The Particular Dangers for Professionals if they can’t (or won’t) feel empathy.

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore

I recently posted about the particular dangers for parents of becoming engaged in ‘conspiracy theories’, defined as ‘a story that is based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality’.

This prompted strong reactions from some commentators who pointed out that they had been victims of clear wrong doing from professionals, including deliberate falsifying of evidence. They understandably rejected the suggestion that their anger and pain resulting from such experiences was because they were promoting a conspiracy theory.

Some useful discussion followed and I accepted that it was true that a number of different things can be happening. Parents can make assumptions on limited or false data (or be encouraged by others to do so) and equally so can professionals. The dangers for parents are stark – they end up losing their children.

But what are the dangers for professionals of a false narrative?

A professional who tells him or herself a false ‘story’ about the family poses several clear and serious dangers. There is the danger of failing to abide by the law, of advocating a disproportionately harsh response to the families difficulties. There is the danger of causing serious emotional pain to the family by unwarranted interference.

And finally, there is a danger to the professional as a person; that he or she becomes insensitive to pain, lacking in compassion and hence with the potential to cause even more harm to families from insensitive or inappropriate interventions.

Two commentators, Angelo and Jason, spoke with eloquence about the reality of their pain and what professional intervention had done to their families.

Mothers dream of holding their babies no matter how big they have grown. Flashbacks, inventing narratives, daydreams and misery remain theirs for life. On the spiritual, mystic, unknown plains such as ESP, true or not, they can visualize and feel themselves in one another’s arms. Children may go home in their imaginations! Parents would lay down their lives for their children but that would be meaningless; they are forced to go on and on, repeating their narratives again until they get too old or succumb to madness. Children too! Then, if approached in that state by a SW, they will raise both arms in utter contempt and cry pitifully “ F— OFF”. This,i hope,describes how it feels to these parents when they are hung out to dry.

My “narratives” give me nightmares – I wouldn’t say they are self-protective. I have PTSD because of the horrible things that happened to me. In some ways I would like to find a way to think myself to blame, just so I could have that power back, but there was nothing I could have done, it wasn’t my fault. It was shocking to see how far people could get with their lies, but what hurt the most was the cover up.

The discussion that followed was interesting and illuminating for me (and I hope others). As always I am very grateful for those who take the time and trouble to comment on this site and to share their experiences. Because without these attempts to connect and to understand each other, the necessary debate about what is going wrong with our child protection system will remain polarised in unhelpful rhetoric; everyone will be the loser for it.

The discussion allowed me to articulate fully what I think is the problem  – why do working relationships between parents and professionals get so toxic so quickly in many cases? I believe it is down to a lack of empathy and understanding. Between BOTH parents and professionals.

As I commented:

I think the problem is this. I don’t have an emotional horse in this race. So I will make comments that I accept some may find glib or upsetting or dismissive. Because I am not subject to the same overweening emotions and pain.

I think this is why the debate between the different perspectives on the system stalls. Because we react according to our narratives and belief structures, as I believe was the very point of this post initially.

Of course children don’t get adopted by force by ‘one mistake’ They get adopted by a series of incremental issues that build up, step by step until the course is set and it is very difficult to take another course.

Professionals in social work and child protection must not numb themselves against recognising the pain other human beings can suffer. But equally parents must remember that professionals in child protection systems often have to deal very frequently with very distressing situations.

It is easy to feel empathy for a child who is suffering, particularly a very young child who is completely dependent on adult care.  It is much less easy to feel compassion for the angry, hurting parent who tells you to ‘fuck off’ or threatens you, who can’t or won’t keep their house clean, or meet their children’s basic needs.

It is easy for me to see how the professional’s goal becomes ‘rescuing’ that child from a situation of perceived harm.

I was recently tweeted details about a truly shocking case where in 2012 a father successfully convinced a court he had been a victim of false accusations that he shook his baby. Now he is on trial for her murder. This is the ultimate fear that lurks behind many social work interventions with families. If you get it wrong, a child may die. Not only must you carry the pain of what that child had to suffer but you also run the risk of vilification in the tabloids and losing your job and your reputation – as we saw so clearly and horribly in the media storm that followed the death of Peter Connelley.

Of course, parents murdering their children is a rare event. Most parents, with the right help and support at the right time, can look after their children well enough. In now nearly 17 years ‘on the job’ I have met only two parents who I thought were dangerous psychopaths, incapable of feeling love for their children.

But we have to understand what is the monster hiding in the shadows in each and every interaction between parents and professionals. Putting it bluntly – parents fear their children will be taken for no good reason, to feed Government targets for adoption. Social workers fear that parents will hurt their children and the blame will fall on the social worker who didn’t rescue that child in time.

What we all need is empathy.

I quote Brene Brown again:

It is important to note here that empathy is understanding what someone is feeling, not feeling it for them. If someone is feeling lonely, empathy doesn’t require us to feel lonely too, only to reach back into our own experience of loneliness so we can understand and connect. We can fake empathy, but when we do, it’s not healing or connecting. The pre-requisite for real empathy is compassion. We can only respond empathetically if we are willing to be present to someone’s pain. Empathy is the antidote to shame and it is the heart of connection.

And to remember it’s  not an equal relationship

I have suggested that parents also need to try to understand where the professionals are coming from. But I don’t mean to suggest by this that each bears equal responsibility to be compassionate towards the other. Clearly, this is not an equal relationship and professionals hold most of the cards.

Therefore professionals have to remember that the pain and stress caused by their interventions cuts right to the heart of what makes us human. Parents are threatened with the loss or disruption of their relationship with their children. This is primal.

I have known loss, heartbreak and suffering. What human hasn’t? But my child lives with me. I have the privilege of watching her grow, imagining her future and the role I can play in it. I don’t have an emotional horse in this race. And the danger of that is that I may become indifferent or dismissive to those who do.

 

Further reading

Re-Imagining Child Protection – Brid Featherstone, Susan White and Kate Morris.

A mother’s reaction to the lack of empathy shown to her child with learning disabilities

Promoting Humane Social Work With Families

784 thoughts on “The Particular Dangers for Professionals if they can’t (or won’t) feel empathy.

  1. Angelo Granda

    In the case of the father who went on to murder his child,may i point out that the decision by the Appeal Court to clear him of the previous murder was correct.
    However, the decision to allow the child to return home without a stepped rehabilitation and without close supervision was apparently a wrong one made by the civil family court.
    Was it a decision made on a comprehensive factual matrix ( taking into consideration the current emotional and psychological condition of the parents) or was it a rushed decision made in a summary manner as very often happens in Family Courts? The system should engage with radical reform of frontline practices in line with the Governments vision for change.
    Even after everything , one has to have empathy with Mum who turned to unusual methods of solving her problem which Dad presented. No doubt ,after her previous experience with the CS ,she was terrified to go to a social worker for assistance.Or the Police.
    I don’t suppose professionals with have any empathy for her now……. .As for Dad,he is condemned for life.What sympathy can anyone have for him? Had he developed his anger problem and possibly insanity as a result of the previous trauma? I don’t know.

    Yet the Family Court got the decision wrong and the CS got it wrong as in the Baby P case. They thought everything would be okay and a happy ever after story would ensue. It did not.

    I suppose there aren’t any records kept of the very many happy ever after stories which do evolve after children are returned.

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      Reading again the time line in this case – baby injured in 2007. Conviction overturned in 2010 and THEN more contested care proceedings. LA clearly worried. Given that child as tiny baby also suffered burns (allegedly from radiator) I am not at all surprised. But I won’t comment further on this case as the criminal trial is on going and it’s obviously extremely important that right verdict is reached. If he is innocent, this is the most appalling tragedy. Ditto if he is guilty and if so, I hope he never comes out of prison.

      Reply
  2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    Yes, you are right – the legal system worked as it should. There wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict him of seriously hurting his daughter when she was a baby so he was released and family reunited.

    However, I have been linked to a blog post – which I can’t publish here as it has photographs of another child – which claims huge injustice from the family court system and false accusations against the father.

    however this little girl is now dead with catastrophic head injuries. Which suggests to me that worries about father’s anger were justified in the initial proceedings. Of course, it is perfectly possible that both parents were driven mad by the initial false allegations. But that isn’t the defence they are running. They claim she died by accident. The prosecution say they deliberately acted to cover up her death.

    I don’t know. I will be interested to see the verdict. But you are right that it would be instructive to know what support/supervision was in place after the first criminal trial.

    BUT I don’t want this case to derail the point of the post. These cases ARE rare. That is why they get splashed over the tabloids every time they happen. We give disproportionate attention to these cases because they are so horrible. But I think they do inform why the ‘child rescue’ narrative is so strong for many professionals – and this Government.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Do we know if this was private or public proceedings in the family court? I’d be interested to know if the LA supported rehab home & if they then put a plan in place & if there was a supervision order. Balance of probabilities would have been part of care proceedings regardless.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        Family proceedings are almost always private. But there were criminal proceedings here as well, which are almost always public.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          Sorry, I can see where the confusion might be arising. Proceedings involving children can be ‘private law’ (between individuals) or ‘public law’ (between an individual and the state I.e the LA).

          But vast majority of family proceedings are conducted ‘in private’ (or secret) whether they involve private law or public law. This is to protect the children’ identities from becoming widely known.

          Vast majority of criminal proceedings are conducted ‘in public’ I.e, NOT secret. This is to maintain confidence in the criminal justice system.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            Yes sorry, should have put private or public law in there which was my meaning, rather than anything being heard publicly.

  3. Angelo Granda

    Sarah,before anyone else comes on with their views,can i assure you that i along with the General Public have much empathy with Social Workers and Family Court lawyers . This empathy is written into the statute which recognises that professionals have to take ‘proportionate’ action when there is the slightest perceived risk to children. We recognise that Social Workers have to look at past cases and develop ‘concerns’ in every case no matter how small the reasons for suspicion. It is recognised that professionals are human not infallible and there will exist a built-in safety -first attitude.They may overreact also in many cases they may underreact.
    We recognise the problems lawyers have balancing their responsibilities. All are different but, as you wrote in the post above,they may easily take over-harsh decisions seeing themselves as child-rescuers.This is bound to happen especially when many families do abuse children.

    As far as the Social Workers are concerned the (very empathatic)Public Statute has foreseen and catered for their difficulties in deciding what to do.If they want to return our goodwill all they have to do is cooperate with us and follow strictly ALL the very well worked out legal guidelines and frameworks the Public have set out for them.Amongst those are that they have to carry out full and above all impartial assessments to enable fair assessments to be made by the Court. SW’s do your duty to the law,that is all the empathy we demand of you.

    As far as lawyers are concerned,parents are not asking for sympathy from you! If you want to return Public empathy with your difficult job,all the Public demand of you is that you enforce the Statute and common law .Ensure each and every legal guideline is adhered to strictly.Plus the Public ( through the Human Rights Act ) demand that you ensure that citizens are respected.All the safeguards set out in law must be followed and all the directions obeyed. You are not SW’s,you are lawyers. It is not your job to decide what you think is in the best interests of children nor what the Public can afford. Let those with parental authority decide. Have regard to all articles particularly 3,6 and 8. Remember that guilty parents have human rights too;show them due respect . Above all remember that children are the ones who suffer appallingly from permanent removal decisions whether right or wrong.
    Your priority ,at this point,is to ensure human rights.Perhaps you should start by reforming the Family Courts and enforce Article 6.
    Sorry for such a lengthy screed at the beginning of this thread. I want to get the points over early.
    I look forward to all comments ,disagreements included.

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      Angelo – you mention ‘sympathy’ in your post – empathy is very different. Empathy is about treating people with compassion because you are trying to understand why they feel as they feel or do as they do.

      ‘Sympathy’ in my view is a nasty, patronising stance to take a lot of the time. Because it involves ‘pity’. I.e. I am sad for you as your life is so horrible.

      As a disabled person I am often at the receiving end of ‘sympathy’ – which is very annoying as I am basically being told how sad the other person feels about my awful life.
      I am less often on the receiving end of empathy but when I am, it is very welcomed and very helpful – both practically and emotionally.

      The epathetic person is more likely to try and help in constructive ways – the sympathetic person offers little more than saying a person is worthy of pity. In my view at least.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Sarah,
        I also mentioned sympathy in my post. I looked up the words before I did – and I thought that sympathy was the more appropriate term for how I felt regarding Sharon Shoesmith etc. I used it because in that case I couldn’t think of a time in my life when I’ve been vilified in the press, I cannot put myself there, so I thought there was something to sympathise with. The terms sympathy and empathy are very often used interchangeably, and it can become a matter of semantics. I’ve certainly heard them both used in identical ways.

        You seem to be objecting to people feeling pity for you when there is nothing to feel pity for – which is totally understandable, as that is very frustrating. Surely it is the mind set that is irritating rather than the term being used?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore

          Of course. Sticks and stones etc. It isn’t WORDs that are the problem so much as what people think those words mean. We need to check what we mean by the words we use. We need to be alert that other people may have other meanings. We should be wary of assuming.

          This is a perfect real life encapsulation of the problem between sympathy/empathy
          Person A: offers me what IN THEIR MIND is a sympathetic/empathetic response to my difficulties in walking. ‘O you poor thing! how brave you are! does it hurt?’
          Person B: (Me – thinks) go away you patronising and irritating person.

          Person C: are you ok with walking? Or shall I call taxi/carry your bag
          Person B: (me) thanks!

          I don’t like Person A. I don’t think they are helpful. I don’t want to be around them.
          Person C however offers compassion and practical solutions,
          I like person C.

          Reply
  4. Sam

    I think this is a very important post. I have both received and given empathy to social workers. One particular empathetic lady, who said she would like to give me a hug but couldn’t left the profession altogether. I have also also been at the receiving end of gas lighting from a couple of them. I have spoken before about someone medical like a health visitor actually dealing with child protection issues relating to families. This is because I believe most parents and probably children could actually be classified as ill rather than morally corrupt. Addiction is an illness as is depression or anxiety etc. You would not (normally) treat a person with a physical illness who may struggle on a daily basis to look after their children by instigating child protection procedures. Yet the system works by vilifying ill people. So does the system lack empathy or do social workers or a bit of both? Or is it more that those in power get pleasure from bullying those who have no power?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore

      Re why people who are mentally ill as opposed to physically ill are more often vilified than helped, I think its probably all of the above, but you have missed out what I think is the very powerful compulsion to look after children; we are hard wired to find children vulnerable and appealing and it is quite hard to remember that adults who hurt children are more likely to be ‘sad’ than ‘bad’.

