Just what is the place of parents in the hierarchy of child protection?

When ‘knowing your rights’ equates to ‘sense of entitlement’ and what this says about child protection practices today.

It is a frequent complaint made to me that parents from poor backgrounds are targeted in care proceedings because they are poor. That the struggles they have in parenting are reflections of their alienation from more affluent society and that they need support for this – not condemnation.  There is very worrying evidence that rates of child protection intervention shoot up in the more deprived areas of the country which certainly demonstrates a link between poverty and increased likelihood that your child will be taken into care.

Can this really all be down to ‘bad’ rather than ‘sad’ parents? Are wealthier parents not exposing their children to any kind of harm worthy of state intervention? Or are they just better able to hide it or to avoid professional scrutiny?

So it was very interesting to read Professor Claudia Bernard’s research An Exploration of How Social Workers Engage Neglectful Parents from Affluent Backgrounds in the Child Protection System’.

This research was commissioned by the City of London to find out what is known about child neglect in affluent families. There is little current research on this issue and Professor Bernard wanted to investigate what factors arise for social workers in responding to child neglect in  affluent families.


How is neglect defined?

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) definition of neglect is used:

“The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health and development” (DfE 2015).

‘Neglect’ is still the most common reason for child protection proceedings. Most investigations into ‘neglect’ focus on those families already known to the authorities and who are likely to be members of lower socio-economic groups. Issues of neglect in more affluent families is generally off the radar. A child who comes to school dirty and smelly is pretty easy to spot – but the child who lacks emotional attunement with a wealthy and largely absent parent is less immediately visible. Lack of immediately visible harm can flow from those parents who do not spend enough quality time with their children, pressure them to be high achievers and thus create psychological and emotional problems for the children in adulthood.

Such harm is recognised as an ‘ACE’ – an adverse childhood experience. As the study points out:

Adverse childhood experiences refer to physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, being exposed to domestic violence, substance abuse, and other early life stressors (Felitti et al. 1998). While many ACEs are disproportionately found in economically disadvantaged communities, it is important to note that research has identified that ACEs are far from absent in more affluent families (Bellis et al. 2014).

What did the research set out to do and what did it find?

The research posed three specific questions to participants from 12 different and diverse local authorities. The limitations of this work are recognised – it is small scale and exploratory and was not trying to elicit statistical or generalisable data.  

  • How do social workers identify risk factors for vulnerable children in affluent circumstances?
  • Which factors inhibit or enable social workers’ engagement with affluent parents when there are child protection concerns?
  • What kind of skills, knowledge and experience is necessary for frontline social workers to effectively assert their professional authority with affluent parents when there are concerns about abuse and neglect?

Key messages identified

  • The findings revealed that thresholds for neglect are not always understood, which posed challenges for effectively safeguarding children at risk of significant harm in privileged families.
  • The vast majority of the cases described by the participants concerned emotional neglect, although other forms of maltreatment, such as sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and emotional abuse, were also identified.
  • Commonly-encountered cases involved struggling teenagers in private fee-paying and boarding schools,
  • Participants gave many examples to show how parents had the financial resources to access psychological support through private care providers to address their children’s emotional and behavioural problems; some practitioners viewed this as a positive outcome for the child, but some saw this as a way for the parents to opt out of the statutory child protection system, and to thus slip under the radar of children’s services.
  • Participants consistently cited that highly resistant parents were more likely to use legal advocates or the complaints procedures to challenge social workers.
  • All of the participants also experienced the challenges of inter- agency working with private fee-paying and boarding schools when child protection concerns were raised.
  • Considerable experience, practice wisdom and knowledge of neglect were essential in relation to working with highly resistant parents who had the resources to challenge social workers’ decision-making.
  • Skills, knowledge and competence: all of the participants highlighted the important role that supportive managers and good supervision played in helping them to effectively intervene in affluent families.



Conclusions and comments

One problem here is that the ‘vast majority’ of cases involving affluent parents involved ’emotional neglect’ – a phrase which almost every parent I have ever spoken to reacts to with baleful suspicion. Unsurprisingly, as the research noted: ‘Participants stressed that the vague and ambiguous nature of emotional neglect was one possible factor making it difficult to interpret and assess indicators of emotional neglect’.

But the much more troubling issue was the apparent assumption that parents’ knowledge of and willingness to act upon their legal rights was a Bad Thing.

The key question identified in the study is how to assess the psychological and emotional availability of parents and when and how the state should intervene, particularly as we are now embedded in a culture of ‘neoliberalism‘, where hierarchies are seen as based on competence and those who do not strive to achieve will fail and be left to fail.  How can we criticise parents for wanting their children to adapt and thrive in this environment?

I am sure many parents would be taken aback at the notion that their wish for their child to do well and their decision to push a child to achieve should be seen in the same category of the child who is not fed or clothed well enough, who has no toothbrush or no clean bed to sleep in. However, while relative affluence may mean it is easy for parents to avoid obvious physical signs of neglect – for example, by paying someone else to take care of their children’s physical needs – it does not mean that their children escape from emotional or psychological harm.

However, if we want parents to get on board with this we have to be able to explain it clearly and engage them to listen. What does the study tell us about this?

The comments I found most interesting were these:

All of the participants described difficulties in maintaining focus on the child because of the way that parents used their status and social capital to resist child protection intervention, and many also displayed a sense of entitlement to do as they pleased and that they know best.

One participant commented:

“Those children are quite hidden, because parents know their rights, they are articulate, and they can be quite avoiding. I would say that social workers are quite often concerned that working with affluent parents rather than with other parents because they are educated and they are very challenging”.

The report notes

in some cases, their obstruction towards social workers manifested in formal complaints to senior managers and elected councillors and the threat of legal action.


