusive assessment should take account of the views of the different agencies involved with and the external influences on the child and it must also directly involve both the parents and the child unless this will endanger the child. The necessary fact-gathering should include sessions with the child without her parents or carers present and it should ascertain that child’s wishes and aspirations wherever possible. The assessment, known as a core assessment, must be concluded so that a holistic view may be taken of the child’s needs, of the significant harm that the child is being or is at risk of being subjected to and the steps that can be implemented for the eradication of negative influences on the child and the promotion of favourable ones on her.

A section 47 enquiry has in recent years become very damaging for the life, career and family relationships of many who are parenting or caring for the child being assessed. There are now extensive statutory checks that must be made about adults who are caring for or working with children or who are coming into contact with them in an educational, health, pastoral or care context. Thus, involvement in a section 47 enquiry may often result in the ending of a career involving contact with children. This will usually be for good reason but this is not always so and there will rarely be a means for those unfairly marked out by involvement in a section 47 enquiry to eradicate that stain on their professional and personal reputation.

A section 47 enquiry can of course prove to be very damaging for a child, for her parents and for their mutual relationships. In particular, the lives of parents can be badly affected if and when adverse conclusions are made about the harm that they have inflicted on their child. These can include criminal prosecution, the loss or their child, intrusive involvement in their family and private lives, loss of employment or being barred from working with children and an adverse entry on their records held by reporting authorities such as the police and various regulatory bodies. A particular trigger for any of these adverse effects is the fact that a section 47 enquiry was undertaken in relation to their child at all since its threshold is that significant harm has occurred or that there is a risk of it occurring. Thus, a section 47 enquiry, which will often be reportable by the parents concerned, can blight their lives irrespective of the nature and extent of the significant harm or of their involvement in it or of the reasonableness of the suspicion that generated the enquiry in the first place.

Social work perspective on this judicial view

Hilary Searing has concerns about the Judge’s perspective on section 47 investigations:

I strongly dispute the argument put forward in the Haringey case that ‘A section 47 enquiry has in recent years become very damaging for the life, career and family relationships of many who are parenting or caring for the child being assessed.’ Surely this is only the case following a police investigation into an alleged offence? It is completely different from a social work investigation in a Sec 47. You need to be aware that where concerns do not seem serious enough for police involvement there may still be sufficient concerns about the child’s safety to warrant a Sec 47 – sometimes there is a sole agency investigation by social services. Social workers are caring people and I cannot imagine a situation where a single home visit/interview would result in so much serious damage to individuals and relationships!

In 2012-3 only 41% of Sec 47s carried out in England resulted in the child being made the subject of a Child Protection Plan. In my experience, the investigation should focus on the cause for concern, such as a suspicious injury or an allegation, and gathering the facts around this in order to clarify the situation. In many cases the concerns do not merit further investigation but there may have been a family crisis (e.g. the concerns might be about a domestic incident where a child was present) and the social work role is to offer help in dealing with the underlying problems which have come to the surface. The family may have reached breaking point and is willing to co-operate with social workers on a voluntary basis.

While I understand you are bound to present the legal position from the perspective of parents you should be aware that from the social work perspective our view of a Sec 47 is that it serves an important function in identifying children who may be suffering cruelty and extreme neglect. It is sometimes a way for social workers to get into families who are on the borderline of ‘likelihood of significant harm’ and an opportunity to work with them in a structured, supportive way to prevent the need for care.

The need for balance

Even on this brief examination of different perspectives, we can see how important it is to continue to try to strike the right balance between the need to protect children and the need to intervene only when it is proportionate and appropriate.

The 2010 edition of ‘Working Together To Safeguard Children’  at para 5.3 discussed what should be done when working with children when there are concerns about their safety and welfare.

Achieving good outcomes for children requires all those with responsibility for assessment and the provision of services to work together according to an agreed plan of action. Effective collaboration requires organisations and people to be clear about:

  • their roles and responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children (see the Statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 (2007) and Chapter 2);
  • the purpose of their activity, the decisions required at each stage of the process and the planned outcomes for the child and family members;
  •  the legislative basis for the work;
  • the policies and procedures to be followed, including the way in which information will be shared across professional boundaries and within agencies, and recorded for each child;
  • which organisation, team or professional has lead responsibility and the precise roles of everyone else who is involved, including the way in which children and family members will be involved; and
  • any timescales set down in regulations or guidance which govern the completion of assessments, making of plans and timing of reviews.