      Mental illness is also quite scarey and unfamiliar for many people. They can cope with a broken leg; that is a clearly visible problem which will hopefully resolve itself in a reasonable timescale. Mental illness however is a lot less understandable and predictable.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        As you say in the blog, you have met 2 psycho/sociopaths in your career. I have met 1 and he was in prison. All the families I work with are where they are by virtue of their own capacity which is often limited by factors completely outside their control, not always but there are always mitigating factors. I have compassion and I have empathy, I have it even when someone is shouting abuse at me. Far from the law offering a framework of empathy (Angelo) it does the opposite, it currently offers sad parents with limited capacity a very limited timeframe to effect change. You know the rescue narrative isn’t mine, it is though one of the current political system, and social workers are agents of the state. That isn’t to abdicate responsibility and I never speak for all social workers. The issue with mental illness or limited capacity through LD or psychological problems is not that they are scary or unquantifiable but that children and their timescales are the focus.

        Reply
      2. Sam

        I think that labelling the parents as sad rather than bad is both emphatic and helpful. Many parents will be carrying issues from their own childhoods were they would have been labelled as bad ,stupid etc. So if they once again get labelled as such by authority figures they will simply feel fear and react accordingly. I know assessments are supposedly highlight parents strength’s as well as shortcomings but once in proceeding’s that appears not to be the case.

        Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      It is the legal framework social workers work within that has the power, it decides thresholds for intervention, and the timescales for change. The focus is in the needs of the child and their timescales, it would be a different system if it was to support parents to keep children at home whatever their issues, and there is an argument for that. That doesn’t mean that social workers shouldn’t have empathy or compassion, they should have both, and the day they don’t they should stop working in the profession.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        Yes it’s a good point about short timescales. There is now much less time to spend empathising with parents – the court will demand the care proceedings are wrapped up in 6 months or less.

        Reply
  5. Sam

    I am not sure that short time scales would be a problem if there were resources that were actually available within those time scales. I know a lady who had disabling anxiety problems for decades, and she has finally turned that around by going on a four day private residential course. Most parents obviously do not have the money to pay. Basically from what I gathered a major part of what helped was someone”professional” simply straight talking . I have never had known social worker straight talk , maybe it’s the system again. Straight talking and empathy can co exist.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      I have just been doing some straight talking today, there are barriers to hearing. Sometimes, when for example I have been in pre proceedings and am at the case conference a year down the line, someone says they realise what I was on about. Until then it doesn’t matter how straight I talk, people deflect, project and all sorts of things that are human nature to justify their own narrative. Often, if change is going to happen, it should in 6 months. Longer than that (research indicates) it won’t. Nobody has any money to fund anything but straight talking is free & I shall keep doing it.

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      There is also an argument for funding therapeutic intervention, but given those interventions are only available privately, neither the LA or individuals can fund. Nobody really has access to them, and there are others in need who aren’t parents at risk of losing their children, ideally access would be equitable.

      Reply
  6. Jason

    Thank you for the post Sarah. I’m experiencing a lot of conflict, trying to sort through my thoughts.

    Firstly, I have every sympathy for professionals who miss symptoms, make the wrong decisions or who forget to do a check – as I mentioned previously I’m tolerant of error, and I remember when the news kept featuring stories about Baby P, I felt very sorry for Sharon Shoesmith, and all the others; they are clearly not bad people, and it is hard enough having to cope with the knowledge that a child died on your watch, let alone having to deal with the press, and constant disapproval from people who wouldn’t have done any better.

    The tabloids fuel hysteria in an unhelpful way: as you say, these cases are very well-publicized. I’ve always taken empathy to be imagining how someone else must be feeling, but it is also used to mean trying to see a situation from someone else’s point of view. You think that the problem is a lack of empathy and understanding on both sides, but I’ll try to explain why I don’t think that that is so.

    Parents as well as social workers know all the horror stories about child cruelty in the news; their biggest fear is not, I would say, adoption targets: it is that the social worker will wrongly suspect that they are like these evil parents and come to the wrong conclusions about them. If they are indeed a “child abusing scumbag” then they will of course do everything to hide this from the social worker – they will lie, and lie and lie. But a good parent will surely use their empathetic skills to successfully predict that they stand a chance of wrongfully losing their child.

    Parents who can empathise with social workers, feel what the social worker is feeling, would have every reason to feel nothing but terror. The logical thing to do is to run: “This person is thinking they could lose their job if they don’t take my child, or that my child could be harmed if they do not take her”. On your side, you’ve got nothing but your innocence – that doesn’t count for much. I cannot personally speak for people who have got trouble coping as a parent, but I should imagine they would feel terror too.

    I cannot imagine any professionals coming on here who think they have a narrative, let alone a false one. I predict that they will say that false narratives are what parents construct, or even the government. Indeed, there is a post above which says, “Until then it doesn’t matter how straight I talk, people deflect, project and all sorts of things that are human nature to justify their own narrative.” I understand that it was a response to a post from someone who said that straight talking and empathy were needed, so fair play, but that sentence from a social worker sent an icicle down my spine. A post about how parents and professionals both can have false narratives, and she jumps straight to the parent’s false narrative? Not much of an attempt at “know thyself” is it?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore

      Sorry that this post has simply contributed to your fears.

      The problem is that you are coming from a perspective of a parent who was wronged and treated unfairly. About who there were no real concerns.

      I am coming from a different perspective – as is, I suspect Helen. I deal with cases where in the vast majority of cases there are real, documented concerns. Documented from a number of different sources. Doctors, schools, neighbours, relatives etc. And very often when I try to address these concerns I am deflected.
      What is important for me and the social worker investigating these issues, is not to jump in and make immediate assumptions that the parent is a disgusting person not worthy of help. couple that assumption with the timescales for conclusion of care proceedings and you have a toxic mix indeed.

      I am NOT asking you or any other parent to think ‘ah! poor social worker! they might get a kicking in the press if I don’t hand over my child, so here you go’.

      But I am asking you AND EVERY OTHER PARENT to think long and hard about the ‘advice’ such as Josephs gives – don’t co-operate. Never let a SW into your home .Etc, etc. If he didn’t give that advice to you, that’s great. but check out his comment on a very recent post from the adoptive parent and the warning I have had to add to it in bold.

      Imagine how that looks to a social worker who has been told that there are ‘concerns’ about your child. Imagine now how those ‘concerns’ may mushroom and magnify.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        I hear what you say, I think. It’s not a case of parents being wrongly accused, or being criminals, but of being people with issues that need to be improved, who won’t cooperate with the social worker, or listen to what the social worker has to say: they deflect, distract, etc, and this has the effect, as you say, of causing concerns to mushroom and magnify. I can see how someone refusing to open the door would lead to a social worker thinking, for example, that a case has to be escalated because she can’t check that the people in the house are OK. Or a parent deflects attention from his need to stop drinking by saying that his poor liver function result was the result of corruption at the hospital a la London Spy.

        But that is the parent. What about the social worker with an aggressive narrative, and a parent’s fear of meeting them?

        It feels that social workers deflect in ways like this

        “I’m just an agent of the state – only following orders. Don’t blame me I didn’t vote Tory.”
        “There’s not enough money in the system”
        “I’ve never known a social worker with a false narrative”
        “I’ve got empathy in all situations.”

        To be fair, the job just forces a defensive mindset on people. They’re hardly going to admit to exaggerating, or seeing how disturbing it is to the public when they do.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Social work is almost wholly dictated by the legislative framework, it isn’t a cop out, and funding cuts mean there is no money. Yep, I would definitely tell you to vote for someone else, someone for whom social justice is a priority.

          I would never say never, and maybe I haven’t been clear enough about why SW need to do all that analysis/reflection/ challenge/supervision, as well as having good management – it is about avoiding false narratives. I unfortunately can’t even give you anonymous case examples but I have two cases at the moment where I have done a complete about turn because my evidence base has altered. One is worse than I thought, one is better, hope that makes sense because I really can’t give more detail. It is all evidence based and not just mine, the value of the child protection process is multiagency working, others in conference and core group do also challenge SW.

          I know Sarah would say SW paint themselves into a corner, they may in her experience, I suppose I just think SW often have a v different perspective to families. I would also never say there isn’t bad practice, just as I wouldn’t say that in any profession.

          Re I always have empathy, I am a bleeding heart liberal so the socio/psychopaths are actually people I have empathy for. Something took them there and I am always interested in that story, it helps to understand the outcomes. So even when people are actually bad and do bad things and have no empathy of their own, I can see the antecedents. I’m also not a rescuer so my narrative is never let’s save these children from these terrible people. BUT you know what, I am not a saint. I have one case where I muster empathy with huge difficulty. The reason is that parenting capacity isn’t limited & they could do it, that was my straight talking the other day.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            Thank you for your post, Helen. It is clear that you escalate and de-escalate cases as you see appropriate, which is reassuring.

        2. Angelo Granda

          Jason,Lawyers and social workers ,as with other evidence,are only interested in Liver function tests in so far as they will support the LA litigation.
          They will allege intoxication or an alcohol addiction problem then ask the judge to order a liver function test.
          1. If it comes back positive , they will not comment and the allegations will remain on the B of P anyway.
          2.If it comes back negative ,they will comment with much alacrity that it is negative and the Bof P will tip in their favour.
          Despite the fact that liver function tests are inconclusive and that GP’s will usually state clearly in a footnote that negative tests can be explained by many other issues than alcohol, they will not ‘take note’ and comment on that.
          3.Many SW’s ,guardians and lawyers,including judges,i suspect, do not know the difference between positive and negative in relation to a liver function test.For proof of that,ask them!

          Same applies to other forms of evidence.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Angelo, we have had this discussion. Liver function tests, hair strand tests etc are simply ONE part of the puzzle. Courts are very clear that they will not make findings that people abuse alcohol on test results alone, as they aren’t as conclusive as – for example a hair strand test for the metabolites of cocaine.

            to find someone has a problem with alcohol to the extent that it significantly impairs their parenting, you have to look at many other aspects of their life and functioning. Are there police reports that they were found intoxicated in care of a child? Have the school reported concerns that parent was unsteady, slurring words? Have neighbours reported disputes? Has social worker found a bin full of empty cans/bottles?

            If I have a liver function test result, the tester will explain what the results are and what they mean. Of course I am not qualified to interpret a liver function test without that. For the same reason, those who test hair for metabolites of various drugs will set out what the results mean – is this person a low or high user for example.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            It is not futile to argue about evidence.
            What is ‘futile’ is for you to keep on saying that children are taken away on the basis of one flawed liver function test.
            That. is. not. True.

            Or at least it has never been in any case I have been involved with in now 17 years. Say minimum of 50 cases a year, multiply by 17 = 850 cases.

          3. Jason

            Hi Angela, sorry I was just using the liver function test as a hypothetical example of someone who’s in denial.

      2. Sam

        “concerns” do mushroom because of the system being inflexible to meet a family’s needs. This is not of course individual social workers fault , but managers do have a degree of flexibility on how to deliver services in their area and some do it extremely badly, others are more far sighted.
        Parents are simply scared at the distorted messages that come across,ie it’s like being in one of those hall of mirrors with no exit.

        Reply
      3. Angelo Granda

        Sarah, You may be interested to know that amongst the working-class population, particularly the Irish community, other minority ethnic groups, the poor, the sick and vulnerable etc. it has always been the word on the street to avoid SW’s at all costs. They created their own bad reputation long, long before Ian Josephs came on to the scene. Since Dickensian days and since the 20th century when SW’s illegally exploited children by transporting thousands of them to Australia as virtual slave labour, the advice and lore passed down through the generations has been not to open the door to a SW under any circumstances and not to co-operate with their enquiries.They have always been looked upon as child-stealers and the current enlightened SW’s should not blame themselves but their predecessors.In Australia, the story is that aboriginal families had to hide their children in boltholes or send them walkabout whenever the SW’s started sniffing about. They are seldom respected wherever in the world you go. It cannot be said that this somewhat primitive strategy is not effective. Chasing them away as one would chase a ‘burglar’ of your valuables away was considered to be common sense. I suppose this is why the CS has to call on Police assistance.

        All comments welcome.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I agree. It is an entirely understandable response and probably one I would take if anyone came knocking at my door. Fear is not a good basis for rational actions.
          The problem is it is a wholly unworkable strategy and actually counter productive and will make the thing you fear more likely to happen.
          I have worked with Irish travellers and have seen this happen very up close. But in one case my client father was able to admit he couldn’t care for his baby, actually be honest with the Judge about what he had done…. and the Judge was prepared to order that his baby live with a family member rather than be adopted. I accept this is a quite rare response and certainly the rest of the family weren’t able to offer it.

          Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      My comment was about cases where there are clear concerns, I can only apologise if that wasn’t clear enough. My experience of social workers is that they are reflective, question themselves frequently, and use supervision with managers and peers to reflect and analyse. We talk a lot and challenge each other.

      Getting past any barriers is the social worker’s role, fear being one of those. I haven’t met a family yet who I can’t acknowledge those fears with and work with despite them. It takes time and establishing a relationship. Believe it or not, there are some people who want to work with a social worker because they know they are struggling and they need help to keep their children safe. As Sarah says, most cases involve cases which are sad rather than bad, for a wide range of reasons.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Helen,
        Thanks for this. I’m sorry that I commented before I’d read it.
        I think it’s great that you understand that parents are usually “sad rather than bad” – that’s a real strength. I also know that there are some decent social workers around, who help families, and that progress can be made.

        In terms though of your organisation’s self-knowledge, though, that’s still in the dark ages. With all due respect, that reflective practitioner stuff in your first paragraph is the sort of stuff that comes out of councils when people make complaints, and I’ve heard it all before, “We reflect with our supervisors, we challenge, analyse and support each other. We’re moving forward.” etc etc. It’s just business jargon. And it’s very much a case of “What goes on tour stays on tour”. Whatever goes wrong will be discussed between yourselves only.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          It is a constant source of irritation and sadness that professionals continue to deflect complaints by falling back on jargon. I wish people would just say what they mean in simple and direct language.

          From what I have seen of the complaints process it often serves only to further enrage the people complaining.

          If professionals cock up they should say sorry ASAP and explain what they are going to do to reduce risk of future cock up.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            Hear, hear. If they would only just say sorry and be clear as early as possible rather than fobbing people off. ALL parents, inadequate or not, can see that councils never admit to mistakes, and will always resort to the mantra of “We have a duty to investigate all safeguarding concerns,” and leave it at that.