Participants elaborated the ways that the parents’ class backgrounds gave them an unspoken advantage, which meant that they were generally knowledgeable about the workings of organisations such as children’s social care and the safeguarding process; perhaps more crucially, their sense of entitlement, brought a greater confidence to challenge the child protection decision-making processes.

The point is that the vast majority of parents resist social work intervention when the allegations made about their parenting are serious and are made in a clumsy or belittling way by someone the parent does not know and trust. The vast majority of parents who contest these matters in court will say ‘they know best’ – so, of course they will ‘do as they pleased’ – a revealingly pejorative way of referring to parents acting on what they think is the right thing for their child.

The use of phrase ‘know their rights’ as if this was somehow a criticism – ‘a sense of entitlement’ –  was a chilling echo to my earlier conversations with social workers about the law merely being ‘an aspect’ of what they do and Louise Tickle’s examination of long standing and extremely serious failings on the part of social workers to understand their legal obligations behind the use of section 20 accommodation.  Not all formal complaints are made to ‘obstruct social workers’. I often advise clients to make formal complaints about some piece of bad practice – but of course to parents in the middle of proceedings, how many of them have the time and space to do this? They tell me they are worried what will happen to them if they are seen to complain – it looks like they have a point.

Parents resist intervention because they deliberately wish to evade detection to carry on abusing their children (a small minority) or – much more likely – because they lack the skills or insight to accept that they are in fact doing harm to their children. it is easier to resist intervention or criticism than accept that you might be doing something to hurt the person you love very much.

Rich parents use status and social capital to dodge intervention; poor parents use other blunter techniques. But the common thread to all successful interventions with families must be social workers with the time, space and skill to build relationships of trust. And I am not sure that this time or space exists anymore. Its useful to focus on a group who may be escaping necessary intervention and to ask some questions why – but not if that takes away proper consideration of how the fundamentals of social work are being neglected and degraded.

Its not about money. Its about trust, its about relationships, its about working together. I am not sure how helpful it is to set up another group of parents to potentially demonise for their horrid neglectful ways .

When asked what helped, participants replied:

Participants cite the organisational cultures of support, purposeful informal conversations about the case with colleagues, good supervision, knowledge and confidence and responsive managers, themed learning activities, as key to their ability to work in this complex field.

It is both sad and revealing that ‘building relationships of trust with the parents we work with’ did not feature in that list.

It is high time we grappled with the increasing push in social work to see the child in isolation from family and community and that any indignity heaped on a family can be justified on the basis that the social worker is ‘there for the child’.  Issues of neglect and abuse which do not involve immediate and substantial harm – the broken bone, the sexual assault – are always going to be tricky to identify, define and deal with in the right way at the right time. The key to all of this will be working together.

I leave you with one final comment from the research

For example, some participants spoke of being belittled and humiliated by parents in meetings, leaving them feeling as if they had to prove themselves and establish their credibility

This is what parents tell me they feel in care proceedings. Time and time again. This is what happens when you set each other up in opposition. When the culture is one of blame and shame. It cuts both ways – and it hurts everyone.

Further reading

53 thoughts on “Just what is the place of parents in the hierarchy of child protection?

  1. Kirsty Bailey

    My ex mother in law and husband are very much “I am right so I will do what I want” they also use the “challenge me if you dare” approach.

    Now our 3 eldest children have to have contact with her just to be able to see their grandfather because ex m.I.l insists “we come as a package, you see both of us or none of us” I sadly note the local authority allow it.

    This is the same local authority (and m.I.l) who knew and HELPED him to leave and take 3 of our children. I wanted to go to court and get an immediate return order. The l.a said if I went to court they would start care proceedings as my children were now unsettled and unstable.

    He said IF the children wanted to see me then the l.a had to suprevise it. Strangely enought they said just go along with it. However, he was allowed unsupervised contact with our much younger child. When I met someone knew a few months later. He stopped contact and kept our youngest. I had to meet him and take our child back.

    He couldn’t get a new school placement for our 3rd child so told the school I was NOT allowed to be a named contact, I was not allowed to be an emergency contact. I was not allowed reports and I was not allowed to collect my child from school.
    The shool went along and agreed with it. NO CONCERNS or orders were in place.

    Eventually we went to court and the court told the l.a to chose the better parent. They could not do it.

    He got what he wanted.

    A few weeks later my eldest 3 came for contact and refused to return to father.

    The l.a and police were aware of parental alienation. They knew the children were punished by father and his family for speaking out. They knew my children were being groomed by someone in fathers circle.

    However, they said they had no proof and if they went to remove the children they would put the children in danger so left them there.

    A few months after they returned to me I made the heartbreaking decision they needed more help than I could give them. The l.a kept telling me to wait help was coming….it never came.

    My kids are in care, with father or placed to be adopted.

    I have no family that are not a danger. Very few friends.

    My mum was in care. I was in care. Some of my siblings were. 1 sibling was removed at birth and adopted. 1 sibling had her own child removed at birth and adopted.

    Now I am scared for my future grand children….

    I want to break this horrid cycle.

  2. looked_after_child

    Great post Sarah and spot on. I identify with lots and lots of it. I move ‘between worlds of ‘poverty and wealth’ with relative ease for lots of reasons around my heritage/background/history, my competencies and my child’s needs.
    I am without shame and refuse stigma and aim to treat all people with humanity and dignity irrespective of circumstances. I’ve involved my MP in our case and I’ve lobbied very hard around the needs of children in Care with disabilities using our case where necessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing your and your child’s rights. It should be protective not challenging. Attitudes of those who work in child protection towards families ( not all obviously) towards families are TRULY shocking as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thank you. The most worrying thing of all for me is that this is setting up the LAW as something for social workers to dodge or to treat with suspicion as an avoidance tactic. It so profoundly is not. It is the heart of what makes any society worth living in.

