Leaflet for Parents in Care Proceedings

For some time now, a group of us who attending CPConf2016 have been discussing if it might help parents to have a short leaflet which attempts to explain what’s going on, at the very outset of proceedings.  A lot of the problems which arise, or get worse, in care proceedings can be linked to poor communication between parents and professionals which is likely to make parents’ fears and worries get worse, and get in the way of a happy ending to the social worker’s intervention. 

We have started the ball rolling with this draft from one of the group. Please do read and comment. We would like to get something ready to print that is accessible and clear – graphics would be a great help. Any suggestions, welcome. 

Why Is a social worker asking about my child?

This leaflet is to explain what happens when a social worker gets involved with your family and how to get problems sorted out quickly .

You may be contacted by a social worker because someone could be worried about your child such as a teacher or a doctor. This is very likely to make you feel upset or ashamed or angry.
This is normal especially if you can’t understand why you have been reported.
The way you look after your children may seem OK to you, it might be just like your parents looked after you or just like your friends bring up their children. It might be difficult to work out what the social worker is worried about.

Children’s social workers get worried about children being upset or unsafe as well as being smacked or abandoned. Seeing their parent being hit or shouted at or their parent drinking too much and being out of control makes them upset and unsafe. If their parent is not coping they can become anxious themselves. Not having a clean home, or a parent that puts them first makes them worried. If a child is playing up at school a lot you may also get a visit from a social worker.

The social worker CANNOT just take your child away unless they are in very serious danger. They can only take your child if judge says so or the police are concerned enough to take them. You must contact a family solicitor if that happens, you do not have to pay. They may ask you to sign a voluntary arrangement (section 20) but you can ask to speak to a solicitor for free before you do so. You cannot be made to sign anything.


What is the social worker doing?

The social worker wants to see that your child is safe and well and will try and see what you do well as a parent and what you need to improve. They will not provide support for you but may contact other professionals for you or give you phone numbers if it will help your child. If they think your children are doing OK after they first contact you they will not bother you again unless there are further concerns. If they are worried they will start doing an assessment on your family when they will ask you a number of questions about your family background. This may be upsetting to you, but try and keep calm. From the assessment the social worker will work out what help if any your family needs or if they think your children are being harmed or at risk of harm.

What could happen next
A flowchart here CPC or care proceedings etc ?

What you need to do

Listen to the social workers concerns even if you don’t agree with them. If it helps ask them to write them down or explain more simply. See if you can find support, either from friends and family or voluntary groups. If you have a support your child is less likely to be taken way from you permanently even if there are serious concerns. Be willing to work with the social worker about their worries. Turn up for meetings and court hearings if there are any. Look after yourself, if there are worries about your or your partners addiction seek help, if you are struggling to get out of a violent relationship speak to a solicitor or a domestic violence service , its free. Most importantly put your child first, what would have you wanted your parent to do when you were their age?

FAQ or resources ?

For eg – Surviving Safeguarding, Family Rights Group etc.

55 thoughts on “Leaflet for Parents in Care Proceedings

  1. Angelo Granda

    I don’t know if there still are,but there used to be leaflets available which did explain these things to parents. The SW’s might not actually give them to each parent as a matter of course but they were available free in reception at the office on a rack amongst many other official publications.
    The procedures and practice guidelines were laid out fully to anyone entering the office.
    Unfortunately , parents usually discovered that what was supposed to happen in THEORY was cloud-cuckoo land. The reality is different. Likewise if parents contact the FRG and download the well-prepared practice guidelines.
    Complain to the SW’s and you will be ignored,they will simply look at the floor and proceed as before ,holding your protests against you as non-cooperation and defensiveness.Complain to one’s solicitor and they will agree you are right but advise you,nevertheless ,that the best course it to go along with it, not to object strongly and cooperate with the LA for the same reason.
    So i come back to my familiar refrain, how do we ensure that legal guidelines and procedures are followed religiously?

    1. Angelo Granda

      Can I thank the writers of this post . I do think you are doing something constructive and i do not want the above comment to put a damper on your aspirations which are admirable. However, i just want to emphasise to you where things go wrong.