            The reader will think, “No shit, Sherlock,” but it is this siege mentality from councils which is one of the factors that encourages conspiracy theories to be created. It can be difficult to separate a cock-up from a conspiracy, and when government agencies hide behind jargon and bury their mistakes, it just looks like a conspiracy to conceal a cock-up!

          2. Angelo Granda

            No sensible SW would confess to a ‘cock-up’. They are not allowed to and the same applies to solicitors and everyone else. Can you blame them? A sensible parent would not confess to a ‘cock-up’ if he knew it could lead to a hefty law-suit.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            An interesting point, with which I agree. The inability of professionals to apologise does not merely stem from their unwillingness to acknowledge they have made mistakes. It also stems from a litigation culture and the desire to always find someone to ‘blame’ – and we must all take responsibility for that.
            The behaviour of journalists after Peter Connolley’s death was a particularly chilling example – we must find someone to blame! Whose fault is it! That had the obvious impact of driving the discussion underground – no one was going to step up and say ‘it was my fault. Sack me’.
            Matthew Syed writes about it very well in his recent book about Black Box thinking. He points out that the aviation industry is one of the safest in the world – because, when mistakes are made (and people very often die), rather than looking for someone to blame, the attitude is ‘what can we learn?’ The person who made the mistake (if still alive!) is encouraged to own up to that and everyone looks for solutions about how to do better next time.
            We definitely DO NOT have that culture in child protection which explains a lot, and certainly explains why any complaint from a parent is fobbed off with arid and empty jargon.

        2. HelenSparkles

          We shall have to agree to disagree, all of that lessons will be learnt stuff irritates me too, but the reflective and analytical process is key component in rigorous social work practice and it happens.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            It is easy to be cynical and to criticise over-worked ,apparently dysfunctional social workers for all sorts ,of reasons.Some are good some bad. Like Sarah apologises for occasionally falling into legal talk,we have to excuse SW’s for using CS talk.
            The point is ,though, that Helen appears to be straight-talking on here as is Sarah AND she seems to be in a department which makes an effort to conduct its cases correctly.She is not dysfunctional.
            Many other departments are unfit for purpose ( see Ofsted reports).
            Another key component in rigorous social work practice is good management, good training and adequate funding to carry out supportive work. There are deficiencies in those areas which i believe will be discussed at CPR Conference 2016 alongside parents advocacy services. I hope Helen will be able to attend again this year to help.
            I wonder if her particular department follows guidelines and informs parents at the start of the contact details of local advocacy services and tells them they have the right to have an advocate attend conferences etc. in order to offer support and professional intervention. Some departments refuse to let friends or advocates into the room.Bad training and bad practice. I know this occurs .What can be done about it?

          2. Jason

            Of course it happens: I am sure you are a very good social worker. And some parents just won’t listen or change because they’ve got a false narrative. I get it.

            But a lot of people will be interested in how you respond to the dangers of false narratives from professionals. You’re acting as though that never happens. Do you acknowledge the dangers of false narratives and of over-intervention?

          3. HelenSparkles

            I’m not always sure how comments appear on here but Jason I responded to the false narratives comment somewhere else.

            Unfortunately I can’t attend the conference this year, I put it in my diary on the wrong date and even booked my ticket, then booked Springsteen tickets for the same date. I shall tweet along hopefully.

  7. Angelo Granda

    The statute recognizes all these difficulties. All parties are likely to have opposing narratives if mediation, working together etc. breaks down and it is felt that litigation is necessary. I think that is why the statute commands that the respective narratives are to be laid on one side and that cases are to be judged on a comprehensive FACTUAL matrix. The matrix based on facts is the only ‘standard of proof’. Suspicions, theories (such as attachment) and different ‘stories’ or narratives are not facts.

    As i understand it the scales have to be loaded on BOTH sides by the CS. It is the duty of the department to present all the facts to the Court including those contra-indicative of any case for removal. In fact, given that the legitimate aim of the Children’s Act is to support families and keep children at home with natural family , the department are supposed to concentrate on evidence which leans in that direction from the outset.

    Protective orders are to be applied for where they are needed to support that aim. There are no set time-scales for LA’s to make care-plans. The care-plans should be worked out before proceedings are brought. Plans for permanent removal are only to be as a very last resort when absolutely nothing else will do. Once the legal proceedings commence, then the 26-week time scales come into play.

    It seems to me that the SW’s misunderstand their role. It is not for them to look at a case and decide on removal or adoption etc. That is the task of the other cp professionals,(doctors, teachers, support providers etc).The task of the Social Worker is to investigate the facts impartially and report what they find to conference (and court if the case ends up there). If the SW has empathy, he or she will work with them.They must follow the frameworks not flout them.
    The only reason why an empathetic SW will not follow legal guidelines and frameworks and act without impartiality is if the CS has illegitimate aims.

    When the SW’s set out their stall to remove a child at or near the outset or tell a parent they intend to take a child for adoption surely their aims are illegitimate! I have to say they are often quite open and honest and make that aim clear to parents early on.

    Helen Sparkles, your association representative Ms Melons refers to a POLICY IMPERATIVE which SW’s must follow.

    Who sets the policy she refers to?

    What is the policy imperative? If it is written, can you cite it to us?

    Do SW’s (especially novices) confuse the policy imperative with the law?

    Do you agree with the majority view of SW’s as expressed by Ms Melons?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore

      I just want to pick up on one point you made, apparently dismissive of ‘attachment theory’. Yes, it is a ‘theory’ – but in the same way that gravity is a ‘theory’.

      Attachment issues loom large in many care cases and judges will engage with argument about this and treat it very seriously. I accept that very few social workers would be qualified to diagnose anything as serious as ‘an attachment disorder’ but they are able to recognise when a situation is serious and further expert help is needed.

      i have provided a short (and I hope) easy to read post about attachment on this site. It really is worth trying to understand. It was very interesting for me to read that Sam, for e.g., initially dismissed it as just verbiage but now accepts that it has validity.

      https://childprotectionresource.online/what-is-attachment-theory-why-is-it-important/

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Yes my opinion has changed. I like Annie from Surviving Safeguarding have put in a tremendous amount of work and have been lucky enough to have support around me. So I see matters from a different angle now. I do not spout psychobabble but I can see dysfunction both in myself and others. It’s not always been an easy journey but it is important both for my children and myself.
        If you want to say it’s nonsense that’s fine but I have noticed that I am one of the few regular commentators that doesn’t post in the middle of the night , that’s because I normally get my 8 hours , no waking up at 3 with anxiety any more. This is why parent advocacy could be important it is sharing what has helped and translating what is happening.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          In a small way,Sam, your comment epitomises the drawback when psychological evidence is entered into a factual matrix. This sort of evidence is not factual (like the theory of gravity) it is reasonable conjecture only.Psychology is not an exact forensic science.
          Because some folk wake up in the early hours or stay up late,it may be of concern but it should never be assumed they are anxious. They may have anxiety about their child ,perhaps, which is within their human rights.They have a human right to get up and go to bed whenever they like. They may be in a different time zone.They have a right to be dysfunctional in some ways.They may drink alcohol and smoke .They sometimes might fail in other ways and differ from the accepted norm.
          They might not maintain perfection at all times.They may have all sorts of problems.
          So might a child .It may be in a child’s best interests had he or she been born to another parent and another family completely. What about human rights? Proportionality.
          There was a woman a few years ago, i forget her name,who was a professional herself and had actually been a child-protection expert involved with adoption panels and so forth.Concerns were raised about her children and they wanted to take her children away.She soon realised what was wrong with the system.She won her case .To do so,she pointed to failures to follow correct procedure.
          A point often made is that whoever it is,be it the most respectable lawyer,for example, they would stand a very good chance of losing their children under this system. Every child is at risk.Sarah,it could happen to anybody.
          An insurance company is within its rights to apply inhumane standards when discussing premiums or it can refuse to accept risk at all by refusing to issue a policy to a parent.
          The human rights of a child cannot be decided by risk assessment . A child’s human rights are paramount.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            The safety of children is decided by a risk assessment, it isn’t a tick box H&S risk assessment, it is an assessment of the risks for that child.

            By not an exact science you mean a science that gives you a definitive outcome, like an equation, like physics I presume. SW’s theory base is equally testable and has been, it is evidential. If you wish to ignore the impact of parent’s behaviour upon their children you are not prioritising the rights of the child.

            It is not up to social work to police the vagaries of family life, children grow up in imperfect families, but it is up to SW to ensure children grow up in a family where they are safe. Are you someone who thinks that children should only be removed (if at all) from families where an offence has been committed and they have been convicted of the crime?

          2. Sam

            Angelo Apart from the fact that I am not a public body and can’t interfere with your human rights I would not dream of doing so if I was . I couldn’t keep up with your arguments afterwards!
            Seriously I have just found some interventions very helpful and it’s great to share what works.

          3. Angelo Granda

            Sam,I was not criticising your sentiments.I tried to say that there are drawbacks when psychological evidence is entered into factual evidence and i tried to call attention to proportionality.
            As far as parents are concerned,i think it is wrong that a psychologist can be called into a case at the request of professionals unless there is evidence from a GP which suggests there are previous concerns.Or unless the parent has committed some crazy ,criminal offence or is an apparent lunatic.
            I also think it is entirely wrong that a SW can look at a psychological report ,pick on something like anxiety,a personality disorder , problem with alcohol, emotional disorder etc. and then to pronounce authoriatively that the parent needs medical therapy before they will consider them able to care for a child. Then to go on and say that unless the therapy can be completed within a specified time limit,it is best for the child that the family be permanently separated.
            To do so is oppressive in my mind.
            I am not criticising you.Of course therapy and counselling can be a great help.

            Forgetting about that for now, you have done my confidence no good at all.I am now worried if you say you cannot follow my arguments because i have always thought that i am expressing the views of many other parents apart from my own!
            If not , i might as well give up.I am disappointed if other parents and victims can’t follow my arguments.

            Helen.No,i am not one of those people.

          4. Angelo Granda

            I also think that to decide a child’s future and the human rights of a family on a clinical ‘risk assessment’ ( especially on a tick box one) is wrong.
            Risk can not be eliminated completely.

    2. HelenSparkles

      I’m afraid I have no idea who Ms Melons is or which association you are referring to, so would need more information to respond.

      I can though assure you that SW do not misunderstand their role, they do not make the decisions. Unless something has gone wrong (& I always accept in some cases it does) work with families is often quite protracted and intense as part of the child protection process. This is before pre proceedings when more work is undertaken before a court room is entered. The work social workers do, including that with other agencies such as the professionals who can diagnose attachment issues, is all evidence in a family court statement. The positives are something that are included, by the time a case reaches that point, they are often outweighed by concerns.

      You are right to say that it is in children’s interests to be at home with their family, and this is this is laid out in the legislation, this is except when they are at risk of significant harm. But your comment “the department are supposed to concentrate on evidence which leans in that direction from the outset.” would make for incompetency. We can look for the positives but nobody should be concentrating on evidence which leans either way!

      Social workers should be honest and open with parents and where there are concerns, and adoption is a possibility, this is discussed quite early on. However, once in pre proceedings particularly and before in some cases, they are asking for other family members to offer support and to be alternative carers. Those people can then be assessed should the situation arises.

      I can never speak for all social workers but those I know are not as huge fans of adoption as this government seems to be. We would much rather find family members with the ability to protect and a child to be able to grow up within their family of origin.

      There are timescales for absolutely everything which is part of the child protection process.

      Reply
    3. HelenSparkles

      The only reference I can find to a policy imperative is the comment Maggie Mellon has made about the government agenda re speeding up/increasing adoption. I can’t say whether most SW agree or disagree with her but it isn’t social work policy, it is government policy. The policy it refers to are adoption reforms and more that are due. Since government policy will become statutory guidance, it is in effect the legal framework for SW, there isn’t a choice that. At the moment there is a dispute between the legislature and the judiciary about the use of adoption.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I hope that there is no confusion because it is a very important point. Adoption is only policy after a court has decided the parents cannot care for the children under any circumstances and there are no extended family able to care for them.Adoption is only policy because it is preferable to fostering or care homes.
        I am sorry but i absolutely disagree that non -consensual adoption should be policy.It is inhumane .
        There are many things which would do instead.
        1.Temporary or long-term foster care pending reform ( to be reviewed every six months.
        2. Mother and baby residential care homes with 24 – hour supervision. ( Perhaps young Dads can be accommodated too).
        3.Imprisonment of mothers and babies together pending reform.
        4. Family correction houses ( or workhouses ) with tight controls.No drugs,drink etc.
        6.Dysfunctional family concentration camps,ghettoes or even reserves .Extreme measures but infinitely better than forced seperation.

        All comments welcome .If anyone can add to my list of less invasive alternatives please do so.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Adoption is a draconian measure but there are cases where it is entirely appropriate unfortunately. So if we just take those cases where children are not safe with their parent(s), are at risk, and alternative care is sought.

          None of your proposals are based on the needs of vulnerable children who have experienced trauma and abuse, when there are very real concerns, evidence from multiple agencies, and very real harm caused. What you suggest, for those cases where adoption is appropriate, would damage children further.

          (1) suggests is is fine for children to move in and out of care, making multiple transitions, and disrupting attachments. What happens when the review of home says it isn’t safe again and children come back into care, they won’t be placed with the same carers, they become more damaged and difficult to manage, because emotional antecedents lead to behavioural issues even in very small children. (2) are used for assessment but it is a fairly unrealistic environment and I’m not a fan in most cases. If you are thinking about using it long term, that relies on parents remaining and parenting which is a risk, and if they do remain you are asking them to be institutionalised. (4) ditto really and no human rights for anyone. (6) there is no (5)? I am utterly speechless.

          Lots of people I know grew up with alternative carers, not for any child protection reasons, just because someone died etc. It can cause difficulties but it can also be bliss. Substitute care is perfectly capable of providing stability and security for children to thrive. There are also alternatives to adoption but those above don’t fit any version I would have of ensuring children’s needs are prioritised.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I greatly appreciate your comments ,Helen. Clearly , you feel that adoption and/or permanent removal is the right thing if professionals feel it is in ‘their best interests’.
            Currently, i feel that those plans will contravene Article 8 of the Human Rights Act but that is not for either of us to decide. It is for the Family Courts to decide and barristers to argue.
            Once again your perspective is extremely interesting and i hope you will continue to comment regularly.