  3. looked_after_child

    ..And it is my experience that people have the same sorts of difficulties the world over whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Poverty is easier to spot as a problem but there are no reasons why parents with material deficits are not better parents than others with every material advantage. That this seems to be a surprise does not reflect well on social workers training that seems to be stuck somewhere in the 1870’s when it comes to issues of class.

    The middle classes are good at acquiring resources on their terms. SW’s are also used to calling the shots when working with families and it can create a very oppressive way of working where there is no space for challenge or ‘resistance’. There are always likely to be problems when two such different perspectives/approaches collide and children are involved. Social care is a service provided by public servants for the benefit of all who need it, whoever they are. Everyone should expect to be treated as if they and their child’s rights matter.

    1. looked_after_child

      Institutional discrimination happens when the people working in a place or organisation do not:
      value all people equally
      understand that different people have different needs
      change the way they deliver a service so that it meets different needs
      Over time, this becomes ‘how we do things around here’ and staff stop questioning how things are done.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Looked after child, It is shocking but the harsh truth is that parents come at the bottom of the hierarchy against the legal guidelines. The LA’s don’t want to work with them because ,in many cases, their aims are illegitimate and they don’t want to work with the parents. Very often ,they proclaim deceitfully that the parents won’t work with them .Why? Because they want children in care.
    The vital point which has been made several times by several different commentators ( not only me) is that they do it ‘because they can get away with it’.
    As Sarah so rightly says , the LAW must be respected and enforced not treated by the authorities as a barrier to be crossed in order to procure children for reasons of their own. Their legal teams devised ways to do so years ago and continually use the same foul tactics such as the one described above regarding Working Together.
    So ,if safeguards and guidelines are not enforced the children and families will remain at the bottom of the hierarchy. They are important , in fact the views of parents must be avoided and not recorded .Or perjury could easily be proven in a lot of cases. Likewise you will also find ,in cases of autism and other neuro-disabilities, the children’s real doctors and the real autism experts are near the bottom and shunned for the same reason. Their views would probably be hostile to the LA’s aims. If a SW states a child has severe learning difficulties due to the parental care given and the specialist involved with the child states the child does not have being bright etc. this does not help the LA. So the specialist will be shelved and put right to the bottom of the hierarchy.
    We really must get to grips with human rights and sort out the judiciary. The specialist evidence in support of the parents will probably be placed right at the bottom of the large amount of documentation so large that barristers lug them about in hefty suitcases on wheels such as folk use for a fortnight’s holiday. They simply cannot spend a month going through each sheet as they should do because of the legal funding. They aren’t paid to do so. A month’s work for a barrister might cost thousands and thousands. When one applies for legal aid , the average limit set to last right up to the final hearing is a mere £5,000 in my experience. Chicken-feed. Barristers may put one’s case as per your instructions but they do not try to argue it and question their colleagues incisively. They haven’t the time to delve for the proof they need to support their clients.
    Perhaps the CPR conference should ask the questions .

    Is the Family Court Justice system broken?……..If so, why? ………….How can we mend it and make it fit for purpose? ……………How do we ensure that children and families are top instead of bottom priority in accordance with the Children Act? ………….Can we focus on family preservation in the spirit of the Act rather than the removal of children into a suspect care-system?

    Let’s be transparent, open and honest and sort out this mess!

  5. Angelo Granda

    Kirsty Bailey who has commented right at the beginning of this thread should have illustrated to readers ,especially the post-writer ,exactly the classes of vulnerable citizen which find themselves right at the foot of the hierarchy; these types are victims of institutional degradation and mental torture imposed upon them by ruthless authorities who regularly put such defenceless folk and their children into the ‘frame’ for child-removal.
    I hold few doubts that such citizens become subject to discrimination by a biased system and biased judges.
    Do we all understand what drives corrupt institutions and how their direction comes from the top?
    Not from the lower echelons. In fact ordinary police officers and ordinary front-line child-protection professionals including barristers usually are apologetic,know they are mere puppets involved in high-level inhumanity and will intimate to parents they hate what they are doing.”We are just following orders”
    Obviously readers accept Sarah’s honesty and she is consistent that she has seen no evidence of systemic corruption over 20 years in the business.
    So what would comprise evidence to her?

    Regarding cover- up and corrupt malpractice, Sarah, have you ever had experience of the official complaints procedures being abused or had such malpractice reported to you?

    To me that would be clear evidence of corruption.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You don’t need to furnish me with evidence that the system is failing – I have more than enough evidence of that gathered with my own eyes and ears.
      Where we part company is the REASONS behind those failures. There are some who assert that these are failings born out of DELIBERATE corruption and malicious intent.
      I don’t accept that at all for the reasons I have repeatedly set out on this site and elsewhere.
      The problems as I have identified them are”
      a) over worked and under-resourced children’s services
      b) unhelpful political policies which push adoption as the gold standard option
      c) the stupidity and nastiness of a lot of the campaigners ‘against’ the family justice system, which makes it easy for others to ignore them as aggressive trouble makers
      d) a wider culture of ‘blame and shame’ pushed by the media where people are afraid to admit making mistakes and the underlying philosophy of our ‘neo liberal’ society is that if you are poor and suffering it is is because you DESERVE to be, therefore your children must be ‘rescued’ from you.