    2. Maggie Mellon

      I agree with Angelo below. Why not advise that parents can record interviews and discussions and that they should be asked to agree content of any written account of the meeting? Also clear written statement about the law and their rights and how to complain if these rights not respected. Why does it state that the ‘social worker will not provide support for you’?
      Why not? Is this social worker as detective? Forensic scientist? Social workers do provide support, respect human rights, promote the best interests of families , the right to private and family life. Only if there is evidence of significant harm or risk of significant harm should the social worker be involved without consent of patents and of child if competent .

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I am afraid I frequently hear social workers and guardians say things to parents in care proceedings along lines of ‘we are not here for you, we are here for the child’. This was commented on by many at CPConf2015 – the feeling was that child was ‘rescued’ whilst parents left to rot.

        There is little wonder this becomes prevailing view in CP proceedings, when Gov has nailed its colours so firmly to mast re adoption, but the impact of such explicit comments on parents – that they are of little interest or value – must be chilling indeed.

        1. helensparkles

          Whilst it is really important that SW focus on the child, & things go wrong if they don’t, the child is part of a family. There have been problems when mum/dad’s issues have created a smokescreen and SW need to look behind that for what life is like for this child in this family. Childcare workers prioritise the needs of the child, so it may not be them who is there for the family, but CP is multiagency and there are adult SW.

          I don’t really know what social workers aren’t doing if they aren’t supporting parents to increase parenting capacity effect change, isn’t that being there for the parents? Supporting a family in crisis usually means sorting out some very practical things. I spend a lot of my time sorting out housing, broken boilers, rent arrears, debts, bills, childcare, budgeting, food parcels, getting locks changed when the violent partner runs off with the keys etc. Families subject to CP processes who emerge the other side without going to court do thank us for our help with those things because they were tougher to achieve when life was chaotic – I don’t need the thanks, I just mean they recognise they were helpful things.

          I think there is another issue for families if their children have been placed elsewhere and there should be follow up services. I don’t think that is children’s services and it isn’t necessarily a SW role.

      2. Sam

        I welcome your comment and yes it would be a good idea to include the fact that parents can record. In fact I go further and say it should be the norm. As Sarah comments below though their have been complaints regarding parents being treated inhumanely by social workers, it may not be common but it does happen.
        What this resource has done so far as well as helping individuals has broken down barriers and increased understanding between those who comment. It has on the whole been positive.
        I would have loved a leaflet or some very simple explanation as to what on earth was going on. All I was told was we are a having a section 47 meeting and when I asked what that was the social work assistant was not sure, but it was to do with abuse which increased my anxiety through the roof . This happened after professionals including my GP , an ex SW manager a current SW working for the LA disability team had all referred me for help. No wonder I shut down. Then I found the unhelpful websites! I suspect if that had happened I would have not ended up separated from my family nor would have the LA spent hundreds of thousands of their precious budget . What would a leaflet cost to print? I also think it would be extremely useful to have very simple leaflets with pictures just like a tabloid newspaper, explaining the what harm actually is, the effect of parents mental health on children, the effect of addiction of children, explanation of neglect and the effect of domestic violence.

        1. helensparkles

          “I also think it would be extremely useful to have very simple leaflets with pictures just like a tabloid newspaper, explaining the what harm actually is, the effect of parents mental health on children, the effect of addiction of children, explanation of neglect and the effect of domestic violence.”

          A lot of that information is available already and in very good formats. It is usually available in libraries and GP’s surgeries.

          Leaflet or not, someone should have been able to explain a S47 enquiry, because whilst that still would have felt alarming, outcomes are never a foregone conclusion and being open and honest helps everyone.

          1. Sam

            They may be available but I was not aware even of the extent of the domestic violence let alone the effect on children. I am sure others are just the same.

          2. helensparkles

            I think distribution is often an issue Sam, guess my point was that (rather than reproduce something that has been done well) perhaps the need is for it to be gathered into a hub for each access with the permission of those who do produce it. Refuge produce leaflets, versions of which are online http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/effects-of-domestic-violence-on-children/ and a lot of the information that is available is very good. I don’t think I could better it anyway!