        2. HelenSparkles

          I think it is the right thing when the court decides it is the right thing, according to current legislation etc., it is the law that decides not me. If you think that separating a child from abusive harmful parents is never right, we will disagree and separation in those circumstances prioritises children’s human rights over that of their parents.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Quite,Helen.
            It is the Court which takes the final decision and there is no doubt the CS and solicitors are consistent in emphasising that. Ultimately when miscarriages occur the buck stops with the lawyers.

        3. HelenSparkles

          P.S. there is masses of confusion around adoption at the moment because this government is very pro adoption, in my view, to the degree of social engineering given austerity and cuts are absolutely bound to mean families hit crisis sooner. At the moment the judiciary and the legislature are having a ping pong match & it is very frustrating. Everyone says the law hasn’t change but post Re B-S & Re B it effectively has. It isn’t helpful for anyone.

          Reply
  8. Angelo Granda

    Thanks very much for your comment,Helen.Apparently,Maggie Melons is one of the big-wigs on some Association of Social Workers unless i am misinformed by another commentator.She has serious concerns about frontline practices and so on. If you haven’t heard of her,then it may be some sort of contrived propaganda,i don’t know. Can anyone else confirm her existence and status?

    In the main,your comment rings true to me.However, as Sarah says, the truth lies somewhere in between. Also ,often the truth is exactly the opposite,i’m afraid.I have seen both ends of the spectrum and the other end from yours is when Social Workers deliberately do not show any empathy by following working together frameworks,will not even consider any alternatives to removal, refuse even to speak to or correspond with parents and say simply “See you in Court”. From your description of practices in your department,i imagine you will completely reject such an approach and quite rightly.

    There are two points of yours with which i disagree and i would appreciate your further comments:-
    1.In my opinion ( and that of the law) it is in the interests of children to be with their family EVEN WHEN they are at risk of significant harm. When they are at risk family support and/or supervision but above all regular monitoring should be put in place.
    2.I think a social worker can concentrate quite impartially on assessing methods and strategies designed to achieve the Law’s legitimate aims .It wouldn’t be incompetent.Indeed i think it reasonable that ,as adoption is the last resort,the 26 weeks should only commence after the Court has had the final hearing and decided that a child cannot stay with natural family.From what you have said about time-scales having an undue influence,i think you might agree.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      (1) there isn’t sufficient monitoring that could be put in place to protect children at risk of significant harm.

      (2) you didn’t mention impartiality, completely the opposite, you said a social worker should concentrate on evidence leaning towards one POV.

      I do think adoption is a last resort, but whilst the timescales for proceedings are 26 weeks, the work whilst on a child protection plan and whilst in pre-proceedings takes considerably longer and generally care proceedings don’t commence unless those interventions have been ineffectual. So whilst I don’t like the inflexibility, I do accept that they are child focussed not parent focussed.

      I have worked out who Maggie Mellon is and BASW is an organisation that is a body social workers can join, it has a particular ideology, she does not represent all social worker and neither does BASW. It would probably take to long to set out what I agree and disagree with, suffice it to say it is some and some. The Social Work College was a body which was set up to represent social workers in the same way as other colleges, unfortunately the government decided they didn’t like it, imho.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        By the way this is interesting (at least to me) on BASW and the College http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/08/28/will-basw-now/ BASW may sound like the organisation to represent all social workers but it actually only has 18,500, out of 89,033 social workers registered across the UK as members. As the article says, it has a particular ideology and the College was more a straightforward evidenced based cohort.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Thank you for the link ,Helen and i hope the BASW goes from strength to strength and that the majority of SW’s join the Association. When you can all put your views and have a truly representative ,united voice things might look up.
          Will you be joining now you are fully aware of its existence? Do you think there should be a closed shop?

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            I always knew of its existence, I just wasn’t sure who you were referring to when you told me about one of my big wigs and the policy she was quoting. It isn’t a union so wouldn’t be a closed shop.

            It isn’t representative of many social workers, which is why so few are members. I always have been but that doesn’t mean SW speaks with a united voice – my point was the college should have been able to do that better and its loss is keenly felt.

  9. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your reply,Helen. Evidently i misunderstand the professional terminology. I know many children remain with parents with support ,supervision and monitoring even when at significant risk of emotional harm ,neglect,abuse etc. Children often go home under protection orders issued because of the risk of significant harm.Thus please explain,is significant harm judged on each individual case depending on an individual departments willingness to offer support and monitoring?
    I slipped up Helen and in the future i shall be slipping in the occasional deliberate mistake to check that readers are awake.What i was trying to say was that they should be be impartial with the legitimate aim of the Children Act in mind. Facts indicative of rehabilitation should be stated in the children’s paramount interests. Facts contra-indicative to removal should be stated afterwards as removal is only desirable as a last resort.
    Actually,Helen,i don’t know if you know it but on other threads i have suggested that ,in my opinion, due to the LA’S having financial interests in decisions being made by the Court that the CS be reformed and that SW’s be totally independent without any attachment or loyalty to the LA. This would,i think,be in the interests of the children,fairness,impartiality etc. The departments funding to come from central government.
    Any comment?

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      I erred again.Apologies readers.
      I meant facts contra-indicative to REHABILITATION to be stated afterwards.I must check more carefully before clicking on the button.

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      Significant harm is a legal threshold. It has nothing to do with a department’s willingness to offer support or services. The work done as part of the child protection process and in pre proceedings, which will include support and services, aims to manage risk but at the point where care proceedings are issued the LA’s legal advisor has taken a view that the legal threshold was met. That is why everyone is represented in court in public law cases.

      There are orders which protect children that are not care or placement orders, if the court for example thinks the legal threshold is not met for a care order, but is for a supervision order. That could happen in a case where LA legal advisor views a case as meeting threshold for a care order and a court deciding it does not, it is courts that make those decisions. They also interpret law; hence case law.

      Rehab home should always be on the agenda until it isn’t. So at the point where it is decided that children are at risk of significant harm by a court and an order is made which reflects that the paramouncy rule would be that the best interests of the children are reflected in that decision for them not to return home.
      All possible outcomes have to be put before the court and what those could mean for those specific children. It isn’t in children’s best interests to be placed in a sequential placements, whether at home or with alternative corers, because that doesn’t achieve stability and security or qualify as permanence. Each transition damages and disrupts and raises the risks to children’s emotional wellbeing. This case is interesting on that subject http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2016/805.html

      I haven’t read all threads and the LA doesn’t have a financial interest. You would need to tell me why you think they do in order for me to comment further on that. I don’t really know why it is of any interest to devolve social work from the LA, there are discussions about trusts and academies but they are red herrings at time of cuts and austerity. Those cuts dictate which services LAs can provide over and above their statutory obligations, so very little at present (& yes I would suggest voting for someone else). SW is funded by central government already and it has no option but to provide those statutory services. The advantage of LAs is that localities differ significantly so funding needs differ, that is largely irrelevant at the moment. The statutory framework social work sits within is not abdication of responsibility, it is a democracy. You are very fond of quoting legislation so seem to find it useful.

      I don’t know why you would slip in deliberate mistakes when people are spending time replying to what they think are genuine comments and questions. I will just not respond any further, it is my time when I choose to engage here in the hope that is helpful to have a social work perspective.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sorry,Helen.It was a joke about deliberate mistakes.
        Your comment makes me realise how completely different the professional outlook is to that of us ordinary parents and clearly i misunderstand a lot and our views are much more simplistic than yours as we do not know the law fully obviously as we are not privy to what happens apparently behind our backs. If we were informed of advocacy services and when SW’s agree to talk to us and explain matters to us as your particular department does,it would be different. Thus please excuse me.
        I remain mystified ,however about threshhold of significant harm.Can you explain it to us further.As i said my understanding is that risk of significant harm is threshhold for the issue of an order.Are you saying that the children can remain with parents under a full care-order but it is the Court’s decision not one for the LA?
        A social work perspective is extremely valuable to me ,at least. It helps parents develop their thinking and narrows the chasm between us all.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Jokes don’t work unless you denote them on social media.

          You do discuss legislation a lot so I do make assumptions about how much you know already. I am not a lawyer so you might need one of them, as I do in my role, for a full explanation of all the legal stuff. I know as much as I know, very important SW do know the law in regard to their role, but always take advice. Since I would always go for legal advice to determine whether a case meets a legal threshold, I need to leave that to a lawyer, to do otherwise would be irresponsible.

          It is your solicitor’s responsibility to explain the legal stuff if you are in care proceedings. If you are not happy with your understanding, let them know, and you can change solicitors. Social work is complicated. I explain each step at a time and what the next steps might be, that isn’t to withhold or to be doing stuff behind people’s backs, it is giving them a manageable amount of information and ensuring that they know what they need to.

          I wasn’t saying that children could be on a full care order and at home, I was saying the court could decide a different order. This is helpful about children who are on care orders spending time with parents http://wakefieldchildcare.proceduresonline.com/chapters/p_placement_parents.html It won’t vary between LAs, it just happens to be Wakefield’s.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            They have but I need a local advocacy service where someone can attend meetings with parents and they don’t have that capacity nationwide.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Does any one have contact details or a digital link to ‘Annie’, who set up the new advocacy service. Is it actually operating yet?

          3. HelenSparkles

            Annie is unveiling the new service at the conference and it will be discussed where other services are available so they can be mapped.

        2. Angelo Granda

          I wonder if Cathy Ashley could come on and comment as to whether she feels the FRG provide an advocacy service (albeit limited) and whether she feels each parent should be informed of its contact details at the outset of cases . I believe that is why the Government supplies some funds to her organisation.
          I believe it does supply advocacy through an advice line although it does not supply ‘interventionist’ support directly at conferences etc.

          Reply
  10. Jason

    God I’m depressed. I know in government we’ve got the likes of Ed Timpson and Michael Gove, poster boy adoptee, staunch supporter of removing children from all feckless parents, in order that they can go on to make the world a brighter place like himself. It’s interesting though – Gove bangs on about removing more children from chaotic homes, while his wife appears in the Daily Mail, on one occasion talking about how dirty and slobby their house is. We all know that middle class mess is a charming eccentricity, unlike its grim council house equivalent.

    I accept that this is a government narrative, but it’s disturbing to see social workers seeing themselves as agents of the state, and using that as a reason for their conduct. if I didn’t approve of what the state was doing I’d get another job or I’d fight. Haven’t we learnt anything from past injustices? I think we have to accept that unlike most of the rest of us the SWs have become too brutalised and jaded by the terrible things they have seen. Never in all my life have I had to deal with a case of child neglect, abuse or anything like that. It must take its toll.

    I respect social workers who do challenge the system – where they exist. It is frustrating to hear social workers absolve themselves of blame in the terrible matter of forcible adoption. I fully appreciate that they could not advocate such a thing that way unless the “law” allowed it. I know Helen can’t talk about her cases online, and I respect her for her comments. I cannot respect her for saying that forced adoption is right if the law says so. I don’t respect that sort of argument, because it is morally blind. Everything is legal if those in power say it is. We were taught to challenge that stuff back in school, when we learnt about dictatorships.

    In my case I can state with confidence that it was the social workers who were advocating the adoption of my child – until their own local authority solicitor told them to behave themselves. The decision for a permanency plan was made by the social worker, supported by her manager. My child has never been on a child protection plan. Not before she was taken. Not afterwards.

    In another case I know of a mother was told by the social worker that she ought to sign documents agreeing to the adoption of her children – this was without knowledge of the judge or court. She was told by the social worker that she could have a goodbye in a local fastfood restaurant. The woman was left alone with the documents she was being pressured to sign, and gave the photo to her solicitor, who reminded the social workers that this is not something they ought to be doing. It’s like giving a gun to a suicidal person.

    Another thing – when my child had been removed ex parti without anyone ever indicating that there was a case to answer, founded or unfounded, I must admit I yelled, swore and ranted at the social workers; the bloke was joking and pissing about trying to be all matey pally. They were completely impassive – couldn’t they at least have got upset or something? Later I felt worried about what I’d said to them, so I thought I should apologise – not because I was sorry, but that I figured they’d try to damage me further because of my conduct. So I rang the bloke (the manager) and said I was sorry – it had all been too much. He was cold like marble. You could not get through to the bloke. I later told him that he had been like those people who’d shoved families onto trains in Germany – he said I had a point! He apologised to me in private, but in public he remained an arrogant, unrepentant so-and-so till the end.

    The woman I mentioned earlier – she told me the SW would appear in court, saying that the children were thriving in care, and that they should be adopted. Then she’d go round to the woman’s house and say “you look like you need a hug” and try to hug her! Maybe that’s more of a sympathy thing than an empathy thing, but it has a sort of De Sade feel, IMHO.

    How dare so many social workers say we don’t care as much about kids as they do? How dare they assume that we don’t take the protection and nurturing of children as seriously as they do? In Holland there were apparently about 35 non-consensual adoptions last year. My maths isn’t great, but we’ve got about 64,000,000 and they’ve got 17000000. I’d be expecting under 150 forced adoptions in the UK based on those figures.

    Why do social workers and everyone else involved act as if UK children are more at risk than kids elsewhere? They’re not, and no matter haw many children you wrench from their families, there will always be sick ***** who hurt their kids, slipping under the radar. Before what happened to me I feared that some sort of “Kiddie fiddler” would hurt my child – I now fear the state much more than the perverts, because the state is everywhere, ploughing over us for what it thinks is the greater good.

    Not good to read in the news today about a woman suspected of killing her adopted daughter. When the REAL PARENT(S) (yes) see the picture, how are they going to feel?

    My child could have been adopted actually, because when she was wrongfully taken, I came very close to topping myself.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Jason – I can’t tell you what to feel or how to react. BUT I hope you will be cheered up a little by knowing what you are saying is echoed by very many lawyers and social workers. Have a read of this about the recent conference I went to, organised by the British Association of Social Workers.https://childprotectionresource.online/promoting-humane-social-work-with-families/

      This has been tweeted 264 times, including to social work organisations in the US. Jordans Family Law asked if they could reprint it in their Family Law Journal which has (I think) 9,000 subscribing lawyers.

      Judges have openly commented in their judgments how odd it is – if adoption really IS the ‘gold standard’ for children – that no other European country approaches adoption in the way we do. Although it definitely isn’t true to say we are the ONLY country that allows forced adoption we ARE the only country that is so enthusiastic about it.