This has been replaced by the 2013 edition which discusses sharing information in Chapter 1 at para 22.  The emphasis appears to have shifted from the earlier guidance about achieving good outcomes to a move to emphasising the importance of sharing information about children who could be at risk. However, there remains a clear need to have procedures in place to ensure that risk is properly identified and information appropriately shared.

The guidance was again updated in 2018.This appears to have expanded significantly upon the 2010 guidance and talks explicitly about data protection law and the need for practitioners to feel confident in how they apply its principles and exceptions. The relevant part now reads:

Effective sharing of information between practitioners and local organisations and agencies is essential for early identification of need, assessment and service provision to keep children safe. Serious case reviews (SCRs13) have highlighted that missed opportunities to record, understand the significance of and share information in a timely manner can have severe consequences for the safety and welfare of children.

The key points made are that practitioners should

  • be proactive in sharing information as early as possible
  • be alert to sharing information which may impact the child’s safety
  • recognise that Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour
  • consider how to build positive relationships with other areas to ensure that relevant information is shared
  • have arrangements in place that set out clearly the processes and the principles for sharing information.
  • not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keeping a child safe
  • aim to gain consent to share information, but be mindful of situations where to do so would place a child at increased risk of harm.
  • have due regard to the relevant data protection principles which allow them to share personal information, as provided for in the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • be confident of the processing conditions under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR which allow them to store and share information for safeguarding purposes, including information which is sensitive and personal, and should be treated as ‘special category personal data’

Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children, which must always be the paramount concern. To ensure effective safeguarding arrangements:

The parents in the Haringey case had a clear advantage over many other parents who might get such a phone call – they knew that Haringey was not following correct procedures. Not many parents could be expected to have their levels of knowledge about how the system worked.  This explains why it is clearly demanded of social workers that they help service users understand and exercise their rights.


Further reading

Assessing Children and Families  – an NSPCC factsheet November 2017

If you are not happy with the way an investigation has been carried out, see our post on making a complaint. 

You may also be interested in our post about how child protection issues get reported to Children’s Services.






35 thoughts on “A social worker wants to investigate how I am caring for my child

  1. Julie

    I’d just like to add that in Wales the social work profession is regulated by the Care Council for Wales, not the HCPC. It is slightly different as the Care Council also holds responsibility for the education of social workers unlike the HCPC in England. However, as said above, the first port of call is always the local authority’s own complaints procdure.

  2. Hilary Searing

    There is something here which has been puzzling me for some time. It is the difference between the words in the Act and social work practice regarding s.47 (a) (i) ‘is the subject of an emergency protection order’

    The actual words suggest that an EPO should trigger a s.47 and I have just discovered that Hugh Brayne’s book on Law for Social Workers says this. I am wondering if I have been mistaken in saying that this is not the case.

    However, the statutory guidance does not state that a formal investigation, s47, should follow an EPO. Also, it seems completely unnecessary because it has already been established in court that there is an immediate and serious risk of significant harm. This strikes me as a good example of where statutory guidance fails to clarify the law. This may seem a trivial issue but I would welcome your thoughts.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I agree. What is the point of establishing significant harm in court to the degree required for an EPO and then carrying out an assessment of significant harm? I am not aware that this ever happens in practice – EPOs move seamlessly into ICOs and the whole assessment process starts within care proceedings. It’s quite odd and I don’t understand the thinking behind that drafting. Be interesting to find out.