  2. Sam

    I have never seen a leaflet at all, I had no idea what was happening at time when CP measures started nor did I even think about contacting a solicitor or was anything explained by CS. The leaflet is just a draft and I am sure any suggestions would be welcomed.

  3. Angelo Granda

    I think there is lots and lots of evidence to prove the case to us that frontline SW’s are severely hampered and prevented from engaging in any semblance of good quality, children and families social work by LA management and its organisation of budgets.
    Good ,honest SW’s who attend CPR conferences are really impressive and give the profession real hope for the future. Parents can have hope for the future ; a group are getting the ball rolling as we can see by this post about leaflets. I hope they include in it that parents have a right to record pre-court proceedings, telephone calls etc.
    Good ,honest SW’s like Helen tell us of the realities of everyday practice and the frustrations faced by system participants. We simply cannot ignore these clear examples of bad management. No leaflets and information to hand out to families———- No local advocacy services to which parents can be referred to———– Rarely possible to arrange Family Group Conferences because of the logistical difficulties——–. The problem is that these good,honest,well-intentioned SW’s cannot tell the LA how to use its resources thus they are unable to act in accordance with the law and work together with families as they should.
    I think we have to totally transform the frontline organisation. We have to break the ties between the SW’s and LA budget holders completely. Rename the CS something like Family Support Services and make the SW’s independent. Then assessments will be independent and the SW’s themselves will be able to go along to court as independent witnesses . They will be able to testify honestly (against the LA ) when necessary without fear of compromising career and job prospects. Radical reform is the only solution to the problems we currently have.
    Current Child-protection practices are not acceptable.They are unlawful. They happen because of bad management and bad training of SW’s. The malpractices are so well embedded , we cannot remove them . It is too late,industrial spanish practices cannot be operated upon.
    The only solution, as with the printing industry,dockworkers and some other industries is to tear the whole thing up and start again. Change the cp system by pulling it up from the roots and replanting.
    Comments welcome. What alternative is there? How many years have these various reforms been talked about idly because the various LA ‘s are so set in their ways? They will never alter until forced to .

    1. helensparkles

      I haven’t told you about bad management, I may have told you something you think is bad management, but that would be your opinion. I also haven’t told you about my frustrations with the system. You might think some of the things I have told you are frustrating, but again that would be your opinion. If I were to tell you about my frustrations, they would be resource led, cuts and austerity having had an impact on services, and you dismissed those issues.

      “The problem is that these good,honest,well-intentioned SW’s cannot tell the LA how to use its resources thus they are unable to act in accordance with the law and work together with families as they should.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t a good thing, but the law doesn’t require me to hand out a leaflet or hold a FGC so where there is flexibility and no funding, some LAs won’t have those services. Advocates can be anyone a family brings to support them, it doesn’t just mean an advocacy service. Hopefully that would be someone helpful, but sometimes families want and bring someone very unhelpful. A nationwide advocacy service who understood CP and didn’t collude would be most helpful for everyone.

      I work within the law and work with families. You can tell me I live in cloud cuckoo land if you want but you can’t say that honest social workers are not working in accordance with the law.

      It doesn’t really matter if you separate SW from an LA, it is still the SW body which takes the case to court, whatever organisation they are part of. If SW were a separate organisation, the LA would not be involved at all, SW would be privatised.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your comments,Helen,as always. As a side-issue, collude can mean to conspire together in a fraud ( which seems to be how you look at the meaning) but it also means to play together on the same side ,to conspire together, to help one another to achieve a legitimate aim ( which is how i use the word).
    It is perfectly acceptable for an advocate to collude with a parent; indeed parents would be mad to choose one who will not conspire to work on the same side as themselves. SW’s should be realistic about that. How can an advocate and a parent not collude together. Advocacy means to advise and to intervene actively on someone else’s behalf and the legal frameworks encourage it.