      So it needs looking at. And it is being looked at. CPConf2016 will gather together again a number of parents and professionals. We agreed last year that the child protection system wasn’t fit for purpose and this year we will be setting up some actual, real, tangible programmes for change. Two examples – a nationwide system of training for parent advocates so parents don’t feel so alone and lost in this experience, but can talk to people who can REALLY empathise because they have been through it; AND ‘mapping’ every single existing organisation so we can have a national data base of what is out there to help families and therefore discover more about what works and what gaps we need to fill.

      Dr Lauren Devine and Andy Bilson will be talking at the conference – they both agree entirely with what you say about UK children not being more ‘at risk’ and they have the research and the figures to prove it. Dr Devine was given a research grant of £250K so it is clear that these are not people on the ‘fringe’ and they will be listened to.

      I think that is hugely significant. And it is helping people open their eyes to the point you make – yes, the ‘law’ says our system is ok. It has been challenged in the European court and survived. BUT that doesn’t mean it is ‘right’. I fully agree, it is the duty of every engaged citizen to challenge the ‘law’ when he or she thinks it is wrong.

      Otherwise we end up with crowds of people on cattle trucks being sent to their deaths by civilised European country because the law for decades had been allowing them to treat Jewish people as less than human. That is neither an extreme or hysterical example as it has happened within living memory.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Sarah,

        Thank you for this – yes it has cheered me up.

        Firstly I’m relieved by your point about how we should challenge laws.

        Regarding the extent to which UK kids are at risk, it’s very good to see people researching something that matters. It’s great that barristers and social workers are questioning things, and it gives me hope that change can happen.

        I have issues with some of our laws, and I have issues with local government as well. I’ve seen dishonest behaviour in the planning permission department as well – but you don’t lose your kids because of a planning department. Another thing is that the problems can be quite localized – authorities in certain areas do everything by the book and behave effectively, whereas others are furtive, corrupt, and cover up their mistakes.

        Reply
      2. HelenSparkles

        “CPConf2016 will gather together again a number of parents and professionals. We agreed last year that the child protection system wasn’t fit for purpose and this year we will be setting up some actual, real, tangible programmes for change.”

        Sarah, who was the “we” & who agreed?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Almost everyone who attended; Dr Devine, Maggie Siviter, Lucy Reed, Brid Featherstone, ‘Annie’,Cathy Ashley, various parent activists, 2 adoptive parents, barristers, solicitors, local authority lawyers.
          I don’t think anyone can sensibly argue that the current system is fit for purpose.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            That just means everyone who organised and spoke at a conference designed to discuss the child protection system not being fit for purpose agreed with the motion. That is confirmation bias?

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            as the people who thought differently did not care to attend or share their views I am not sure what I can do about that.

          3. helensparkles

            Not suggesting you should, just asking a question since it has been suggested that false narratives are based on confirmation bias. I attended so I probably confirm that bias too, but I don’t actually think the system is unfit for purpose, not in its entirety.

          4. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I am slightly taken aback that you can describe the careful and thoughtful arguments and presentations at CPConf2015 in the same breath as ‘false narratives’. If the narratives of Dr Devine and Professor Featherstone are ‘false’ then I would like to know what alternative views are offered by academics/practitioners of similar weight.

            I can’t think of any.

            I am also intrigued by comment that system is not ‘entirely’ unfit for purpose. Which bit is fit for purpose would you say? Or would you agree that if even part of a system is broken that has serious implications for the whole system? If the wheels fall off my car, then it might be unfair to say the whole car is broken – but I am certainly not driving it very far.

          5. helensparkles

            I thought it was fair to ask who the “we” was that had decided the CP system wasn’t fit for purpose, I was in the room and there was no vote. It was a very small group of people in a room who were more likely to think the same way as others in that room. It has been discussed, here I believe, the way that confirmation bias leads to false narratives. That is exactly what families mean by confirmation bias, a small group of people in a room and group think. That comment doesn’t critique the arguments made on the day or say they are false, it just draws a parallel and says who the “we” was.

            All of the arguments were thoughtful, including those of speakers from the floor. I don’t feel like I know very much about Dr Devine’s research, it was the first time I had heard anything about it and I will only have held the main themes in my head. I had thought there was to be information sent out after the conference and, although it says there is open access online, I can’t find a lot to read. I have been in touch with Dr Devine on Twitter, she is aware that my experience of SW doesn’t tally with her research, and I’d been asked to write a paper for the next symposium (perhaps because of that, not sure). That doesn’t mean I dispute the research and I think I would have found the symposium helpful but it doesn’t seem to have happened. It is easier to read Brigid and Munro for that matter, not that she was at the conference.

            Having also gone back to your post on Promoting Humane Social Work With Families, it might be useful to know that I know Guy Shennan having worked in the same LA and he has been back more recently to do some work. I suppose that I think he would probably testify to the way humane social work is part of the agency’s culture and maybe explains something of my perspective, that being where I currently stand and look out from at practice.

            You might not drive very far without wheels but you would get new wheels not a new car and there would be remedies in between to make sure you can, like a rescue truck.

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Sorry, I don’t accept your remark ‘it was a very small group of people in a room’. We had 70 delegates and about 10 panel members. It wasn’t Wembley stadium but I don’t think describing that as ‘very small’ is at all fair. Some of those people were very senior and respected figures in their field.

            Some of the conference speeches were printed in the Seen and Heard journal which we advertised at the time and afterwards. Dr Julie Doughty posted copies out to anyone who wanted them. I think she asked for £2 for postage and packing. This was notified at the conference and via social media. I still have some copies if you want one.

            I also published extensively on this site and on Family Law and on the Transparency Project site about what we had discussed. The information is out there. You just have to click on a button and find it. I am quite annoyed at your suggestion that we have not made efforts to promote awareness of what was discussed there. I am really not sure what else I can possibly do, in my spare time and using my own money.

          7. helensparkles

            It is just a fact that 70 people is a very small number of people, most conferences I attend (well did when I could) are four times that size. & whilst most people would have attended because they have an interest, it can’t be assumed that your view is shared by all in that room. To state that some of those people are very senior and respected in their field is true, and I do agree with a lot of what was said, but I don’t have deference just because they are those people – I still want to know more. I really haven’t said that you haven’t made efforts to promote awareness; I have just said I don’t know enough and I don’t.

  11. Angelo Granda

    Jason, I sympathise with you totally but i know you don’t want sympathy and you don’t want compensation because you have already won it.
    There are other people like yourself who have had a long fight to get children home and there are even more who have been traumatised after long involvement with the CS on various protection plans without ever losing their children. I dread to think of how many people like you have lost their children .You admit you only won by the skin of your teeth, there are probably hundreds and hundreds.Nothing will ever be the same for you again nor will it for your child.I am afraid it is your previous feeling of SECURITY which has gone.You can never really relax completely again.Not as before.Your trust in the authorities has gone. So it is with us all. Try not to get depressed and if you do , see a doctor.Don’t let them ruin your life.
    Today i have found Helen Sparkles comments very enlightening. She is ,i suppose an average SW and we have had an interesting insight into her outlook. What is absolutely clear to me is that she feels she is doing her job and she believes she is acting in the interests of children. She is honest.

    This confirms my previous belief that it is the system which is fundamentally wrong not the workers within it. Even the good KEY SW’s do not have much say in the outcome.They are following very rigid directives.I don’t think proportionality is within their remit,they are looking to ‘prove’ significant harm. Lots of social workers are dysfunctional and they make things even worse.
    As a general rule,the Law says children are not to be removed from family permanently. They cannot be removed in their best interests but it is happening regularly. The perpetrators are citing the best interests of children as their reason and believe they are doing right! That is a fundamental flaw is it not? We have David Cameron saying that in the next decade the Government will be issuing apologies for the inhumanity now happening within the system contemporaneously with his own government seeking to increase forced adoption figures.Another contradiction.
    The system is fundamentally rotten and radical reform is called for .The Government visualise great changes to current practice which is positive.

    At the moment we just have ‘masses of confusion’ around adoption and it has to be put right.We have cuts arguably due to ‘austerity’ so human rights has to be prioritised.We have ‘ping-pong ‘ in the legal world and vaccillation and movement amongst lawyers.It is a little bit chaotic ( see Helen’s postscript). Surely change will come soon.
    The most depressed will be the children already in care,God help them because even when change comes they are lost..Parents are secondary.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      If you think SW are looking for significant harm and have no proportionality, I can’t change your mind, but it is nothing I have said. I have been really clear about that being a legal threshold. So, in order for a justification to be made of children not being safe at home, I do need to show there is evidence to support that.

      Comments about dysfunctional SW I choose not to remark upon but I suspect you would have strong view if I used language like that about families here?

      The law does not say children can’t be removed in their best interests. It basically says children are better at home unless they can’t be safe there.

      I have never heard David Cameron say anything like that about adoption.

      You won’t like those changes if they are made by this government with this narrative!

      Phew we agree on something, the confusion around adoption should be clarified.

      The ping pong is between the judiciary and the legislature, not amongst lawyers.

      Cuts and austerity measures exacerbate the point at which families reach crisis. A government who impose those kinds of measures and promotes adoption probably isn’t paying as much attention to human rights as I would like – oh and they want to scrap the Human Rights Bill anyway.

      Rights are a hierarchy, children come first because they are more vulnerable.

      I don’t have an advocacy service to refer parents to, hopefully that will change. The only advocates I have met through my work to date have been collusive and that isn’t helpful for anyone, least of all parents. I have met advocates outside work who are not.

      Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I agree with most of what you say Angelo BUT I think there is a gap in your understanding and it is one that needs to be bridged so that you can understand Helen’s position.

      She isn’t saying she is doing the right thing for children because some faceless bureaucrat tells her she is. Social work is largely based on research about human psychology and the impact on us of how we were treated as children. The research about this is very strong. I can see real life examples every day in my work. My parent clients are very rarely ‘bad’ people. But they are people who grew up, very often, in households of chaos and fear where they were abused, physically, emotionally and sometimes sexually. This generally leaves a massive mark upon a child that may stay with them for the rest of their lives and make it difficult for them to respond to their own children in healthy ways.
      Not always of course. But often.

      I recall you dismissed discussion about attachment as just a ‘theory’. But social workers will be seeing every day the serious detrimental consequences for children who have attachment problems. I am not talking about whether or not they ‘love’ their parents or their parents ‘love’ them – most of the time they do. I am talking about whether or not these children feel safe with their parents, whether these children can rely upon their parents to look after them, feed them, take them to the doctor if they need it etc. IF a parent is abusing drink/drugs or has their own emotional needs to fill then often a child is NOT getting what they need.

      And this is why your ‘solutions’ such as foster care or children’s homes have been considered and rejected by social workers and the government. Because the impact on children who already have attachment difficulties, of being moved from foster care to foster carer or being put in a residential home with constant changing stream of professional staff…. is NOT a good thing for these children and it is very likely to have a negative impact on them for the rest of their lives.

      so parents do need to understand WHY adoption is so promoted. I am not saying you need to agree with it or support it. But it isn’t based on just some government whim but hard research and clear practical examples about why it is important to give children security and stability as they grow up. They carry this with them for the rest of their lives. The consequences of not having it can be extremely serious.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Children in care can also do not have basic needs met such as going to see a doctor when they need to or having educational or psychiatric needs met. They also of course lack social opportunities and will be labelled within their local communities and schools

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          That is all monitored as part of the review process, if children in care were not having their needs met in any of the ways you mention, it should indeed be flagged up. It is always hard to separate the damage caused to children by the families they originate from, and the reasons they come into care, from the systemic reasons children in care are overrepresented in most of the cohorts we would prefer them not to be.

          Reply
          1. Sam

            It has been flagged up nobody will listen to me. I did’t actually meet one of the children’s social worker after 4 months in post. My children have been damaged in care , all that was required was SOME SUPPORT to have kept them home.Oh and the ability to hold social workers who lie and delete records to account . The Council is not a deprived area and it is a safe conservative seat, so they concentrate resources on what middle class voters require. They are dismissive towards vulnerable people.

          2. helensparkles

            Sam you’ll know I can’t comment on any cases, I just won’t know enough, but that all sounds awful. Can I just ask if you have spoken to the IRO and if you are involved in the reviewing process? LAC (Looked After Children) have their placement reviewed (if I recall correctly) by placement agreement meeting within 48 hour meeting, then 28 days, then 3 months, then 6 monthly. That should make it very clear that health, education etc. are being covered. If you are not at the meetings you should receive a copy of the report, unless for any reason your children have said they don’t want you to have it, then their age/capacity is considered and verbal feedback should be available from SW whenever you need it really. Resources allocated to teams will affect communication, it can’t not, caseloads rising mean people simply don’t have time. I would never say children aren’t damaged in care, I think it is inherently damaging to experience the separation and loss of not being able to live with your birth family, I presume orders were granted. If S20 you need some support. Don’t give up, children in care can go home, care orders can be revoked. You sound in other comments like you know what the changes need to be and have you been in touch with “Annie”?

        2. Angelo Granda

          Sam,I am assuming you have been involved recently in a case where you were a self-litigant.
          Did you make the case that children in care lack social opportunities and are labelled within local communities and at school.I agree with you but i am greatly interested in the response you got to that submission (if you made it).

          Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        I do understand Helen’s position , Sarah.
        One cannot but respect her comments because they are a working SW’s perspective.
        However what she says only reinforces my belief ( and other parents) that the majority of SW’s are dysfunctional and a danger to children and you must be able to see that too.
        Why? She is an honest SW and her comments make sense to us. Her working practices ,described so well,also make great sense.In most cases they are the way SW’s should conduct cases.Correctly!
        Parents know about their own cases and how they are conducted from start to finish, we have often met and worked with many,many SW’s and we know that one like Helen is a rare commodity.The great majority of those we know are useless and ignore correct procedure.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Angelo, I have worked nationwide in one role and have probably encountered more SW than you. On the other hand I don’t claim to know the entirety of their practice but there were only a couple I would prefer were not SW and they were more jaded than anything else. Dysfunctional they were not!

          Reply
          1. Jason

            You might be seeing a different side, Helen. You may be unaware of how they act over those that are in their power.

          2. HelenSparkles

            My role involved talking to them about the families they worked with and how they were doing that, I met a lot of compassionate empathetic workers. I don’t pretend I saw everything they did, but SW do have to have some insight into human psychology, as well as just the basic view of who I would want to be sitting on my sofa if I never needed a SW!