      1. Helen Hay

        This is something I was always aware of and I agree that it seems fruitless and punitive at the point where an EPO has been granted. However, it was required by ‘Workflow’ on the system (ICS) in LAs where I worked in order to progress the case to further assessment on the system. Ofsted used to check this carefully. We interpreted it that following the granting of an EPO, Team Managers would formally ‘consider’ whether all aspects of significant harm had been covered in the making of an Order – and it always had. S47 could be ‘completed’ as the child was protected. Quite what we would have done if a TM felt the court had NOT covered every base, I am not sure! However, it led to a formal review of action taken, recorded and hence the ‘workflow’ could move to the next phase of assessment. A total waste of time and an example of the ICS dictating procedure rather than reflecting it. Ofsted were equally rigorous about cases which began as S47 but were ”stepped down’ because the original concern was not being reflected in any of the assessment. I feel it is better to explain THAT to a parent than to take them through the stress of a conference unnecessarily and of course it requires clear communication with the referrer about why that decision had been taken and if support were required, under what provision. Ofsted seemed to agree that ‘stepping down’ appropriately was preferable to dragging the family along for the sake of process. Two Heads of Service would meet to discuss those cases and we would review whether it was appropriate. Because it is really important to get it right for obvious reasons which you have already stated.

  3. C

    …Boring to bang on to no effect… but Social Services attitudes and procedures with regard to significant harm seem fairly arbitrary, e.g the Somerset website states: ‘ The law says that children’s services must ask questions to find out if a child is at risk of harm.’ But in our Complaint Adjudication the Adjudicator overruled the I.O. ,saying that it would be pointless to ask about risk of harm, as it was implicit in the fact that Social Services had been called to make a referral. ( Actually, they hadn’t been called for that reason and he knew it…). He also had had it confirmed from the caller that there was, and never had been any risk of harm. They don’t care what they say, as they are confident they can get away with it, and that is why the system is so broken. Mandatory reporting will only make things worse.
    The difficulty is Social Care’s lack of accountability for their actions, except in their most egregious excesses. Because of the softness of the hcpc, and the lack of punitive damages, they can do as they like. As the coordinator of the LSCB told us, re: adhering to statutory frameworks – ” Yeah, well, it’s just a framework.”

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I think the difficulty, and the wall against which you will always come up against, is that many child protection investigations are triggered by urgent and serious events; people have to react quickly and can’t waste too much time deliberating about the process. This explains why it is not considered in the public interest to hold those professionals up to too much scrutiny ex post facto, in case this inhibits people from acting appropriately quickly in the future.

      This does not excuse sloppy practice, but I think it explains why it can happen. I think the remedy is, as Hilary Searing points out, to make sure that SW and other professionals are better educated about what significant harm is and how it can be proved. Relevant issues need to be identified as clearly as possible and at the earliest possible stage otherwise harm will be inevitably done – either to the child who ended up NOT being protected or the to the parent who ended up accused unjustly.

  4. C


    As the coordinator of the LSCB told us, re: not bothering to adhere to statutory frameworks – ” Yeah, well, it’s just a framework.”

  5. C

    I understand, and understand that you are not making excuses for specific failings – but, you are in some danger of being an apologist for Social Services. A degree of consideration is not wasted time, and it is economics that is driving the pressures, not real concern for the child. There is a point in the law being as it is, and that is to prevent unjustified investigations, and to streamline resources. The unfortunate result of this failure to assess harm is a radical loss of reputation for Social Services, and a lack of trust in the community. I am only too aware of what the result of reporting something to Social Services is for the family, and it seems likely to be entirely negative. Real dangers won’t be properly acted upon; false scares will be followed up absurdly. Information will be falsified, misleading positions justified. I and many others, no longer feel comfortable involving Social Services if there is a concern about some possible abuse or neglect of a child. That is a dangerous situation for they are entirely responsible.
    In our case, having received the information nothing was done besides bureaucratic box-ticking. e.g. the doctor was called, but when he called back , Social Services had gone home. There was no follow-up call… data was fax.ed to the police with ‘Strategy required’ written on it, but there was no follow-up to arrange the strategy discussion. The police logged the data as information only. 4 days later, it was our contacting Social Services to find out what was going on, (after the nursery, embarrassed that they had been bullied into a referral they felt uncomfortable with, had informed us,) that initiated things.
    If a trained Child Protection Officer calls in to Social Care to request only anonymous advice, her training should be respected. Her assessment is far more relevant than a poorly trained call handler who has never met the children. Her information should be accurately recorded; if there is a concern on the part of Social Services, her evidence should be verified by a qualified social worker. When she chose not to call back and make a referral, it is not in the guidance for the call handler – without any authority – to then call her up and insist on one.
    If the situation may be one requiring urgent and immediate action, would it not be a good idea to ask at least some questions about risk of harm? Guidance on information sharing is clear, and the statutory frameworks make it an obligation for those involved in child protection to have a clear understanding of what the rules are. So they are either inadequately trained, or else they deliberately flout them. The excuse of having to act quickly should not be able to serve as an excuse for acting unlawfully.