    QUOTE: It doesn’t really matter if you separate SW from an LA, it is still the SW body which takes the case to court : UNQUOTE

    As far as i know, the Local Authority Director of Social Services takes a case to court and the LA solicitors do it on the director’s behalf. The CS do not take the case to court. They are only responsible for making impartial assessments and reports to court, at least that is what families are led to believe by their lawyers and by practice guidelines ,FRG advice sheets etc.

    Can you clarify the position for us? Are you admitting that the CS evidence is not impartial being angled towards winning the LA case? That the CS has itself made the decision to remove before making its various reports? Of course,I have always thought this to be the case.
    Please discuss it in more detail.

    1. helensparkles

      Collusion is never ok. Collusion means to side with someone without being impartial. Advocates who collude with parents are not doing them any favours.

      CS compile assessments and are the representatives of the LA in court, those assessments are the views of the LA, and they have legal advice. There is no conflict there.

      I have said before it is rare for a director or AD of CS to appear in court, unless the court have specific questions for them, which does happen.

      If a SW agency was to be divorced from the LA, it would be the same. The only difference would be that it was separated from the political body. If that were possible without privatisation that would not be a bad thing in my opinion.

    2. helensparkles

      I also think you misunderstand the responsibilities of CS. As a SW I can’t be given legal advice that a case meets thresholds and do nothing about it. It is taken to court for a court to decide.

  5. Angelo Granda

    All comments welcome . Helen and i differ and i welcome other opinions if anyone has the time.

  6. Jerry Lonsdale

    With regards to the distribution of the leaflet(s).

    I am of the view that this should be given out at the earliest opportunity, and, I would prefer if that task was not left to the individual social worker assigned to the case.

    As CP proceedings progress there is always the high turn over of social workers, in that, I mean team change, (safeguarding, looked after) it would be all too easy for the leaflet to be “forgot” to be given.

    My suggeation would be that the leaflet is given out at the first instance by the Chair of the case conference or the IRO, if matters are at that stage, with regards to the IRO it would show a snippet of independence if they are seen to be proactive.

    Maybe there could be some merit in speaking to NAIRO about helping to ensure its proper distribution.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        The problem is – this information just doesn’t seem to be getting out to parents, who may not even have heard of the Family Rights Group the first time a SW comes to call. We would certainly put the FRG on the leaflet as an important resource. I think the impetus for this is having something short, simple and immediately accessible for parents. If we can keep anxiety levels down at the very outset, it can only be a good thing.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Jerry Londale and all Family Court lawyers,you have politely written the word forgot within parentheses but the suggestion is clear.
      We have to face and deal with it if we are to restore Public trust in the system we all agree is flawed.
      As Sarah has written elsewhere,we have to examine the ” mechanics” of it. The system is open to abuse and consequently LA’s abuse it for a variety of reasons.Corruption,lack of resources,misunderstanding of duty,stupidity, whatever.
      A leaflet,if available,must be issued at the very beginning along with a few words from the key SW advising about advocacy services locally and contact details.
      This duty is bestowed upon the CS by the Worjing Together frameworks (2014), i believe.
      These are legal responsibilities written into the Law to prevent the authorities from abusing the system.No doubt about it.
      We appear to accept that it is normal for this duty to be ignored.If you také my word for it,the LA tramples over many other procefures in many cases.
      At present, the Court permits it to pass. Unless families are given permission to appeal judgements on the basis that the LA have flouted legal procedures ,then the injustices will continue.
      Many folk lose their children because they are deemed unable to acknowledge concerns and work with professionals..LA’s often deliberately work on and develop such a situation especially when no serious abuse has occurred.It has to foster the false belief that the parents are defensive,mental etc.
      No wonder they fail to carry out one of their first duty about advocacy.
      I call for automatic,non-means tested legallyy funded appeal in serious Public Law cases.A case is seious when children are forcibly removed into care.
      Let Professionals dIscuss this first otherwise the LA’s will simply bin the new leaflets!

  7. Sam

    Sorry have been off line for a fortnight and only just catching up. This is excellent news. I agree with Sarah , I had never heard of the Family Rights Group when I first got involved with CS. Their material is excellent but can be a little long, in my opinion when a parent in that first state of utter panic. I agree with Jerry that the IRO may possibly be the person to give them out or at least check that the parents have received a leaflet.