          3. Angelo Granda

            I will never deny there are thousands of dysfunctional families out there ( although i never watch The Simpsons).I have also seen Steptoe and Son,The Royle Family and another more recent one based on Manchester families ( i can’t remember the name of it right now). I am a realist but we cannot all be like The Waltons. I freely admit that some of the things which have happened within my own family can be described as ‘dysfunctional’.However,we have always sorted them out .
            Despite this, i sense that ,as a SW, you take umbrage of my use of the term.Hence,i will not use that word again.

          4. HelenSparkles

            I don’t take umbrage at all, I do though take care and don’t use any pejorative terms about families, so just am asking for the same.

        2. Sam

          This is a reply to Helen not Angelo as there isn’t a reply button under her last comment. Thank you Helen, it has been awful and it has also been just as gruesome in court. There is definitely a postcode lottery. I get on very well with the IRO on a personal level but he is not very good or possibly realistic about holding the LA to account. He wants to revoke the care order but the LA refuse I believe he is going through mediation ?
          I am also aware there is a culture of bullying of staff within the LA. I spoke to Annie at last years conference about mentors and the work we had both put in through the help of voluntary organisations. The LA or the court refuse to recognise that I am completely well , in fact taken qualifications enabling me to deliver training and support for MH conditions.
          It is all very surreal.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            I think you need legal advice about revoking the care order, an assessment of your current MH could be part of that, if you need evidence for the court & LA. The IRO can’t make an application to revoke a care order as far as I am aware.

  12. HelenSparkles

    Jason – I don’t like the government narrative either, at all (it started with Blair) add cuts an austerity to it and I absolutely agree with your interpretation. At lot of that is political grandstanding but there is a lot of SW activity in response to Nicky Morgan’s (Easter bank holiday|) announcement about changes within adoption https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-secretary-unveils-plans-to-change-adoption-law this isn’t yet public. So to say that SW are agents of the state probably is something I need to unpack a bit more, because it doesn’t mean that SW are supine puppets of the state, it means they work within a legal framework and are inextricably lined to the state.

    In terms of the legal framework, it is evidence based, and that evidence base supports adoption being the best way to achieve permanency, security and stability for children who can’t remain within their family of origin. There is always a preference for children to remain with their family of origin, or those they have close connections with, if they can’t live with parents. I read the research both about adoption and about alternatives and I do accept that (please don’t ask for references – that would mean digging through all the papers I have ever read and I won’t be able to do that, they should be at the back of relevant government documents which are available online). The principles of UK law, policy and guidance and stat guidance have also evolved from various child deaths and changes that have been made as a result.

    When I talk about adoption being right for some children I am always talking about children who are relinquished (rare) or who have experienced trauma and abuse. Those parents always say they love their children too. Love is subjective. You are right that different countries take a different approach this is useful on the use of adoption and this is useful on that. http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/a-lie-can-get-round-the-world-before-the-truth-has-put-its-boots-on/ There are alternatives that are not adoption, they don’t mean children are less at risk elsewhere, they still mean separating children from their families. When I said that adoption is right when the court decides it is, all I meant was that SW don’t make that decision, it is made in a forum where all parties have had legal representation, made submissions or given evidence, and a decision has been made about what is in the best interests of that child. This is not moral blindness or being part of a dictatorship and that is unfair comment.

    You are probably right that some SW are affected by what they have seen, some of what we see is awful and distressing. We also have a code of ethics and a set of values which are quite clear that we should only work if we are well enough to. Most social workers do leave when they get to that point but all of the work we do is at a huge cost to our personal lives (I’m not asking for sympathy or empathy!) because it is not possible to do the work we do in the working hours we have. I don’t think either social workers or the system are above reproach and I think that parents being scared of social workers creates a more risky environment for children. I am with Sarah on Brene Brown’s definitions (she is a social worker) and her definition of empathy being very important within social work, it breaks down those barriers. I think there is poor practice in any profession you care to identify, most of whom (doctors, police, lawyers) make equally life changing decisions. If you spend even just a few seconds reading about social workers you will think we are all dreadful, and SW are vilified in a way that the other professionals involved are not, and are always culpable for parents who murder their children.

    The woman currently on trial for the murder of Keegan Downer is NOT an adopter or a foster carer. She was granted an SGO, this is only slightly more helpful http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/07/kandyce-downer-battered-baby-daughter-to-death-court-hears and we will know more once the trial concluded. This will be a case where either she made her own application for an SGO or was supported by the LA to do so. Either way she is likely to be a family member or someone closely connected with the child who is caring for the child. There is a rise in SGOs which corresponds to a fall in adoption numbers and the quality of those placements is currently under some scrutiny, quite rightly in my view.

    I don’t know your case and I can’t comment on it. I can only say that I am sorry that you had such an awful experience because I am.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Thank you Helen, for your detailed response. I am sorry that I didn’t know the facts about the case in the news.

      I take issue with your sentence “This is not moral blindness or being part of a dictatorship and that is unfair comment.” I think that is a misrepresentation – I did not say it was being part of a dictatorship. I said we were taught to challenge the idea that things were right because the law said so WHEN we were learning about dictatorships in school.

      To say it is morally blind to agree to a position because it is the law is a very fair comment. It is only my opinion, clearly, but it is coherent in my world view and fair to say that I would not work for such a system and would want to challenge it. There are a lot of people who it would seem are doing that. Bad things happen because good people follow bad directives.

      I can clearly see that social workers are vilified when something bad happens to a child, and I have always stated how unfair I think that is. I know that is no consolation because I’m hardly in an influential position to say “Stop media. Stop blaming social workers” but I would if I could. However, what you state is precisely what makes social workers so dangerous to ordinary people. A Lot of social workers are scared that if they don’t err on the side of caution they’ll miss something. Parents are scared of them for having that attitude.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        One of the things I haven’t done, because my time is limited, is set out what my views on adoption are more broadly and other countries approaches. I have planned to for some time and for this blog, they might not want it but hey! I suppose what I have said might not be helpful, but SW is a system enshrined in its legal framework, and I was unpacking that a bit. It doesn’t mean that SW don’t challenge the system, managers decisions, or advocate for families because I see that on a daily basis. I don’t think I have ever said SW err on the side of caution so not sure what makes you think I think that. The only caution I err on is creating safety around a child at home, I work with parents to help me manage any risks by coming up with the safety plan together, and children if they are old enough. If they never need the safety plan, and that is tested out, my involvement ends because they don’t need me. That can be a short period of time whilst safeguarding concerns are investigated or longer as part of the CP process.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          No you didn’t say that. You said that social workers are vilified in the media, and that was what I was referring to. The vilification you refer to is what has made a lot of people see social workers erring on the side of caution. I didn’t mean YOU erred on the side of caution.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            I think generally media coverage of SW is unhelpful, it polarises practice between overreactions (caution) or SW incompetently letting children die. Mostly neither is a true reflection. LAs can’t comment on cases which is why some accounts get a bog standard response but it is often the case that there is a lot more to the triviality of the issue reported and it is very helpful when judgements are published which reveal it wasn’t just because a parent was overweight or whatever the Daily Fail decides upon. Personally, I think it is irresponsible.

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The Keegan Downer case is a horrible example of what many fear has happened after the courts made it clear that too many ‘sloppy’ decisions about adoption were being rushed through. So instead we had similarly poorly analysed decisions about putting a child with a family member under a Special Guardianship order and now those chickens are coming home to roost in a particularly grim way. This is not the first case of a Special Guardian hurting or killing a child and I fear there will be more.

      So ‘blood relatives’ not always best. Ben Butler being another case in point… possibly… if he is found guilty.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        I think the issue re SGOs and Kinship placements is that there is a view that everything changed post Re B-S, I recognise that nothing had, it was always adoption only if nothing else will do. Well not always, the 1950’s were a bit different, but hopefully you see what I mean. Actually as Dr Julie Doughty (Cardiff Law School) has written, the law does feel like it has changed on the ground. I welcome the scrutiny of SGOs an the idea that they offer reparative care, not “good enough”. It is what children who have experienced trauma/abuse need. An SGO is only granted after an assessment is filed, maybe it was sloppy, I will look forward to finding out more after the trial of a woman who currently looks to be running a defence which involves throwing her son under the bus …

        I wasn’t being critical of anyone not knowing that the case in the media was a relative a child was placed with, my ire is with media reporting which isn’t really helpful for anyone.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I think the law DID change on the ground. Or rather, the law never changed, but people’s understanding and application of it did. The clear drop in number of placement orders post B-S and rapid surge in SGOs is surely proof of that.

          A lot became clear to me after my discussions with some social workers on Twitter a few years ago who told me ‘the law’ was but ‘an aspect’ of the decision to remove a child. I can understand better how we ended up where we did.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            I don’t really understand how anyone says the law is an aspect of what we do, it is in terms of practice as a whole, but not once SW are embarking on the legal pathway! I have never come across that and it is incredibly disappointing, but perhaps the result of SW’s being billed for legal advice, something I am terribly glad isn’t applicable where I work.

          2. HelenSparkles

            I knew that and was shocked! Was it many SW…. want to hide under a table if that really is a view.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I am afraid I think it probably is a pretty accurate view. But I certainly do NOT want you to think I criticise SW for that. You aren’t lawyers. You aren’t trained to unpick legal judgments. You need access to good quality legal advice at all times – and it is clear that many LAs have set up structures which actively discourage lawyers and social workers from talking, such as charging by the hour to speak to a LA lawyer! Insane.
            Equally, when I asked why we had so few SW at CPConf2015, the obvious response was ‘they don’t get time off to come, they don’t get any help with costs’. I appreciate it is asking a lot for someone to give up their holiday to come to some random conference.

          4. HelenSparkles

            You could say that but law is a component of the BA/MA and PQ. I would be interested to know how many LAs have franchised out law teams? It is true that I came to the conference last year, paid for myself, and took leave to do it. The problem isn’t just that SW don’t have the time for a random conference, a lot of the time there is not budget for training (I could name LAs) and therefore time and £ have to be prioritised for training events which are directly relevant to increasing skills and knowledge around practice, any essential CPD courses, and the stuff that all of us need to do to re-register. Any conference is a luxury and if I had been able to come this year it would have been whilst on leave and at my own cost.

  13. Jason

    Hi Angelo – thank you for your comments. Yes – even good social workers are doing some evil by following a rigid directive. Some of the bad social workers make up evidence to meet threshold. Nasty social workers who can make no headway with cases of concern, pick on other people who are receiving support from them. Parents whose children have disabilities, or disabled parents, are targeted because they are “known to services” whereas some very dangerous people are ignored – either because the social workers just don’t know who they are, or because they are too much trouble.

    I agree that it is the children who have been victims of forced adoption and the children in the care system are the main concern. Some say that adoption is fantastic because it gets kids out of the care system. The care system needs total reform, and forced adoption should go. I’m not going to be able to trust and work with the system until there are more people in it who are saying just that. I am sick of the argument that care is so bad that adoption is preferable – care should be excellent.

    My child hates social workers – she says they take people’s children. She has nightmares, but she is one of the “lucky ones”. This woman locally whose child had been forced out of her care was suicidal in her foster placement, because she wanted to go back home. Suicidal at nine.

    I think on balance I would advise all parents to cooperate with social workers because you can certainly learn from some of them; good social workers are sources of information. If you’re stuck with them, you might as well make the most of it. Going to them for help has, however, become a very bad idea.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      All of the options for children should be considered from rehab home to adoption and everything in between. This government has done a great job of dissing all public servants and talking about children languishing in care. Care isn’t terrible and children aren’t languishing. A lot of children are very clear that they have a fostering family to grow up with and a birth family who they can see but can’t live with. All children would rather be at home with their parents of course, but they would also say (& do) if their parents would stop doing xyz. What foster care is is a job. Foster carers are people for whom life events an impact on their ability to provide care or who can just decide to stop fostering, as well as placement breakdowns. There are adoption breakdowns but the rate is much lower. I am not saying it is all good or a perfect system, I know a lot about it and the outcomes for children in care, the latter being inextricably linked to the antecedents. Adopters are people who want a child to be part of their family, who plan for those life events (not like the rest of us probably) and who have to make provision for a child should anything happen as part of their assessment. The options depend on the age of the child, as well as any other individual needs, but you would not be ensuring a baby has a nurturing and permanent family to grow up with if you placed them in long term foster care. Placing older children for adoption has a much greater risk of breakdown attached. It is also important that older children, who have strong ties to other family members are able to maintain those links, and adoption doesn’t do that in most cases. I would be very interested in research which unpacks the ethnocentric aspects of the way that care is provided in other countries, it does look different, and there are also very specific cultural aspects which may or may not translate. SW is a global profession, I currently use family group meetings which originate with the Maoris in NZ and Signs of Safety which originates from Australia. What I have seen really not working well is social pedagogy which several LAs have tried to introduce and which doesn’t seem to fit in the way it does where it works well that is however anecdotal evidence only – someone might have seen something I haven’t on that score. I am not a researcher. Maybe I should be drafting research on why differs approaches work in different places.

      Reply
  14. ventually

    To me, children wronged by the cp system and their parents are wasting their time completely trying to argue their cases or battling against the mass of supporting evidence which the professionals will cite against them. ( See above for some of these platitudes).It is very persuasive and faced with it,Courts will be easily misled into taking outrageous and oppressive sanctions.
    Decisions are often made partly on what is general theory of abuse. Each case is different and decisions must be taken on facts alone. Either abuse occurred or it didn’t. Research evidence may be used to inform a social worker and help him or her to supply support services and to reform families etc. but not to put into a factual matrix.
    The only way,in my view,the system can be reformed is by addressing the fundamental issues and radically reforming current practices. That is what we are trying to do,Helen, we are not trying to back up current thinking ,we are all trying to bury it. Please accept the need for change and help us by making suggestions.
    Let us think about the fundamentals and let us recognise that all social workers ,all lawyers and all judges are there to SERVE families . Thus the opinions of parents and children should be LISTENED to and acted upon above any other.
    Jason,had your case gone to a hearing in the Family Court, there is every probability that you would have lost your child!

    That would partly have been the fault of the integrity of the evidence against you but primarily,in my view and that of countless victims , due to Articles 3,6 and 8 .rights being contravened. Probably that is why the LA’s want to do away with our human rights act.
    The Family Courts make the decision which is fundamental.The Family Court needs to reform itself radically. Or be done away with and let cases be taken before a more suitable Court.So let us call for automatic,legally-funded appeals. Sometimes remaining with family is not best but children have human rights.Families are human and the High Court has ruled so.