    Nor, once you have acted unlawfully, is it a good idea to expend massive amounts of resource ineptly covering it up. But that is exactly what Social services did in our case.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I comment on the facts as I know them and the principles as I understand them. That does not make me an ‘apologist’. If you think my understanding and knowledge are deficient then I am aways grateful to be educated further. But I am not interested in debate where the protagonists must be labelled as ‘apologists’ for holding a view.

      I appreciate that you feel wronged by the failures and subsequent unimpressive attempts to fob you off and cloak sloppy investigations in cloak of respectability. I agree that lack of resources are behind many of the failings of the system. But you do not do the debate any favours by insinuating that economics wins out every time over concern for the child. That is an insult to the vast majority of professionals who work in this field.

      If a SW has a case load way, way in excess of recommended levels, if there are now no longer any community resources to help the clients because the government has closed them down, it is inevitable that the quality of investigations and assessments will suffer.

      this does not make me an ‘apologist’ for anything. As you can see, I am rather annoyed by that comment.

  6. C

    Please accept my apology. I didn’t intend to annoy you. I really appreciate the commitment, time and energy you put into this site, helping make people more aware of their rights, and their options.
    What I found unpalatable were your statements:
    ‘This explains why it is not considered in the public interest to hold those professionals up to too much scrutiny ex post facto, in case this inhibits people from acting appropriately quickly in the future.’ And.
    ‘people have to react quickly and can’t waste too much time deliberating about the process.’

    But it is lazy of me to call you an apologist for saying this first statement. I am sure you are correct in your assessment of why it is not considered in the public interest; so it would be more accurate for me to have said that those people who perceive that it is in the public interest to allow inaccuracy, incoherence, and falsehood (deliberate or otherwise) to prosper – pour sauver les autres – are the apologists. …Apologist is too polite a word for this callous brand of pragmatism.

    I do not believe that ‘people have to react quickly and can’t waste too much time deliberating about the process.’ The terms ‘have to’ and ‘waste’ seem loaded terms to me, and may have contributed to my irritation. They do not ‘have to’ – and noone is suggesting that they ‘waste’ time, just that they ‘spend’ some. It would not be wasted.
    I don’t believe that care can be effective when it is conditional upon fiscal targets.
    I did not mean to say that economics wins out every time as far as the individual social worker is concerned; I know that there are social workers on the front line who care about their work, and don’t doubt that many exceed expectations and go the extra mile to try and help. (Perhaps not so much in Somerset…) I’m just less convinced that their managers are able to. Their hands are tied by targets and budgets. I believe that ‘systematisation’ , statistical worship and mindless economics are at the root of the problem.
    How else could CAFCASS crow that a 1 in 5 error rate was a success?
    It is a cliche used by the ‘Early Interventonists’ that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. In which case why is their so little ‘village’ sensibility in Social Services approach? The best villages run on a horizontal hierarchy. Everyone is involved in the process. In Social Services, all power is in their hands, families are excluded, and their every statement is available to be manipulated by power. You can see the trail of damage caused by their ‘waste no time’ approach. It is spread like a stain across Facebook, in a litter of emoticons, poignant updates, and sentimental memorials to ‘lost’ children.
    Are Social Services aware of the havoc? Is it being properly addressed? Not obviously. While workers are overwhelmed, the policy makers continue to pile on more and more expectations, to the point of psychic exhaustion. CommunityCare, Guardian Society, places where issues should be being discussed, instead play the tired victimisation card – trotting out again and again the poor, overwhelmed social worker routine.
    Mandatory reporting is the latest political flag being waved to distract from the failing system. It will only pile on more pressure, since it does not deal with the broken system that the information is being reported to.

    Professionals who are threatening to, or actually taking, children away from their own families, need to be subject to the utmost scrutiny. Thinking about the implications of their actions for a few minutes before committing to a ‘strategy’ is not a ‘waste of time’. Since the catastrophes they create can be cataclysmic for families.