  8. Angelo Granda

    Please bear in mind that the IRO does not really become involved with parents until the first LAC review which is not held until one month after a child’s removal.Also,in my experience,where S47 investigations are instigated and where Police are involved,no CP conferences are held.
    So the leaflets should be handed out by SW’s at first contact in my view.

    1. helensparkles

      I do think the SW should hand out the leaflet at first point of contact but the IRO also chairs the child protection conference and there are timescales for that being held so not inordinate delay.

  9. *

    Did you get any further with a second draft of this? I had hoped to catch you about it after the talk on Thursday but you disappeared too quickly.

    Do you know what happened to the ones for parents when it reaches the stage of care proceedings – if they were ever distributed? or were they just drafts? I would have found the below very helpful.



    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I think we are about to try one – someone has very kindly paid for a design and we are going to try a a print run and see what the response is. Jerry and Sam have seen the draft and I think they both like it.

      1. *

        Are you able to put a pdf of the finished draft up? – in your links and resources for parents and families section?

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Possibly! It’s in drop box at the moment – I will ask the author. Or maybe he can invite you to see it via drop box – are you happy for me to share your email with him?

          1. *

            yep, thanks.

            if it went up it might be useful to all people though. if its good maybe we could show/ persuade our own LA’s to trial it.

  10. *

    having said that, i sadly didn’t get too far showing them transparency project’s audio recording guidance.

    the children’s centre still has large threatening posters stating that parent’s audio recording of meetings is a ‘breach of data protection’ and ‘the police WILL be called’ .

    threatening parents with being arrested and prosecuted for recording discussions for their own memory (and sometimes safety) isn’t helpful (!)

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      That’s really concerning. Can you contact the Transparency Project and let them know which children’s centre this is?

    1. Angelo Granda

      I have often said that any new laws and procedures introduced ( inluding leaflets to be handed out) are futile if the LA’s are able to flout them and follow its own spanish practices and exceed its authority.
      Lawyers should ask themselves why the CS insists on opposing open and honest proceedings,taping etc and why another safeguard which allows parents to have friends and advocates to support them at meetings are also flouted.The CS tell everyone it isn’t allowed! Likewise there is some unknown force working against transparency and open court hearings.
      I think it is obvious and I predicted ages ago that we would find that the LA’s would be the ones to oppose the introduction of anything which might stop them achieving their illicit aims.
      Are lawyers too daft to see it? Are some Judges also too compliant with malpractice?

      It will go on and on and in five years time we will still be trying to figure out how we can obtain transparency.

      In my opinion, the only remedy when casaes are conducted wrongly is, an appeal to a higher court. Parents should have automatic permission to appeal in seious cases.

  11. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for the link, Sam. There isn’t a lot I can say about the Police as I know little about their priorities. The physical abuse of children ,especially by those in power over them is so despicable,it really is. Yet the CS are so often blind to it even when the offenders may be from within its own ranks.Sometimes a culture of physical and sexual abuse has thrived for decades before coming to the serious attention of a criminal court and onr wonders why,of course.
    Obviously secrecy and silence within the department supports multiple misuse of power in a multiplicity of directions. From my reading about it, I gather that when family members seriously abuse children, the perpetrators threaten and terrorise them.They are told that if they talk, they will never see their Mums again or even that they will be killed. I have no reason to believe that it is any different with predators outside the family e.g. In children’s homes.
    I’ll never forget the haunted,traumatised faces of children from the local orphanage in my hometown. Yet no way would they divulge to anyone what went on behind the doors of the home.
    Police should send undercover officers into the CS, untouchables not prone to being silenced by the Local Authorities .