    Sarah,thank you for the link which you provided and congratulations on all the good,hard work you are doing towards change. Helen Sparkles,thank you very much for the links you provided which are very helpful.Parents respect your views and you understand that often we have to agree to disagree. Eventually all our views will combine together in some magical way,i hope and together with other websites and forums we will ‘give birth to change’. That will be a very painful process.
    Jason.If you look at the case judgment supplied by Helen, Sam’s comment and the court case cited at the head of this thread, be warned that if God forbid the CS ever assault your family again ,it will be prudent to have made a careful note of dates and details of all therapies you have undergone. Keep a record. in orderto make a careful notepo

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Ventually

      My case did go to court. That’s why it all took such a long time; the evidence the LA presented to the judge made sure that I could not get my child back. The LA just would not admit they’d screwed up until they could see they would be exposed at the next hearing. All of the solicitors (mine, guardian’s and LA’s) agreed that my child should be returned immediately. I’m pretty confident that the LA will not bother me again, as the allegations were hearsay regarding something that they wrongly thought I had SAID.

      It’s interesting, though, about therapy etc. I now tend to see any sort of intervention as a problem. That’s because ( and I’m speaking in a non-sinister sense now) all the different agencies work together. What sort of therapy is available to the child who is damaged by social services over-intervention? Wouldn’t that be a CAMHS worker? They’re a nice crowd of people on the whole, but then they quite understandably work with social services. So I guess they’re fine dealing with cases where children are abused or neglected in the home, but when the problem is the state, what do they do then? It feels like what we’ve got at the moment is Leviathan – all of the organisations that I used to regard with fondness police, NHS etc, are getting contaminated by their links to the dysfunctional CP system.

      “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.”
      Henry David Thoreau

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        That’s a shame because CAMHS are independent, SW may refer to them and do, but there is no reason those services would refer to SW unless there were safeguarding concerns. The state can and does cause damage in various ways so family therapy might be a good way to heal.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Yes, while I appreciate that is true in theory, the reality is that there are a lot of people out there who are terrified that saying their child was damaged by the intervention of social services will lead to a referral to social services, who, where I live, are never wrong.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            You have a court deciding in your favour though. You can show them evidence if that helps. Anyway, just thinking about your daughter’s fears, not saying they aren’t justified but she still needs help with them.

      2. Angelo Granda

        Jason,As Helen quite rightly says, CAMHS are an independent body usually..
        The problem is that within CAMHS, there are those who ‘specialise’ in Looked after children work for the Local Authority and i think they have different rules. The CS will consult them and they can assess a child without asking a parent for their views .The CS only present their own. Furthermore when,in those cases ,CAMHS complete an assessment,they send it directly to the CS. If unfavourable to them,the CS can ignore it and conceal it.They only produce it if it gives the answers they wanted.
        Yes,Helen,i know that should not happen and the rules are different but in reality ,it does.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Jason’s child is not looked after.

          If a child is in care, there often is a specialist team within CAMHS and Care Orders give the LA PR, they can therefore make decisions about children without their parents. A referral to CAMHS will generally state what the issues are rather than any views anyone has about why those are issues, because that is what you would be asking CAMHS to assess. CS would be asking for an expert diagnosis of for example whether a child has ADHD or attachment issues. Any external views of that aren’t really relevant.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            Thanks for the advice Helen. No, I would never be able to go anywhere near CAMHS. I will be my child’s counsellor. We can only trust each other.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            that’s a very bleak position Jason – and not one I think can be healthy for you OR your child as she grows.

          3. Angelo Granda

            Jason,But don’t forget the thoughts of that philosopher you mentioned.
            It can be said by a non-emphathetic SW looking for a ‘child-rescue’ opportunity that your child is at ‘significant risk’ if you admit to anxiety etc. So always beware.Might i suggest you use a private medical service.
            Jason it will be better if you go private and record it for future reference. You are quite naturally worried about what the CS can do .The same is true for all those who have suffered mental torture at the hands of the CS. Even those who have only ever been on CIN plans etc. They begin to suffer from stress disorder . You are quite right to be wary.
            I wish to be emphathetic not just sympathetic so listen to this advice carefully.

            Never throw away any documents or records and most particularly,even if 6 years go by never destroy the previous court papers.
            The CS bide their time .If they receive some sort of excuse such as a referral ( which they may engineer themselves) they can knock on the door at any time.When they do ,they will drag up all the previous false evidence again and they do not have to mention the previous court proceedings or that the concerns were found to be false. Then,when that happens, barristers like Sarah will look at the case and say there is a long history of ‘significant concern’ etc. The evidence they see will be wrong
            They can pick and choose what evidence they present and they do not have to present the previous courts decisions. Complain as much as you like,it will make no difference and after the case your barrister will turn around to you and say.

            “There is no evidence to support an application to appeal” . You have lost your children.Next time they don’t have to correct their evidence or report the previous court’s findings.They do not have to report there have been previous court proceedings even although correct process says they should. I am talking from bitter experience .
            Hope this helps .I know this advice will make it even harder for you to relax but i feel it the duty of one parent to another to warn you. Might i suggest you move to another borough.

          4. helensparkles

            It is a shame that this is could easily feed into people’s fears (I am sure people are reading her if not commenting) and it might prevent them getting help they need.

          5. Angelo Granda

            Quite,Helen. I absolutely agree with you .It is a great shame.I deplore the cleft stick with which we have to deal. To all parents with the same problems Jason has,i ADVISE YOU TO ACCESS HELP through your GP.
            If you can afford it go private;your GP will refer you to a consultancy.If you cannot afford it,on no account let your fear of Social Worker malpractice deter you from seeking help.See your GP anyway and keep careful records of the truth.

    2. HelenSparkles

      I know what you are trying to do, but whilst I don’t think the system is perfect, I don’t share your views. I think your dismal of the research and theory base is something you wouldn’t ignore in medicine for example?

      Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Helen, Unless i was a medical expert myself i wouldn’t feel qualified to argue against medical research UNLESS it was research clearly carried out by one particular faction with financial interests. Such as a tobacco company’s research into the values of smoking.

          When you wish to reply to a comment,try this! If there is no reply tag beneath, scroll BACK to the last available reply tag and click on it.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            “Unless i was a medical expert myself i wouldn’t feel qualified to argue against medical research”

            But you are not a psychologist or a social worker and you feel qualified to comment on social work and it’s theory base. Most people do, most people aren’t. It is a bit like the Daily Fail thinking it is common sense, it isn’t.

            There probably is an issue with people not really understanding what social workers do and are interested in, but I don’t really know what doctors are doing all the time, or the police, i don’t know their world.

          2. Angelo Granda

            I have to admit it,Helen.I don’t know everything and that is why i remind readers quite regularly that my comments are those of an ordinary parent not a lawyer,SW or other professional.
            In my eyes our views and opinions are more important than anyone elses .Don’t forget most of us are not guilty of anything except coming to the attention of the system.We have a right to our opinions.
            It is always painful for public servants when those they purport to serve expose malpractice and incompetence.

          3. HelenSparkles

            “It is always painful for public servants when those they purport to serve expose malpractice and incompetence. ” Not really, those things should be exposed.

    3. HelenSparkles

      LAs don’t want to do away with human rights, this government wants to ditch the Human Rights Bill.

      Reply
  15. Angelo Granda

    It is unacceptable to issue permanence plans which liquidate families thus denying a child the fundamental right to a life with natural family, good or bad, unless there is a pressing social need in the Public interest. The best interests of a child do not satisfy that threshold although it does satisfy the criteria for a protective order. Is that the current state of affairs,Sarah or am i deluded?

    It is almost unspeakable but,readers, would you rather be chucked into a concentration camp with your child or a Red-Indian and Aboriginal type reserve with your child and all attendant SW’s to monitor the child,rather than be separated permanently?
    Bear in mind that if you think it better for your child, you have the right to consent to adoption. What would be most merciful to a family?
    Before anyone mentions money ,these communities would be self-supporting.

    I am not crazy when i ask this question.I am trying to make the point that there are always less invasive alternatives. These options have been used within living memory .

    Sarah, you have mentioned cattle trucks and the holocaust . You reminded me that no magistrate or court,in those days ,issued orders which would part children from mothers and family.It was felt even then to be inhumane and unthinkable. The families were isolated and precluded from normal society. Eventually,they were thrown into the cattle trucks together! They were taken by the military authorities to supposed work camps for asylum together!

    It was only when they arrived at the camps ( away from Public view) that the families were finally parted by SS criminals at the point of a gun. Those actions were taken by the authorities which had a false ideology and it was done in secret. The plans were made secretly behind closed doors.

    I don’t think it is particularly helpful to make comparisons with atrocities committed 70 years ago. The CS are genuinely trying to do good in some cases . However,as you raised it ,i shall dare to do so. As Jason ventured to say, we have been taught never to forget.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Angelo, unfortunately your suggestions would be damaging for children and are a million miles away from human rights for anyone, it is also has huge potential to exacerbate the already cyclical nature of SW. Alternative care is all about breaking that cycle and repairing the impact of trauma and abuse. The damage has a huge impact on society if you want to take it past that of the individual, I don’t know many people in prison who don’t have a very sad story. It is very unfortunate that some parents do a lot of things that make it unsafe for their children to be with them, carry on doing those things, and their children can’t stay at home. You are confusing in this comment what you think the best interests of the child would be with how the best interests of the child are paramount in SW practice and in law. That’s fine, but you can’t argue that the law means something it doesn’t just that you don’t agree with it.

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      P.S. I think Sarah was referring to the holocaust as something in recent times we will look back on as inhumane.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I know my suggestions would be damaging to children.My question was to readers in general. Wich course of action is the most damaging? Permanent separation or the less invasive alternative i mentioned?

        Reply
  16. Sam

    Sorry Helen there is no reply tab again. I have no court options left I have had a 91(14) order imposed on me even though I was a LIP. The LA will not work with me as I have worked out they have dirty washing ( Rotherham connections) and they are actually frightened of me because I am a capable woman who won’t shut up. I had a misogynist judge, who insists on reserving the matter to himself. I will now do what I can to improve the system.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      See this link re the order http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed84124 “they are of course not an absolute bar; they do no more than require an application for permission to be made before further proceedings can be set in train. If there has been a genuine and substantial change in the circumstances that underlay the barring order that permission may well be forthcoming.” So if there has been change as you say, this does not stop you applying.

      Revocation of a Car Order would be public law proceedings for which I would have thought you would be entitled to a solicitor. I don’t see how any information you have about the LA would make a difference to your case and presumably you passed that on to the right people at the time (there was an enquiry so the police would have taken it from you). Even a misogynist judge cannot break the law by ruling against you if change has been effected and if you have any concerns about judicial conduct you should report them.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Sorry for the late reply. I did pass information onto the Police, but they dismissed it . The Information passed on was deletion of records ( with written proof) by the SW leaving the children at risk. In other words the social work record is not complete, which was picked up during a complaints procedure by the independent person. Despite this the SW is still in post and the complaint was not upheld. There is a complaint currently with the IPCC but I am not holding my breath as the system is stacked in favour of the powerful.

        Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Automatic appeal to a higher court with non means or merits tested legal funding is the solution to lower court injustice where child protection is concerned. Sam,your allegation of misogeny will be explained away by the false ideology that victims of injustice tend to ‘invent false narratives’. Lower court Judges have too much power and grant too much latitude to cp professionals. Do you think you had a fair ‘trial’? I don’t despite the fact that i haven’t seen your case papers.
      A fair trial is a fundamental human right. Do you understand my argument?

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        Sam wasn’t on trial and doesn’t need to appeal, she just needs to make an application that proves change.

        Reply
    3. Angelo Granda

      Sam, I understand you have been busy and have been looking into supports,therapies and so on. I think there is a lot of concern about the 26-week time limit and it seems not all SWE’s and lawyers agree with it. I think it is much too short especially because it may take 26 weeks to find a suitable therapy provider let alone finish the course of it.
      So ,to be constructive , what would you consider a more realistic time-scale given to a parent in which to change and have therapy? I understand that most competent ,practising clinical psychologists will ever set fixed time schedules for completion of treatments .It is like asking how long is a piece of string.One of them told me that. However, what would be your time-scale?
      A year ,18 months ,two years or would you keep to 26 weeks?
      Same question to anyone else who cares to reply.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        26 weeks is the timescale once in proceedings. It is not the timescale for the child protection process or pre-proceedings during which intervention can take place. If as a parent you reach proceedings and have only just reached the point of considering named interventions, that is generally (in government policy) considered outside the child’s timescales. That doesn’t mean I am in favour of 26 weeks, I am not overall, rather to flag up that there is opportunity before then.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          What about all those people who are thrown straight into proceedings without any other process? It is simply untrue that everyone has opportunities to flag things up pre-proceedings. If only.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Then again my advice is that they need good representation and they need to engage with the case against it and challenge it if they don’t agree.
            My case recently involved an email to one of the parents from Ian Josephs. It advised him ‘NEVER’ to co-operate with the SW, not to ‘obey’ them nor ‘any other psychobabble charlatan’.
            That has delayed sensible resolution of this this case by about five months. Parent luckily now agrees that isn’t good advice and is working with LA and taking steps to deal with some of the issues around parenting.

          2. HelenSparkles

            Of course some cases do move straight to the LA intending to issue, I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise, in which case I’d agree with Sarah and hope you did have good representation.

          3. Angelo Granda

            1. In my opinion,it is quite silly to suggest that should a parent not have considered named interventions by the time proceedings start, that they are already outside Government timescales.
            Preposterous is the only word for it! Particularly in S47 cases.
            2. When ,as so often happens,cases are not conducted correctly,the key SW sometimes does not even talk to the parents,tell them of concerns about mental health or anything else thus how can a parent possibly consider named interventions?
            In a FAIR PROCESS, cases would have to be conducted correctly and the parents advocate would be informed therapy is considered necessary.
            3.In a FAIR PROCESS, especially if a parent genuinely had mental problems,they would not be considered capable of recognising it,acknowledging it,sourcing there own named therapy and booking a course.
            4.This one is most important.In a FAIR PROCESS ,if a parent and his lawyers are disputing SW evidence and think no CAMHT is necessary, they will not know therapy is required UNTIL the Court has passed judgment about it.So 26 weeks or any other time-scale cannot really begin until the final hearing is over.
            5. The County Court Judge orders posychological reports after proceedings have been brought.It will be the psychological expert witness who will diagnose any problem and he or she will be asked to suggest possible therapies.The advice usually given is that the parent should access therapy as advised by a GP. More delay.A parent cannot consider named interventions ( or time scales) before a psychologist has suggested the need for intervention. Can they?
            5.As i said above, no COMPETENT clinical psychological practitioner will set time-scales for the completion of treatments. In a FAIR PROCESS,neither would the Government , a key SW ,a Guardian or a court expert be competent to do so.Each case and each patient is different.
            6. No-one has suggested a suitable time scale.I would suggest 2 years in the child’s best interests. Time to start after final hearing.