    If social workers are overwhelmed, it is vital that they raise complaints. Strike for better conditions. Speak out. Refuse. If they don’t stand up to abuse, they perpetuate it.

  7. Sarah Phillimore

    Thanks for your apology. I apologise too if my use of language struck a raw nerve with you.

    My perspective however comes more from finding myself in situations where people seem often paralysed by fear and indecision about how to act, which I think often causes more harm than good. This makes me impatient as I suspect sometimes people hide behind procedures to avoid making hard decisions.

    But of course it is never a ‘waste of time’ to have proper procedures and to adhere to them. The consequences of failing to do so can be extremely serious.

    I do not want to give the impression that I think it is ever ok to do some sloppy job because you can’t be bothered. That is never ok, in any endeavour. So I will check my words in future.

    I remain frustrated however that it is always the front line social workers who seem to get 99% of the criticism when the fingers need to be pointed much higher up the managerial chain.

    You are right – if you don’t complain or speak out, nothing changes. But it’s interesting that no child protection social worker has felt able to contribute anything to this site. I wonder what constraints against speaking out exist.

  8. C

    I think working in a bureaucratic environment soon internalises the censorship, c.f. the salon.io article on ‘depressing brain news’, so that it becomes totally transparent. The fortress mentality has long ago kicked in, and – dare I use the word – media apologists like Ray Jones et al – reinforce it. …
    Time somebody, besides Tessa Munt, Eric Pickles, David Heath etc. spoke out against the ‘Peter Lewis – Kate Lovell’ regime at Somerset though. There are significant cracks appearing.

  9. PlanetAutism

    The trouble is, if a S47 investigation allows SS to make confidential enquiries without the parent’s knowledge, how is it then that initial enquiries that are not S47 are being done without transparency too? The law I believe, requires that unless there is a risk of significant harm to the child or the referrer, parents must always be informed. This is not happening. And when a referral is made because a health worker believes a parent is suffering anxiety – nothing else, no physical harm, no problem with needs being met – something is very wrong with the system. And when SS visit and say “no further action” and other professionals, clearly behaving in an unbalanced way, persist in saying the parent has anxiety and is therefore causing “emotional harm” to the child, when there is no truth in this, no evidence of it, and SS end up contributing to a vipers nest of Chinese whispers to other professionals, you just know that the system is not working. When SS are causing the very emotional harm to children that they are falsely accusing parents of, something is very wrong. BBC Panorama found that expert witnesses are not telling the truth in court, I have personal experience of SWs telling outrageous lies, and judges are believing such professionals over innocent parents, that is why it’s a conspiracy. It doesn’t need to be a conspiracy of collusion (although I believe that exists in the CP field too) a conspiracy of incompetence and human failings is just as much of a conspiracy. It’s the conspiracy of professional bias and professional defensivism. Anyone that believes SWs all put the children first, needs a reality check.

  10. PlanetAutism

    And it seems the majority of SWs exist in an automatic blame culture too. In no other type of court, is such hearsay and opinion accepted as fact. The damage caused to so many families by social services is breathtaking. So many families of children with invisible disabilities, such as autism, CFS/ME, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome etc. are being persecuted by SWs and other professionals. The collusion is also in the moral panic out of control in this country. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, professionals who don’t understand invisible disabilities, involve SS who are blinded to the evidence and take other professionals’ words as gospel. They don’t actually ask the families, they accept anything they are told by other professionals and they appear to be very happy to. It is utter negative bias and shows no desire to support families. I could tell you some things that would open your eyes, and I don’t mean about an individual SW but by a whole department. In my opinion the current CP system is unfit for purpose. Whilst innocent parents are hounded the real tragedies are occurring.

  11. C

    ‘I could tell you some things that would open your eyes, and I don’t mean about an individual SW but by a whole department.’

    Please do, maintaining anonymity for the families involved. Because these things need to be revealed. Conspiracies hate fresh air. The stigma attached to being investigated by Social Services is what keeps so many people from speaking out about the injustice.
    Speak out coherently to Edward Timpson MP, to your local MP, to Isabelle Trower, to Eric Pickles…
    Present any documentation you can. If there are inaccuracies in the documents, ask the ICO to investigate. Tell Ofsted. None of these people may be very good at hearing, but our persistence will erode their defences as surely as water alters a coastline. Now is the hour – possibly. …Better to strike the iron before it freezes, as Estragon said.