  12. Angelo Granda

    To all readers, The malpractice concerning transparency at meetings and proceedings etc. must be due to the trickle-down effect and the lack of knowledge of the Law by SW’s.
    In a meeting this very week (obviously I can give no identifying details online), a meeting began with a Social Services manager who chaired it, informing the other professionals and parents that the meeting was strictly confidential. It was asked by a parent whether any minutes were to be taken. The answer was “No”. This was an important meeting about the ‘best interests’ of a child which was being held in order to base a report for the Family Court.
    I can say nothing else about the meeting ,what was said etc. in any detail and the parents cannot break confidentiality and talk about it to anyone.
    Let us just say that at its close ,the chairperson rose and pointedly stressed, craftily, that no minutes had been taken. It was asked by one of those present why had there been no-one there to take minutes? The manager claimed it was due to the cut-backs etc. and lack of manpower. It was asked why was it not possible for meetings to be tape-recorded, a precaution which would require no extra staff? He replied ,with authority, that the recording of meetings was strictly illegal.
    He was a senior manager thus he is to be obeyed even when he goes above the law.
    The report which is made to court may or may not bear any relation to the truth of what was said at the meeting and when the fellow referred to the lack of minutes, he made this clear to the parents involved.
    All comments welcome.
    Quite incidentally, has anyone noticed how, when a particularly important meeting is held, one or two managers will always attend alongside the key social worker in order to dominate meetings and silence opposition? Strength in numbers!

    1. helensparkles

      Re managers in meetings, managers at particular levels of seniority need to be in meetings according to their ability to make decisions. How that looks varies on the hierarchy of an LA. I would always have a service manager and a team manager in a legal planning meeting for example. To assume it is to silence is erroneous.

    2. Sam

      To the parents simply take along your own recording device , put it on the table and ask if anyone objects. If they do refer them to the Transparency Project guidance.

  13. Angelo Granda

    Was the manager wrong to say the recording of meetings is strictly illegal?

    If he was , is it due to bad training and incompetence ( including not being au fait with the law)?

    Was it bad management not to make available staff to take minutes? Is it customary at professional meetings not to be minuted? I don’t think it is in most other professions.

    Most importantly, are we to accept as bona fide other authoriative legal pronouncements the manager made at the meetings? No -one there questioned him.

    1. helensparkles

      It is very unclear what kind of meeting this was and I understand you may not be able to expand, but minutes are not always taken in meetings. This isn’t necessarily bad management, it depends on the type of meeting. For example, a case conference doesn’t result in minutes but a report which (hopefully) summarises the key issues for everyone. A pre proceedings meeting will usually involve the family’s lawyer ensuring they are fully appraised of the content of the meeting. If you are there as an advocate, I am surprised that it was not possible to challenge any pronouncements, challenging without conflict is a key skill for an advocate as is ensuring clarity.

  14. Angelo Granda

    All professional meetings and conferences should be minuted or recorded on tape then parents, especially cannot be misquoted and SW’s aren’t able to threaten, cajole or conduct the meeting wrongly. also all participants should agree and sign the minutes ,also all meetings should be quorate.
    Helen, what happened to orange-book assessments? do they still do them? Assessments to be conducted over a period of weeks always by two SW’s, one of whom takes minutes whilst the other talks to the client and switching places from time to time, minutes to be agreed and signed by parent after each session.

    1. helensparkles

      The orange book hasn’t been around for a long time.

      Not all meetings are minuted and I have already said why this is; the purpose of the meeting dictates the record that is needed. Minutes would be of far less use and value to a family than the report and plan which is given to them following a child protection conference for example.

      Assessments are shared with families and they contain their views and wishes. There are different timescales for different assessments but they always involve the family.

      It is uncommon for more that one worker to attend a visit, joint visits are generally undertaken when there is an identified risk.

      It is more common for a family to disagree with the SW assessment than to feel misquoted and their views and wishes are recorded within the assessment, so that is easily captured.

  15. Sam

    Assessments do not always contain the parents wishes and feelings. I was not consulted at all in the assessment. Yes and the case was in the High Court as I have said before. The only way forward I can see, is that all meetings are recorded to reflect the seriousness of the interference of the state in people’s private lives and a real simple mechanism to hold professionals accountable when fraud/ misconduct is committed.