  6. Angelo Granda

    I think I have done my best to describe to readers that most often there is no actual malicious intent; LA’s ( not honest to goodness SW’s) are infected by bad practices, false ideologies y and illegitimate aims. I won’t go into it again here. They are unable to focus on providing support and keeping families together only on removing children and they are quite prepared to act unlawfully in the pursuit of removal quite often. For example, i consider it deliberate ( not necessarily malicious just misguided ) when their legal teams make false representations using terms such as ‘disclosure’.
    However, I am trying my best to convince readers and your good self that the reasons the LA’s get away with it is the failure of the judiciary to provide children with a fair hearing. As a lawyer ,you already know it is not strictly relevant whether professionals act maliciously and deliberately or whether they act illegitimately because of a genuine inability to focus e.g. for a,b,c, and d which you have given as factors. It doesn’t matter. When they act unlawfully they fail the test of proportionality and it is the task of the Judge to reject their case and force them to focus on less invasive alternatives . I think because of the inherent bias in the family court, its power should be limited to providing court orders focussed on family preservation only ( as per the Children Act) and I think that is reasonable.
    Sarah , if you have the time, please answer this question, what do you think the LA gains when it takes children unlawfully? Why do they do it?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      They do it in the majority of cases, in my opinion, because of all the reasons I have outlined before. Individual social workers are overworked, over stressed, may not be properly supported by management. Situations are left to get worse and worse until emergency action has to be taken. Social workers apparently have to pay a fee to even speak to legal departments in some local authorities, which I don’t understand at all. Couple that with the culture of child rescue, adoption is great, and if you make a mistake its your head on a plate, and parents who are frightened and angry which comes out as threats and aggression – and you can see how it happens.

  7. Angelo Granda

    Let us be more precise.Are you saying that the SW’s take some children into care unlawfully because they want to have control over them but they do not have LA backing to take emergency action through a court?
    Or that the LA acts unlawfully because it wants control over the children but when there are no or not enough facts to take a tion through a court?

    Thanks for answering these questions,Sarah.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am saying that social workers are often very worried about children and want to keep them safe and sometimes have to make decisions quickly without proper advice or reflection. There seems to be a long standing confusion about the ambit of section 20 accommodation on behalf of both parents AND social workers and I am quite sure some social workers thought they were acting lawfully when putting pressure on parents to agree to section 20 or saying the police would get involved.

      It isn’t lawful to keep a child in section 20 accommodation without informed consent from the parents and this situation has happened and has caused serious worry to the courts as recent cases show.

      But that doesn’t mean LA’s have acted deliberately and maliciously unlawfully. A big part of problem is lack of knowledge/power on part of parents to object.

      1. Angelo Granda

        I am quite prepared to believe that not all unlawful actions are done with malicious intent; some are because of false ideology that children being at risk justifies immediate removal pending a full investigation of facts; however given the law which specifically states that the LA does not have the power to remove ,they need a court order and given the trauma and emotional harm caused to children by removal plus the ever present danger of abuse in the care system,do you accept that such action by SW’s for the reasons you have suggested especially before full investigation is reckless and incompetent?

        Do you agree that in law, the effects of illegal wrongdoing are the same whether malicious or by jumping the gun incompetence, fears etc?

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          No I don’t agree that the effects are the same. I think that the motivation behind acts is important. I accept that if someone falls off a cliff they are dead at the bottom whether they tripped, were pushed or the path gave way due to negligent maintenance. But the impact for society at large of those different scenarios is quite significant.

          1. Angelo Granda

            But the impact on society at large is irrelevant to the law having been contravened,the Children’s Act has each individual child’s welfare the paramount consideration .
            The suggestion that there is motivation for an illegal deed also implies it is deliberate if not malicious.
            To me,your reply is evasive.Be straight, rare you trying to find excuses for illegality when LA’s are the perpetrators. Are you biased towards them?
            I do not believe you are! So please enlarge.What do you mean when you say deliberate illegal actions do not have the same effect if not malicious?
            The impact on a child’s welfare is the same.
            As I wrote recently,when safeguards and guidelines are not strict but flexible at the whim of professionals,they can always argue that the ends justify the means .Can lawbreaking be rationalised and excused.Not when the authorities are involved.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            The impact on the child may not be different but I maintain it makes a huge difference to society at large if mistakes are made carelessly, maliciously or unavoidably. It may make a difference to the child as well. I would certainly feel differently to someone who hurt me accidentally as opposed to deliberately.

            This is not being evasive. It is a matter of fact – in my opinion. You seem very reluctant to accept that things can and do go wrong without active malice being involved.

          3. Angelo Granda

            I wrote that I was ready to believe unlawful removal might not be malicious and have also granted many times that SW’s think they are doing right but fallaciously due to false ideology and bad training.So I am not anything but open- minded so I don’t know where you are coming from.
            I have also written that children should not be removed from parents unless maliciousness can be demonstrated so I know the difference between deliberate unlawfulness and an accident or unconscious neglect.
            With apologies,you seem to ready to accept it when children are unlawfully removed by the authorities yet in previous discussions,you have said if anyone else were to remove children illegally from parents whatever their intent they would be arrested.
            I feel lawyers are too soft on the LA’s.Toughen up for heavens sake.
            When children are procured unlawfully it is not for any good intention,it is for nefarious reasons.Or is all the institutional abuse reported by public enquiries just invented narrative?
            Thank you for your replies,Sarah,if you have any questions for an ordinary parent ,please go ahead.It could be helpful to the CPR cause.v

          4. Angelo Granda

            As an ordinary parent,I actually regard the question as a crucial one. To me,in law the effects are the same when the law is broken by professionals whether malicious or not. Why ,because to act unlawfully is wrong and can result in prosecution, a lawsuit for damages served on the Local Authority , the sack or demotion for the guilty and possible imprisonment. The culpable are accountable for the misdemeanour and so is the LA concerned.
            Just ONE examples for interested readers:-
            should a child be taken for purposes of sexual abuse, were he or she returned to family it would all come out. Whilst the children remain in care ,they will be completely controlled and unable to tell their parents.They may be told that if they blab ,they will be killed etc.
            But even if a child is taken unlawfully because the SW is genuinely worried and acts to save a child from risk of harm ,removing him or her unlawfully; it remains an unlawful act and the SW and the LA are still accountable.