  12. C

    For instance, give the stuff to Dr. Lauren Devine at UWE, a barrister who is researching Child Protection…

  13. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    Yes, I echo this comment. I have been asking now since 2011 for some evidence that children are taken from loving homes for no reason other than to meet ‘adoption targets’. If this is true, it is shocking.

    Even it is is not as outrageous as that, if anyone has evidence of poor or corrupt practice, they need to share that evidence as widely as possible, as soon as possible.

    Otherwise nothing will change, save that my scepticism will go unchallenged.

  14. PlanetAutism

    @C, thank you for the names, I will make a note.

    Well I had a meeting with two councillors today actually. One in particular was already well aware of the automatic blame culture prevalent in state services. I have questioned why children’s social care does not come under the oversight of Hwalthwatch England as adult social care does – who is responsible. I did actually email Isabel Trowler, I got no reply. I also contacted the office of the Children’s Commissioner and got a watery reply after a delay, not from the Commissioner herself but a minion, considering the gravity of the issue I found that unacceptable. Like so many systems in this country, despite regulations and laws, no-one enforces much of it. It’s why the complaints system doesn’t work. If you complain to the complaints department of the LA, they just send it to SS to investigate themselves!

    The ICO – another useless behemoth. I contacted them on the email address on their website on 04/06/2014 attaching a completed form and received an auto acknowledgment and never heard a word back from them. Look into Healthwatch’s report on the useless complaints systems in this country. All the bodies supposedly there for the purpose of putting right wrongs, are pretty much in name only.

    It’s not only about children being taken from decent homes, it’s also about innocent families being hounded even when it doesn’t get that far. Wrongful interventions detract resources from genuine cases of abuse – which is probably why tragedies are continually occurring.

    It would be too lengthy and complex to “tell the tale” I have to tell here and due to the specifics involved even with anonymity it would likely identify individuals should I do so. But it includes deliberate lies recorded by social workers about events and much, much more.

    If ever there was proof that SWs falsify evidence (and as always, blame their unprofessional and illegal behaviour on work stress) this is it. This was a fostering case too. They are “copying and pasting” peoples’ lives here. She wasn’t struck off, only suspended for 12 months. More and more cases of SWs behaving badly coming to the fore. This is only one who got caught, what about all the others that don’t? Her supervisor claimed she was “not dealt with by senior colleagues in a professional manner, leaving her feeling unsupported and unvalued as practitioner” (instead of bleating and falsifying records why not deal with the issue then!) What about SWs not dealing with *parents and families* in a professional manner and falsely accusing innocent parents? http://www.communitycare.co.uk/…/conduct-panel…/…|SCSC|SCEUP-2014-1110 (this person was responsible for training too).

    Here are a couple more links:



  15. C

    Unfortunately ‘deliberate lies recorded by social workers about events and much, much more’ seems to be just another day at the office for Britain’s social workers. that is why their particular dishonesties need to be brought into the open. Have you tried approaching the Hcpc with any of the info. you have? As you have noted, they do get people suspended, even struck off, from time to time, and a judgment from them is a useful thing to take with you to court.

    As for Isabelle Trower – she will always say that she cannot get involved with individual cases. And it is true, she can’t, she would literally drown in the injustices. However, I feel it is worth sending stuff to her – (and all the rest…) – just so she has to keep fending it off. She must surely register that there is a problem, and then perhaps move to do something about it.

    The Childen’s Commissioner – and unfortunately, to some extent, Coram, and the Family rights Group – are in my opinion all placebos set up to deflect the need for real medicine. What is actually going down is so much dirtier and systemic than they seem capable of imagining. And they are of course under resourced and overwhelmed.

    The ICO, as I have said elsewhere on this site, are by their own admission ‘toothless’. However they don’t much like being that way – and any evidence submitted to them stands a chance of aiding them in their struggle with the dark lord presently presiding at the Ministry of Justice.

    They are also remorselessly slow. But they have a free phone!
    Katherine at Campaign for Freedom of Information ( another under resourced, overwhelmed organisation) is always interested in tracking the failures of the ICO.