    1. helensparkles

      Obviously I am of course not commenting on when things go wrong but given your case was in the High Court, presumably your views and wishes were represented by your solicitor.

      Personally I don’t have any problem with being recorded, someone going through my notes (I have a blank notebook for every visit/meeting so someone can read any notes made without seeing anything about anyone else) or assessments and I’m happy to record anything a family disputes and do. Most of the time content is not disputed and people don’t feel misunderstood or misquoted, most of the time people disagree with a social work assessment because they don’t like what it says.

  16. Angelo Granda

    Once again ,we get down to the nitty-gritty! Fraud/misconduct, correct procedures not followed by assessors in out-of-court Children’s Act proceedings. Minutes should always be taken in legal proceedings and these assessment meetings and conferences are legal proceedings. They are accepted as bona fide in court. The assessors have a duty to take account the wishes and feelings of parents and to do so, they must at least ,talk to them!
    Once more, Helen agrees procedures should be followed and presumes Sam’s views were expressed by her solicitor. Sam, were your arguments put by your solicitors or did they advise you to co-operate and accept the assessments as they were? Did your solicitors press the point you were not interviewed thus your side of the argument was not taken into account?
    In my view, it is little wonder why more and more parents self-litigate. These panel solicitors just cannot be relied upon. The judicial system has to sort itself out.

    1. helensparkles

      “correct procedures not followed by assessors in out-of-court Children’s Act proceedings” Given you think thought that the Orange Book Assessment process still existed I question your knowledge of the what the ‘correct procedures’ are?

      The content of any assessment includes the information gathered and is shared with the family. I can’t comment on anyone not sharing an assessment or not capturing a family’s views, this is routine in my experience. The gathering of information from families and the professionals involved with them is undertaken with consent, unless there is a good reason why this would in itself present a risk, and it is not gathered in meetings that would be minuted. I think the emphasis on minutes is misplaced, the emphasis on recording information is not, although you have objected to the way this is done Angelo.

      ” Minutes should always be taken in legal proceedings and these assessment meetings and conferences are legal proceedings” this is not correct. Notes are taken by legal representatives in legal meetings/proceedings for their clients. Child Protection Conferences are not legal proceedings, they may be taking place at the same time as pre-proceedings or care proceedings but they are not in themselves proceedings.

    2. Sam

      It was not picked up by my solicitor at all. I think unfortunately it is pot luck, I am sure most would have. I think there is too much pressure on everyone.

  17. Angelo Granda

    Too much pressure ,MY —-!
    Solicitors and Judges are never under too much to pick up upon parental lapses and issues which support LA cases. In my view, there is more than a mere conflict of interests due to the lawyers having a duty to others (children and the court) besides their clients but also one due to the financial interests of their own partnerships. Take it from me that many solicitors often don’t bother talking and interviewing their clients before the day of the hearings now; they leave it to trainees. Often no barristers are briefed.

    Although I would prefer to concentrate on judicial matters, without intending any personal slight against SW’s particularly Helen herself, I have to put my view again that many SW’s are low calibre individuals who are lacking true professional standards and training. The very suggestion that these meetings should not always be minuted and/or taped is shoddy ,in my opinion. The assessments etc. are noted down in CP records,archives and computer databases and later may be used as an evidence-base for family court proceedings. The problem is, that many of these SW’s lack integrity ,I’m afraid they aren’t all too choosy about the evidence they sign off. When accurate minutes aren’t kept and professional procedures aren’t followed scrupulously, the system is OPEN TO ABUSE. That is the whole point of minutes and procedures. Those who wish to abuse the system won’t follow them deliberately and some others don’t follow them because of a lack of adequate training. Whichever is the case, we end up with misinformed and unrealistic appraisals.
    The first job of any solicitor should be to check procedural correctness and where abuses have occurred they should fight the case for their client and the children on that basis.