            The effects are the same. The professionals are out to justify the unlawfulness and you can be sure they will do everything to do so. They will twist evidence,misrepresent, hold back documents etc.
            In recent posts ,we have been taught how language can be used e.g. disclosure and also we have discussed how the authorities invent satisfying stories etc.

            Sarah, you should be arguing in Court they have no credibility once they have flouted legal guidelines or acted unlawfully in any way. I feel this is at the heart of civil Family Court injustices

          5. Angelo Granda

            Whilst anyone may make a mistake and whilst some mistakes may be considered ‘ unavoidable’ by those who make them, I am not discussing them; I am referring to unlawful actions and in legal terms,unlawful intent or malice aforethought can be inferred when the authorities act unlawfully. I would say that ,in citizen’s interests,it must be inferred.
            You seem to be of the opinion that unlawfulness is more acceptable and the effects less and thus palatable if malice cannot be proven.Or to use the words of the late populist theorist and philosopher M.Cole ‘ all done in the best possible taste’.
            I am sorry for pressing such points but parents do not consider such lax attitudes fair and this is why the Public has lost trust in the judiciary.
            For example,when the powerful procure children unlawfully into their care in order to abuse them sexually, they don’t do so with any malice towards them or their families,I hope you understand that clearly.They do it because they enjoy doing it,because they have illegal aims and because they can get away with it .They would do it to anyone,even your children with equal effect.
            Sarah,please answer a question of law for me.One lawyer told a parent that overwork and stress does not excuse parental neglect and the unlawful abuse of children.
            Does the same rule apply to LA’s in the Family Court.Or do the Courts apply their discretion differently?

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            you cannot ‘infer’ malice or unlawful action. You will have to prove it. malice is difficult to prove. It is a very serious allegations. Of course over work and stress do not ‘excuse’ abusing a child or failing to meet legal obligations. But that provides an essential context to what action the court then takes – can the impact of the stress/overwork be mitigated quickly enough to keep the child safe? The problem we have is that parental abuse has an immediate and often visible impact on an actual child. ‘official’ ineptitude or abuse has a less immediately visible impact. Neither is acceptable. But nor does one excuse the other.

          7. Angelo Granda

            I agree malice is hard to prove especially when illegal ,suspect malpractice is not referred to the Police for thorough investigation .When public officials break the law ,given the antecedents and the bad name they have given themselves,however,I cannot agree the impact takes long to take effect.The impact is immediate trauma for both children and their parents.
            You don’t appear to appreciate the tactics they use are classic ones used worldwide by authorities to frame families for liquidation and exploitation:- a) let d.v.,drug-taking,child-in-need referrals,pleas for help and support etc.pass for as year or two.
            b) procure the children unlawfully ,move them from their roots and support network illegally without consent; traumatise them and then c) blame the parents.
            This is why an immediate investigation is essential,the children should be made subject to a best-evidence interview ,physical examination etc.and asked where they have been taken,how traumatised etc.
            It is my opinion that when the Family Court lawyers and Judge wash their hands of official law-breaking ,they are guilty of criminal incompetence.I know you won’t like that,Sarah but the attitude they have is typical of that shown by the various agencies during the recent case where hundreds of old folk were unlawfully killed.
            Forget about politics and enforce the law strictly is my message to the judiciary.

      2. The Learning Curve

        Can I just point out that my article linked here was regarding a SENCO’s remarks regarding parents of SEND parents and nothing to do with social workers or children at risk? This kind of breakdown happens in SEND when parents have been repeatedly been let down by services and where passion for the welfare of their child is at the forefront of the parents mind. This is very different from the pushing ‘I know best and I know my rights’ attitude you describe here in cases where there is a reason to suspect neglect. When I refused to let my son continue in an educational interventions service that was physically dragging an anxious and autistic boy they contacted social services and I was visited by a social worker. I welcomed her with open arms, she was nothing but helpful and nipped the complaint in the bud. She later rang me to say all accusations had been dismissed and that I should be proud for standing up for my sons rights. I have nothing but praise for my experience with child protection services.

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Sorry, not sure I understand what point you are making?? What I am told is often happening is that such interventions that you have benefited from can go very sour for some parents and initial support turns into something else. I am glad you had a good experience but I don’t see the disconnect between your experience and this post? Interventions can go sour for a number of reasons; attitude of parents AND attitude of social workers all play a part. ‘Neglect’ is often in the eye of the beholder.

        2. Angelo Granda

          I am happy to learn how your experience was a good one as far as the social worker mediated between you and education .
          I too have had similar episodes.
          I do wish you and your son the very best of luck and success in the future.
          I don’t know how long ago it was but if you are wise, you should note down in as much detail everything which occurred ,names etc.
          and keep all correspondence ( if any) safe in a file somewhere .You may,for example,have received a letter informing you that the social work enquiry had concluded, it had been found your child was safe and adequately cared for by parents and professionals thus the case is closed.

          Unfortunately, it may transpire in the future that your boy is referred again.The friendly worker will perhaps have moved on.On the second referral,management may decide to target children for removal ( especial when they have special needs). Please do your family a favour and mark my words as a warning; with luck the warning may not be needed but you really don’t know.
          It can also be advisable if you write to the Director of Social Services and make a subject access request then check the records held on you and your child now!
          Then if your son is targeted by management in the future and reports and assessments altered as often happens,you can show the genuine files to decision makers.
          One more thing.I suggest you have a word with someone or consult the links and resources thread on this site.
          Get yourself a friendly special needs advocate ,keep in regular touch with him or her.Apart from helping you in general dealings with other professionals,it will be invaluable should the worst happen.
          Please note, they usually target the vulnerable.Be prepared and protect your child.Keep your defences up!
          I am an ordinary parent like you; I and many others made the mistake of trusting them too much and lived to regret it.