    Campaign for Freedom of Information:
    Unit 109, Davina House, 137-149 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7ET, UK
    Tel: (020) 7490 3958 | http://www.cfoi.org.uk | http://twitter.com/CampaignFOI

    Healthwatch looks like a good resource. I wasn’t aware of them. ( which says something about their presence re: Social Care, as I’ve been hounding and protesting the injustice of our case for about 3 years…)

    The Community Care article you have referenced puts the usual Community Care gloss over the failings of the s/w at the Foster home. The list of allegations against her – most of which were proven – list two examples of dishonesty and over 50 separate examples of incompetence! And she is ‘honest, trustworthy and supportive of both carers and as part of a team’ – according to her supervisor, and by implication, Community Caresince they didn’t quote anyone else .

    I feel that the ITV Exposure documentary is a blinking ray of hope, that the tide may be turning and some social critics at least are speaking out against that unreflective panic that welled up in some areas of society as a result of Baby P, Victoria Climbe – and other such tragic failings of the care regime. the Baby P documentary, revealing the politicisation of the incident, and showing that organisations like Ofsted cannot be automatically trusted, is perhaps another crack in the defensive shell surrounding stressed and broken, fear-fueled services.

    But by far the best resource that you have shared here seems to me to be Dr. Peter Dale and Associates.
    Thank you particularly for that. I do hope you will continue to rage and to disseminate your sense of injustice at the lies that are the bread and butter of far too many social service interventions into families lives. Don’t let them dictate the shape of our children’s future.

  16. C

    Looking into HeathWatch, I notice its remit doesn’t appear to extend to Children Social Care. that remains as usual, alarmingly unaccountable.

  17. PlanetAutism

    Yes, re Healthwatch that is what I questioned above – who is the oversight for them! Why are they kept separate? It’s yet more proof of the secrecy of the whole social care/child protection system. As an acquaintance of mine says, they are not called the “untouchables” for nothing.

    It wasn’t an individual case I emailed Ms Trowler about, it was about the whole false accusations against parents thing, as an issue. I also included some relevant links one of which was a magazine article in which parents were interviewed regarding false accusations and the effect it had on themselves and their children. Clearly Ms Trowler doesn’t want to hear the truth.

    An acquaintance has just told me about a report supposedly coming out, which I am going to research to find, about high numbers of children being taken into care and then adopted out and “sloppy paperwork” by councils and “funding” being a factor (meaning that councils are imagining it cheaper to get a couple to pay for a new child than the tax payer supporting a ‘problematic’ family.

    Just seen this 2 year old link http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/18/adoption-councils-judges says LAs are hastily pushing through adoptions of children in care – you have to wonder how many of those children shouldn’t have ever been put in care in the first place as well.

  18. C

    There has been a lot of twitter discussion about the drop in adoption rates. Martin Narey – made some misleading comments about them – which caused some stir. He is now a sir, and self employed – and the government advisor on Adoption. Somewhat ironically, given his previous as Director of the Prison service. He seems a well-intentioned, and opionated fellow, who has got rather too far with his ‘get-it-sorted’, ‘down to basics’ yorkshire attitudes.

    He wrote a ‘myth-busting’ article in community care, that was busy generating as many myths as it was ‘busting’

    Despite a few years as the Adoption ‘Tsar’, he is still sketchy on the principles:


    I find this sort of well-intentioned do-gooder pretty scary. A kind of real-life Pudsey – who interestingly is reported as having now accumulated assets of over £90 million, on behalf of children in need…

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      His assertion that the new 26 week timetable for care proceedings has ‘nothing to do with adoption cases’ is especially bizarre. It has everything to do with it. The care plan for adoption has to be presented well in advance of the 26 weeks!

  19. C

    The reasons behind the drop in adoption numbers remain a subject for discussion. Much easier to fathom the reason behind the drop in the number of people who have a lawyer to represent them in family court.

    ‘Of the 112,000 parties involved in cases which started in 2012-13, more than 58% had a lawyer, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures showed.
    In the next 12 months – after the cuts – that dropped to less than 42%.
    And new figures show less than 38% were represented by a lawyer in April to June this year.’

    Here’s clue: C.G.