    1. helensparkles

      You may prefer that minutes or recordings are made but that is not part of correct procedures so please don’t conflate the two issues. If you are going to comment on procedures not being followed it is probably better that you know what they are in the first place. You seem to wish to reduce social work to more of an admin task, there are no actual administrators to minute meetings on the whole, they went yonks ago. The outcome of that would be that social workers would spend more time at their desks than they already do and less time working with families. I would question that being a helpful idea. Assessments are not some hidden record, they are shared with families. At best this would of course be a visit to go through the content and discuss the outcome, at worst they are put in the post.

  18. Angelo Granda

    I am merely pointing out that low professional standards leave the system ‘open to abuse’. Decisions made without minutes may be little better than malicious should a malicious system member be involved.
    The LA know all about strict procedural correctness because its other departments e.g housing benefit, council tax and schools have to follow it .Any statements made by the public are signed and dated; it would be impossible to instigate legal action against them on the word (often including gossip ) of the council officer. Same with opinions of other agencies, they would exist and be placed on file in hard copy. It would be impossible not to follow the procedures in case the decision was appealed by the member of public because it would be quashed.
    There’s no doubt standards are low and it doesn’t work in the children’s favour but in that of the bad apples and the dishonest.
    Can you imagine other professionals not taking minutes especially at multi -specialism meetings? Would a company head-office general board meeting go without proper records being made?
    Yet in a serious matter like child-protection ,it is common-place to rely on memory.
    Please don’t think I or other parents are ignorant of what the procedures are in the first place,Helen. I mentioned one of your superiors , a team manager and he made it clear to the meeting that minutes should have been made but hadn’t been because of staff problems. Thus correct procedures were not followed.
    Of course assessments are shared with families but they are based on false and often malicious falsehoods. Such as that about Sam using vile and obscene language. Damning and extremely detrimental to her case!
    Let’s all buck up and send copies of the planned leaflets to all SW’s as well as parents right at the start of a case. The transparency rules might trickle down a bit quicker if we did.

    1. helensparkles

      I have already explained why some records of meetings are not minutes, it doesn’t help if you just ignore that (& it does expose that you don’t know what the correct procedures are).

      I share assessments with families routinely, there is nothing false in them, and content is rarely disputed.

      I don’t know what you think happens in housing cases in court, but statements are made in exactly the same way as they are in the family court. There is no difference so absolutely no idea why you think standards are lower.

      I do understand that a meeting that sounds it should have been was not minuted, but I have no idea what kind of meeting that was. The fact that someone ‘superior’ to me (though I have been a manager) made the comment has no bearing on whether that was right or wrong. It either was or it wasn’t.

      I think it is absolutely fine for families to make their own notes or recordings if they wish to. I don’t actually see another way around them disputing content, perhaps you as their advocate could have done so in the meeting, that might have been helpful.

  19. Angelo Granda

    I am an ordinary parent with no legal qualifications at all.I am not an advocate either.
    Sometimes I get into meetings that’s all, before you start blaming me,Helen.
    Human nature is what it is which is why cases go wrong so often.Can you honestly say that ,when making notes and assessments etc, you have not sometimes missed something out and even on occasion added something which was not actually said? Something which supported the LA case?
    If you haven’t congratulations,you deserve a medal.Glad to know you allow recording.I understand that now,permission is not required?

    1. helensparkles

      What was I blaming you for Angelo? I suggested you took notes in a meeting where nobody else was, and you seemed to think it was very important that they were taken. It was a point about how anyone can take notes. I don’t know what your role was in that meeting, but assumed you were supporting a family, if not, I don’t know why you were allowed into a meeting sharing confidential information?

      I can honestly say that I have not missed anything relevant out of an assessment or made something up – which is what you are asking me. I don’t need a gold medal for that Angelo, it isn’t out of the ordinary, it is routine. An assessment is based on my professional analysis of the information gathered. It is more common for someone to disagree with that analysis than any content, but most of the time everyone agrees about what the facts are, they’ve usually been confirmed by the family before the assessment is written.

      When I use the word records I am referring usually to the written word, although I have no objection to being recorded. Nobody has ever wanted to record me, and parents with specific needs which mean it might make it easier for them to also have a record usually bring an advocate instead, that person’s ability to support them to process the information is usually more helpful than just having a recording of something they might not understand however many times they listen to it.

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