        3. Angelo Granda

          To ,the learning curve.I know you have not actually requested any advice so please excuse me if you think I am giving it out of turn.
          You have shown you are able to protect your family but may I also suggest that, if you are financially secure, you invest in some sort of legal expenses insurance plan to cover yourself against any future interventions should they not be bona-fide.
          You will then be entitled to free legal advice and possibly free representation and not be forced to rely on our broken system of legal funding.Indeed,with advice,you may be able to take action yourself in Court to protect your son.
          I would add,however,be careful because some policies promise much and actually provide little as with all insurance companies so consult a specialist broker.x

  8. Jonathan Ritchie

    Social Workers consider themselves above the law. Quote the law and mention human rights to them and you are accused like I was of being “disrespectful” and “aggressive”. When I refused to divulge my social, political and cultural beliefs, I was told I did not understand the law and it was claimed that a judgement existed which gave social workers the right to know my beliefs and that social workers assessed people according to their beliefs and not just their actions or behaviours.

    “We don’t care what others do; this is what we want.” (quote from a Senior Social Worker)

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I suspect this is the problem of miscommunication and lack of good will on both sides to engage and to listen to each other. There is no judgment that gives anyone a ‘right’ to know anyone else’s belief system. But it is common sense to assert that if anyone refuses to answer a question that is relevant to the safety of their child – for e.g. do you use physical punishment to discipline? Do you think your child should be left alone for a long time? etc, etc, then social workers and the courts can and do draw adverse inferences from any failure to engage.

      I am afraid it is not like a police interview where you are entitled to make no comment. Child protection has different aims. Parents who refuse to engage will raise alarm bells. This may be fair or unfair depending on how rude/clumsy/rushed the social worker has been in trying to set up the conversation. But fair or not its a fact. You can complain about it as much as you like, but it will remain a fact.

      Treat the social work intervention as a rain storm. You can either sit in it and get wet, and complain about getting wet or you can take steps to relieve the misery with coat and umbrella. Or, moving away from weather metaphor, talk to the social worker, explain your belief system, attempt to establish a dialogue.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Yet if a parent wants to engage knowing CS information,background etc. is wrong, no alarm bells sound with lawyers or the Guardian if THEY refuse to have a dialogue They often set out their stall recklessly ,make premature decisions and refuse to follow frameworks thinking them superfluous.For example,
        The Family Courts allow it. Bias.

      2. cb

        The law of the land, EQUALITY OF ARMS is the basis that this country prides itself throughout the world, this should be adhered to in every court of the land, no excuses, no deprivation of this duty

  9. Jonathan Ritchie

    The extract below is from the supervision folder required of students at Strathclyde University School of Social Work 2012:

    Guidance for Student’s Pen Picture
    The supervision folder requires to include a brief “pen picture” of yourself. This exercise is designed to assist you in reflecting on your social, cultural and ethnic origins, and to consider the impact of these on the development of your political and social value system.

    How are my social, cultural and ethnic origins, political and social values relevant to Social Workers except for the purpose of discrimination?

    This is nothing to do with protecting children or the elderly and everything to do with totalitarian thought policing.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Eh? You are quoting from materials for social work students, to help them think about who they are, what they believe in, what assumptions/prejudices might be driving their value system.

      This sounds like an entirely good idea and something we should all be doing.

      Or would you rather those working in such a field were simply unreflecting, prejudiced zombies?

      society, culture, values etc etc can be very relevant to child protection. some cultures, for e.g. put a value on physical chastisement of children. It is essential that social workers and parents understand how cultural norms can differ in different societies. That doesn’t mean parents who hit their children should get a free pass, but it is important for social workers to understand what motivates parents so they can suggest different strategies to them.

      If you think what you have described is indicative of totalitarian thought policing, I suggest you need to do a little more reading about those societies which did actually impose totalitarian thought policing. You and i would not be having this kind of conversation, for starters.

      1. Jonathan Ritchie

        I speak Russian and travelled and lived in the former Soviet Union from 1991 on wards, so I know what a totalitarian regime looks like. Unreflecting, prejudiced zombies is an accurate description of social workers believing themselves to leaders in society authorised by their superior scientific understanding of society to impose cultural Marxism, even though they have no democratic mandate to do so.

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Then it is frankly astonishing that you can compare the two countries and say they are alike. That is nonsense.

          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, it appears that you acknowledge that the child- protection process is unfair , that it is a fact and that citizens should not only cooperate with Hoover style inquisitional witch- hunts,get used to unfair processes and accept that Lawyers will take adverse inferences should citizens not accept a social work culture which is authoritarian.
            Professionals misunderstand their roles substantially, in my opinion.
            The duty of the CS WHEN ENGAGED IN A CHILD PROTECTION PROCESS is simply derived from the duty to carry out a FAIR ,impartial investigation of FACTS and to report what they find.
            From a legal point of view,may I also point out it is recklessly unfair and dangerous or at the very least inconsistent for a Family Court to take adverse inferences against parents who rail against an unfair and disproportionate process whilst at the same time saying it is impossible to take adverse inferences when the CS removes children from home unlawfully.Unlawfulness on the part of the authorities AND unfair investigations inevitably poison cases from an early stage.We cannot ignore this fact and case dynamics ( the ripple effect of dishonesty).
            We should change front line practices radically and reform the system

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Is there even any point at all in us discussing things if you say stuff like this?

            it appears that you acknowledge that the child- protection process is unfair , that it is a fact and that citizens should not only cooperate with Hoover style inquisitional witch- hunts,get used to unfair processes and accept that Lawyers will take adverse inferences should citizens not accept a social work culture which is authoritarian.

            this entire site is an effort to help people understand how the system works, when it may be unfair and what to do about it, if so.