  20. Pingback: My child hasn’t been born yet but I have been referred to children’s services | Child Protection Resource

  21. forcedadoptionian josephs

    Social workers easily get emergency protection orders from compliant magistrates and then snatch babies at birth (even coming into the operating theatre to crow over the mothers with their news!);They have no interest whatever in the welfare of the babies and swiftly go to court to ask for an interim care order following a ridiculous prediction of “risk of emotional harm” supported by some expert who claims to be able to predict the future if he is paid enough but who is believed on balance of probabilities to be more convincing thah the parents ! Babies are then taken into care and subsequent adoption so the social workers can fill up their scorecards !
    Murderers in prisons are treated very well compared with children taken into care because they are allowed to phone out to relatives and to discuss their cases with family and other visitors.
    Children in the 7-12 sort of age group who are taken from their parents by police and social workers are put into fostercare with strangers and then have their mobile phones and laptops/tablets confiscated to isolate them from family and friends.
    When parents are eventually allowed contact visits the children and also their parents are forbidden to discuss their cases,coming home,or any criticism of those who have removed them .Children and parents of foreign extraction are even forbidden to speak their own language during contact visits and are forced to converse in broken English !
    Yes murderers in prisons are treated much better than children taken into State care !
    There are far more children taken for emotional harm than those taken for physical or sexual harm put together (R.S.P.C.A. statistics) Most of the mothers who phone me (5 or 6 per day average) have had children taken for emotional harm or the risk of it and are law abiding citizens who are not drug or alcohol abusers as if they were the local authority would certanly mention it in their position statements;That is why the UK is the only country in the world where every week pregnant mothers flee to foreign jurisdictions to avoid the abominable crime of forced adoption! Fostering and adoption agencies then make millions of £s out of the misery of others cheered on by those who still support social workers and punishment without crime.

  22. Angelo Granda

    May i add that Local Authorities also easily get INTERIM CARE-ORDERS from compliant magistrates. If a magistrate questions the need for the removal of a child from home , the solicitors involved ( including the respondent’s representative) often collude together to silence him or her. Along with the court clerk ,they will persuade the magistrate that the ‘case is complex’ , that evidence is being discovered every day etc. etc. and that the case should really be transferred to the County Court and that an ICO should be ordered to enable the case to be heard properly by the higher court. There is much shuffling of papers ,umming and aahring and the solicitors bamboozle the magistrates.
    The evidence presented at the Mag court may be totally false but it is not questioned in any detail and no genuine fact-finding exercise occurs. The magistrates are told that the ‘complex’ facts will be examined in detail at the county court and i guess they think children will be returned home if the facts are found to be wrong. They seem to think that an ICO is what it says,INTERIM and that parents can oppose its renewal after 28 days. In fact, the respondent solicitors will not challenge the ICO and tell the parents to cooperate with it and wait until the big fight ast the final hearing.
    Unfortunately ,the facts aren’t examined at the County Court either ,in fact the higher court does not test the facts rigidly. Maybe it thinks the Magistrates have already done it.
    I think the respondent solicitors are affected by a conflict of interests .When asked immediately after the Magistrates issued an ICO ,one of them declared that he had not questioned the false facts presented by the LA because he thought that the county court should hear the case. I think solicitors have a financial interest in promoting cases to the Family Court although i may be wrong.
    Sarah, all this happens long before barristers get involved. Parents are badly represented by solicitors and this is why i think a barrister should become involved at the outset of each case.

  23. Linda

    Do you think it’s wise to get a barrister involved in care case when child’s been removed for reasons ongoing medical issues of the child I have a solicitor I don’t have court date yet nor have I ant idea why the child in my care not got pr has been removed after 4yrs just new sw onboard who I’ve met twice
    An doesn’t even no our case we’ve always had positive feedback from hospitals ,camhs,social workers it’s very distressing as we haven’t been asked any questions so we want to take it to court but as are saying they don’t want to take it court I need this child back in our family I have other kids as well

    1. HelenSparkles

      You would usually be represented by a barrister in court, but some solicitors have rights of audience. A child being removed means that there will have to be either agreement from the person with PR or a legal order. Apart from that I am unclear about what you are asking about.

  24. Alan Brunwin

    I never new corruption in childrens sevices and Cafcass would get worce from the 1950s, today they whole lot are shamefull, traficiting of other peoples children , how proud these social workers and councils must feel, as its not their own children is it,

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