            I am baffled, saddened but increasingly angry that people chose to be so dishonest in the way they frame their debate.

            I am going to ask you to withdraw that comment and accept that it is untrue and unfair.

          3. Angelo Granda

            Firstly,Sarah, naturally i will accept your judgment on my comment if you say it is true and unfair and will gladly withdraw it. I respect your position as moderator. What is more ,I am glad it is untrue.
            Secondly,I honestly expressed how it ‘appears’ to me and used that word at the beginning. These are your words which wrongly made it seem like it to me.
            QUOTE: There is no judgment that gives anyone a ‘right’ to know anyone else’s belief system :UNQUOTE
            QUOTE: the courts can and do draw adverse inferences from any failure to engage :UNQUOTE
            QUOTE: This may be fair or unfair depending on how rude/clumsy/rushed the social worker has been in trying to set up the conversation. But fair or not its a fact. You can complain about it as much as you like, but it will remain a fact :UNQUOTE

            It is my belief that investigations have ,by law, to be fair and IMPARTIAL and i think these FBI style interrogations are not designed to establish facts for court but to establish possibilities and maybes with which to load the factual matrix unfairly.The subsequent appraisals cannot be well informed and the case has not been conducted correctly. Assessments based on these questions will not be IMPARTIAL but based on value-judgments. indeed that is why such methods are used.
            Yet ,once again,i apologise if you find my comments objectionable in any way; i am not a professional and will endeavour to improve .I admit i may sometimes be rude /clumsy /rushed when discussing matters but i am only being honest.Primarily ,i want to explain to readers how the judicial system works. I have been in court and i have read comments on this resource and i honestly have come to the sad conclusion that the Courts are biased towards LA’s . I am glad it does not apply in your case but i think it applies in general and, because of it, limitations should be placed on civil courts.
            Thanks for your understanding.

  10. Angelo Granda

    Realistically,however,there is a whole world of difference between a genuine SW suggesting different strategies to parents as part of a support programme and a targeted,discriminatory witch-hunt conducted against parents by LA management and legals with the intent of avoiding a support plan .
    E.g. mispresenting ‘smacking’ which is perfectly legal and proper as ‘hitting’ which suggests violence.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Also a massive difference between suggesting parents reconsider their thinking and management policing their thoughts I.e.commanding them to change their thought patterns or else, isn’t there?

  11. cb

    Is a 22yr old young man allowed, to retrieve his birth records from the hospital he was born? He has a birth certificate to prove identity

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I assume he can make a Subject Access Request but I am not sure if records would still be easily available after 22 years.

      1. cb

        Luckily if this ends up to be the situation, I do have his birth details along with a diagram of a drawing of a hung matchstick figure, breech birth details, but I would have rather the hospital gave up these covered-up details to my grandson personally and allow him time to digest before meeting him.
        Ironic really this situation, I have been fighting for 10 years, to uncover my missing work history/payment of national insurance stamps, that have gone missing since CHANGE of my National Insurance number in 1989 which I am told could not possibly happen? a national insurance number is for life, cannot be changed? So I must have been born in 1974? I WISH

  12. Mystykyn

    I think the different treatment starts very early on. The GP who raises concerns about an unemployed Council tenant struggling with a baby will advise a professional woman with identical issues to go back to work; in the one case they focus on the child and in the other, the mother.
    Somehow the use of paid childcare is regarded differently to the parking of a youngster with a teenager, and if a paid carer misconducts themself the parents receive as much media sympathy as the child.

    1. looked_after_child

      See this article too

      The problem and it is a problem, of mothers-to-be drinking cuts across social class. It really can damage unborn babies. As it happens I know of a then ambassador’s wife who died of alcohol related conditions and I have family members ( I have a wide family) who also have. The Ambassador’s wifes son was born alcohol dependant. I do not consider my family to be a family of drinkers or my circle to include really heavy drinkers- far from it. Some lifestyles are lubricated by alcohol eg meeting, greeting and shmoozing/networking. Some people turn to alcohol in a crisis or as a response to a bad situation of whatever kind.

      I would advise any mother-to-be not to drink a drop of alcohol during pregnancy because if at any point your child shows autistic like behaviours (FASD?) you will forever be left with the question ‘Did I cause that?” That advice applies to female judges as much as teenage mum’s. It is not a popular message though. I do not think pointing the finger at one group or another is very helpful and one also has to ask what services are there for people who need help changing their lifestyle? That is where those that are poor lose I think ..

  13. Angelo Granda

    Mystyken, Thanks for your comment which is a great help and I look forward to future opinions by you.
    What I can tell you is that it is typical for unemployed council tenants on benefits ,especially single Mums and even more so if a handicapped child is involved TO BE TARGETED by Local Authority intervention.
    They operate largely on the spectre of possibilities.Of what may happen in the future based on antecedents etc. and not always the individual antecedents of the family involved but general fears of what happened with Baby P and others.
    Don’t blame the GP’s, it is likely they are responding to strict directives issued by the LA management and lawyers who have targeted the family.(See the protocol concerned with the Troubled Families programme).The LA’s get about £4000 plus bonuses when they close a case and closure can be when a Mum or Dad goes back to work.Or it could be closed by the issue of a care-order and removal of the poor child into care.

    1. Mystykyn

      I do work in local government but at District level and we do have a detailed protocol for child referrals to County Social Services, which is kept in the Housing office. Our policy is to refer all child concerns straight to County, and I expect all District and Borough councils take the same line.
      All we have for vulnerable adults is an email address, but that’s another story.
      Thinking again about the difference in treatment between the affluent and those less so, it starts even sooner. If a professional women does not want/thinks she cannot cope with a child, any child, in the abstract, the pregnancy is terminated and if she’s old enough she will be sterilised. As someone said in the context of the Irish referendum, the rich have abortions, the poor have children.
      If that professional woman births a child with which she cannot cope, then as I said, the GP’s reaction (which will have an element of “there but for the grace of God go I”, particularly if female) will be to suggest she goes back to work.
      A paid carer, even if qualified and that includes boarding schools, will have a different approach to that of the approved parenting wisdom de nos jours. It will be the one that has worked for thousands of years. They want their job to be as easy as possible -all employees do – and their aim will be a clean, quiet and obedient child as soon as possible. A nanny probably won’t pick up a crying child, she will leave it to cry itself out and learn that crying will get it nowhere.
      This is where you and I probably part company, Angelo, and I will say I’m childfree by choice. Any paid work rather than care for a child. I see nothing wrong with that tradition approach and history demonstrates clearly it produces useful and self sufficient adults. I don’t like the spoiled products of child centric parenting and it struck me that the Royal family now employ nannies from cultures that still parent in traditional ways. From memory, the Cambridge’s nanny is Chinese and you never see a Chinese child paddying in the public street.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Mystykyn, A very interesting comment and I agree in the main.
        I have nothing against royalty,aristrocracy or middle class professionals paying for childcare and I am all for less child-centric care allowing kids to become self-sufficient rather than smothering and pampering which tends to result in self-centered, demanding youngsters lacking independence and stress on they themselves and parents alike.
        I think working-class families used to follow a similar policy; once a child started infant school, he or she began straight away to learn to look after themselves and so on. Mum was able to resume a career once the youngest started school.
        A point I would like to make is that each and every family on this earth is human and it is inevitable that every parent will have neglected a child in one way or another over the years.No family is absolutely squeaky-clean.Every family, if subjected to a witch-hunt could , in theory, be targeted successfully by child-rescuers with the attitude they have. It is a question of proportionality though and it is always basic humanity to follow rules intended to ensure fair trials and proportionate sanctions.
        Unfortunately,the LA’s often have illegitimate aims and focus on removal of children mainly from vulnerable ,troubled families rather than on supporting them as quite clearly commanded by the Law.It has been set down repeatedly that removal should never be ordered unless absolutely nothing else will do.Unequivocally!
        Yet families are permanently liquidated quite regularly and it is often on the most dodgy evidence.It isn’t gone over stringently enough in the Family Court because of bias and conflict of interests etc. The Family Court should have its power curtailed in my opinion and be limited to supportive care plans in compliance with the Children Act and heeding a clarion call for family preservation.
        A couple of questions if I may?
        Do you ever check the truth of concerns in detail before sending a referral to County?
        Do you ever receive instructions from a liaison officer from County or Police Child Protection to make a referral?

        1. Mystykyn

          No, we have never been instructed by Social Services to refer to them, cold, and if that should happen, I would ask why; but nor do we investigate or make enquiries ourselves.
          Our staff are not trained to do so and quite frankly haven’t got the time.
          The staff most likely to see something of concern are Housing Officers, whose interest and training is in bricks and mortar, and Environmental Health Officers, but if the latter become embroiled in issues surrounding a dwelling house, rather than commercial premises then other agencies will be involved as well.
          Incidentally I was entertained by a judgment of Mostyn J published on www,bailii.org this week, where he politely rubbished attachment theory.

          1. Angelo Granda

            Mystykyn, please remember in future that if you don’t check the circumstances of concerns passed to you at housing,don’t visit the household to give the accountable person ( parent) the opportunity to give an account ,you could be the root cause of a great injustice. Always be super-cautious before making an official child-in-need referral to Social Services.
            They don’t check anything themselves in the first instance,they just take what you write as fact and input it to their database.Also ‘Chinese whisper’ style they often put things in wrongly.Mostly,unless it is something very serious,they do nothing beyond that to assist a family at all. If on looking at the concerns,they don’t consider threshold for a court order are met,they put it on one side.They may even get other concerns passed to them at a later date or a family might ask for help and support themselves but they will still do nothing but put anything detrimental to the family onto their database.Even if concerns are serious,perhaps around drug- addiction etc.they don’t report it to the Police.
            They bide their time and when they feel the time is right ,perhaps the third referral,they will pounce and report everything they have on the database as true to their lawyers again without checks.It will then look to decision-makers including the magistrates or family court as though there is a long history of serious concerns.
            The excuses for their modus operandae are many and varied but the effects are that circumstances ( if there are genuine problems) deteriorate and threshold are met.No matter how innocent or functional the family actually are, it is easy to say the children are at risk of future emotional harm when there is allegedly a history of concerns even when ingenuine.
            Be careful.

  14. Winston Smith

    Parents knowing their family’s rights is knowing how to protect their family from the LA., as detailed in other comments.

    They frequebtly now threaten to take children into Care if one parent tries to get them back from the other.

    Also “emotion abuse” is now totally out of hand and has become a 17th century witch hunt.

  15. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, would you care to comment here Mostyn J’s judgment which is well supported by C.A.law and by the high court judges cited?
    You may recall a remark I made on the SGO thread.That the Family Courts don’t order that foster care to be ‘permanence’ plans until a child is 18 and neither are SGO’s meant to be.It is the duty of the LA to work towards rehabilitation home to natural family as a matter of normal course by law and this is to be on the agenda for consideration every six months at LACreviews by law.
    I still think that LA’s plan for permanence behind closed doors off their own bat UNLAWFULLY for illegitimate motives of its own.Abuse of power and abuse of care-order.
    All comments welcome.

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