            That parents are already beyond time-scales and the case can already be programmed against them by Govt. when proceedings commence is dangerous and injust.
            I feel certain that , in a non-civil court , the prospective outcome of any case or decisions about time-scales could never be decided before proceedings commenced.The civil family court makes preposterous judgments based on preposterous time-scales set supposedly because it is in children’s ‘best interests’.

          4. helensparkles

            I am curious Angelo about how much you know about the process before it enters a courtroom, I can’t of course comment on where things don’t work well, but once an LA issues, there has usually been a lot of opportunity to effect change. S47 doesn’t mean you go straight from A – Z, it involves safety planning and working with a family. Timescales matter hugely to children and their future outcomes, 2 years might be fine for a 12 year old who can stay with a relative or foster carer whilst mum/dad gets better, and understand that. Your view of children’s best interest doesn’t coincide with any of the research which underpins practice.

      2. Sam

        Sorry Angelo . Haven’t been able to reply. I think any therapy has to matched to local resources or not ordered at all. Imagine sending someone to prison ,having no places and then expecting them to serve their sentence three years down the line when there is finally a place. That’s basically what happens to parents ordered to do therapy now. Then surprise ,surprise the court decides it’s not in the child’s welfare to disrupt the placement.
        Nothing is more draconian than separating a family, yet the authorities fail to acknowledge it as an emergency situation.
        The reason I haven’t replied is I have been in hospital with a recurring medical emergency. Despite the junior doctor’s strike, I was operated on ASAP and once again received excellent after care . I must have cost the NHS thousands over the past few years and each time my condition reoccurs I am more difficult to operate on and have less chance of recovery. Despite that my Consultant keeps going as the consequences of failure to arrest the condition would be severe. Yet when I needed therapy in order to supposedly alleviate the condition the expert diagnosed me with and without which I stood no chance of being reunited with my family I was on a three year waiting list. The consequences have been life changing not just for myself but also for my children. I don’t know if it would be legal or possible but somehow the court needs to order the therapy as a medical emergency. If they can’t there needs to be a recognition that they are “sentencing” a parent to a lifetime without their child even if the parent is willing to undertake the therapy.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          The problem is that the court cannot usually or easily make orders that have serious implications for the budgets of other state agencies. That just isn’t their job or remit. They can’t possibly have all the necessary information about what money is allocated where. This is why it needs joined up thinking from the Government and better national provision of mental health support across the board.
          But it all costs money. And may take many years to show results. So not popular.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            & there is a wider issue about therapeutic resources being available to anyone, parent or not, that it isn’t just for anyone should matter to all of us.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, Please consider this in respect of Article 3 ( the prohibition of torture and degradation).

            Extremely harsh and severe sanctions such as permanent separation of families cause extreme mental torture which leads to severe emotional disturbance which ,in its turn, leads to extreme physiological effects ( epilepsy,neurological complaints and other physical maladies). Victims may become very run-down and begin to malfunction physically.Their vital organs may begin to break down ( hearts ,livers etc.). If you don’t believe me,ask a consultant medic.
            So torture is physical not only mental.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Yes but you are not providing a balanced picture. Children will be caused harm and grief by separation from their parents, I don’t doubt it. BUT the justification for their removal is that if they STAY they will suffer MORE harm and grief.

            You need to remember the big Article 3 case involving children and the UK was a group of siblings who were awarded about £300K because the LA failed to REMOVE them quickly enough from their parents and they were left to forage for food in bins etc.

        2. Angelo Granda

          Sarah,That is another reason why the civil Family Court should be barred from hearing serious cases. The cases should be heard in a higher Court which does have the power to make orders which have implications on agency budgets. It might be worth adding that they appear not to have any qualms about making care -orders with other care-plans for separation which affect LA budgets .
          Defenses are always put up by the authorities but is that one valid?
          I think you have exposed one problem which calls for radical reform.
          Sam, i am so sorry to hear about your illness .Please feel free to ask for help if there is anything i can do as another parent. Unfortunately, you are subject to institutional degradation,you are unable to reveal your real name and i don’t even know which town you live in or i would be round to help like a shot; i can’t offer practical help but i shall be praying for you,of course.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            My solution is that the Crown Government should be compelled to prioritise the Human Rights of children.
            Children have the right to a family life with natural family unless ‘nothing else will do’ therefore the Govt. has a clear duty to do make the resources available to do so. We elect the govt and we make the laws.Citizens will supply the resources as we always do.
            The Crown empowers the Judiciary to guard and protect citizens against authoritarianism and the Royal Courts of Justice have the power to compel the govt. obey the Law and to supply all the resources necessary whether it wants to or not.
            It is not the fault of the CS but the Family Court system if it does not use its powers. Our human rights come first. Children’s needs and rights are paramount ( my mantra as well as that of cp professionals). The money is there but wrongly spent. How much does a special needs care home cost per week per child ?How much does an ordinary care-home cost per week per child? How much does a few weeks CAMHT therapy cost for Mum assuming she genuinely needs it?
            So what does this tell us about the Family Court system?

            All comments welcome especially any which disagree with my description of the hierarchy.

          2. HelenSparkles

            Angelo, I am talking more widely about services, they aren’t there for anyone. There is no public funding, after all if someone wanted to they might even cut the defence budget which is huge. A special needs care home is probably not the best example, most children, they are expensive but most children in those settings are there at the request of their parents.

          3. Angelo Granda

            As i said ,it is about priorities and the Human Rights of citizens are paramount above anything else. I mean anything else. No-one has an essential human right to medical treatment ( although we do have a right under the health acts) but citizens do have a right to a family life with natural parents unless nothing else will do under the Public statute and the common law,i believe.
            The Govt. has to provide the resources when the Judiciary orders it to. The resources are there ,don’t be fooled into thinking they are not.
            Work it out. How many cases are there per year where children are taken into care because therapy is denied to parents in time-scales? I doubt if it is so much for counselling therapy etc. but shall we over-estimate it at £50,000 per case. Multiply the two figures together and it is still only a small fraction of GNP or even the defence budget on its own.
            It’s all about priorities.BTW ,i am no statistician and i am no financial or taxation expert,I am a mere parent applying a bit of common-sense.

          4. helensparkles

            I disagree with your comments about the rights of families to stay together, this isn’t reflected in law, where the child has paramountcy. Some children are not safe at home and in order to have a nurturing stable family to grow up with they are separated from their family of origin.

            However, in terms of costs of services and expenditure as a % of GDP or the changing taxation system, you are on a wing and a prayer. All governments have steered clear of raising taxes & this government has no interest in social justice, see bedroom tax, rights of disabled people just to name a few. I would always happily pay more tax for better services for all, but I am a socialist and a dying breed!

          5. helensparkles

            & I think both are important but they don’t mean families shouldn’t be separated ever. I’d like to show you some of the things I have seen, you wouldn’t leave children there either.

        3. Angelo Granda

          You might know whether they are,Helen, but i would say that if children are in special care at their request , the parents should pay for it!

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            They don’t and the state doesn’t ask them to. Families who can’t manage at home because the needs of their children are too great are not offered a great service, they have to fight for it, but they would argue they have a right to it. Those placements whether for children who have a disability, learning difficulty, are on a spectrum somewhere, have mental health difficulties etc. do cost more than most and they are provided to parents at no cost. I am not judging those parents. Some parents who request their children are accommodated under S20 (no child protection concerns) so voluntarily sometimes don’t provide anything for their child, lots do, but some don’t.

  17. helensparkles

    The sadness for me is when, despite loving their children and feeling that pain/fear, those parents are unable to effect change. It isn’t a rescue narrative to keep children safe. It is absolutely devastating for children to know that their parents were unable to priorities them over xyz. SW operates on the basis that children are more vulnerable than adults. They are also generally reliant on the adults around them to keep them safe and meet those basic needs.

    I am in no doubt about the pain of being separated from a child or the fear of it happening, I am in no doubt about the impact of trauma upon children upon being separated from their family of birth. Children tell us that they want to be at home with their parents if only their parents would stop doing xyz. How much time would you give them to do that? I think timescales are where the humanity lies for both parents and children, along with the level and nature of support.

    Parents do worry that when they shout and swear at SW they alienate them, or they make it easier for the case to go against them. I never know what response I am going to have from parents when I say difficult things but I have as much empathy for their anger as for anything else. To suggest otherwise is to underestimate the SW’s insight into that human emotional landscape.

    Social work changes over time as society does and there is a wider framework for risk adversity which is the level of risk society will tolerate. Generally child homicide figures have remained fairly static but all those SCRS have led to policy changes. Some changes have been great but they are largely about politicians who want to say this can never happen again and apportion blame.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      I am an ordinary parent ,Helen and what i say will be curious to you because you are talking about correct procedures and i am talking something completely different. My experience is different to yours.
      I do not know much about correct S47 procedure which is why i asked you and i don’t know much more after seeing the link you provided. My experience of SW practice is that an S47 enquiry can commence on the strength of an anonymous referral and meagre background of a family before a family and child have even been seen by any SW. No work with either parent was done,no offer of support was made nor even was a suggestion made that support or therapy was needed.The Sw merely asked the father to cooperate and sign an S20 whilst concerns were investigated.Once he signed it,the Sw refused to work or talk to him and said ‘See you in Court’!
      Can you see where i am coming from when i say that your comments are invaluable. An official complaint was made about it ,and the independent investigator claimed nothing was amiss,that SW’s did not need to involve parents in core assessments etc. Yet you talk of working with a family before proceedings.You said somewhere that investigators have to examine evidence , three times the complainant told the investigator she had written evidence that SW statements and assertions were false and three times the investigator refused to look at it. Curious is the word for that aswell.
      I don’t suppose you will accept a parent’s word that these things go on but they do.I know you will say use the complaints procedure but as one Sw told a set of parents “Complain if you like.Go ahead.We have ways of dealing with complaints”.
      I hope this makes you less curious and can you see why ,as the Court makes the decisions,it is essential that the Court checks carefully and ensures that all correct procedures are followed? There is good social work and then there is the unacceptable face of social work.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        I don’t recall posting a link, I suggested looking at an LSCB website because they have all child protection protocols.

        I don’t do S47 enquiries at the moment (haven’t done them for a while) but it was my job at one point they are fairly fast enquiries. An S47 enquiry can indeed commence on the strength of an anonymous referral and very little information. Some of those complaints are malicious, these are relatively straightforward to detect. S47 investigations include agency checks (typically health, education, police etc.) and talking to the family. How this happens varies depends on the nature and source of the referral. S47s are single or joint investigations and where they are joint this is with the police who sometimes need to take the lead on gathering information from the family.

        With a single agency S47, generally SW are looking to see if there is triangulation of the evidence; does all the information I have support the other information I have. This could be because all looks well or because there is cause for concern. An investigation could be completed in the space of a day and a decision made about outcomes. I really wouldn’t know the family well enough at that point to know if therapy was needed, I wouldn’t be making any recommendations, except if neccessary for the priorities which are safety planning.

        S20 is voluntary agreement for a child to be accommodated by the LA. S20 requests are often helpful during an S47 because they enable an investigation to take place whilst knowing a child is safe. S20 doesn’t affect whether the LA’s case meets legal thresholds for an order to be granted and it can be withdrawn at any time. So even if a SW did say “see you in court” the evidence would still need to be there for a child to continue to be accommodated by the LA. If it isn’t, I would expect that to be examined in court.

        That a case seems to have gone to court so quickly and without time suggests the concerns were significant.

        Families should always have the outcome of assessments shared with them. How this is done varies depending again on case specifics.

        Most complaints received by LAs are from families who don’t agree with the care planning, the response of the LA to complaints is that the court will make a decision. Even when due process has been followed, this often understandably feels to parents like they are being fobbed off, but it is ultimately about the court’s decision.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Probably also helpful to say that most S47’s I see, because I am in a child protection team, are those which go to case conference as an outcome & work with the family.

          Reply
        2. Angelo Granda

          Thank you for your outline of procedures ,Helen ,but as always,parents often report cases are conducted incorrectly.
          I think that is the fundamental problem! Some SW’s abuse the process. That is where advocates and lawyers come in. How can a parent engage and complain to a solicitor if he or she doesn’t know what the correct procedures are? It is up to the lawyer to spot it ,surely.
          BTW, Helen , you might say why not make an official complaint. Most professional organisations,like banks,solicitors etc. have published leaflets which detail their codes of practice and they automatically give one to ‘clients’. In my experience,the CS does not publish one,at least that is what they told me.
          Maybe that is a suggestion you could make to the manager next time you attend one of your meetings. It will improve matters considerably.
          Or do they already have them?If so ,i was obviously misinformed (not uncommon).

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            As ever, I am not commenting on cases where things go wrong but if a solicitor is involved, they will know what is supposed to happen.

            The complaints process does have to be available, I don’t know if there is an obligation to still have them in print, but now like many things they are online.

            I suppose my main point re S47 was that for a case to go from an initial referral and investigation to court the issue would have been something which presented as an immediate danger. & probably no time for discussion of therapy in that window.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Thank you,Helen .There can be cause to believe that immediate removal is necessary to ensure safety. Yet surely,the Social Worker must first check their evidence fully and carry out full and impartial S47enquiries before forcibly removing a child or advising a parent to agree to voluntary removal for the sake of the poor child. The intelligence on which they act must be correct.
            For example, they should double-check all facts and ensure they have the right family background.To do that,they have to consult parents fully ,talk to parents and check that times ,names and dates fit. Sometimes the SW’s have false background of other families on the wrong file.They even get the names wrong.
            That is the correct procedure.

          3. HelenSparkles

            The safety of a child is paramount so the child may be moved to a place of safety whilst those enquiries take place.

          4. Angelo Granda

            That is true but that will not be for a social worker to decide .Neither should a social worker decide to advise a parent to place a child in voluntary care unless he has checked the truth of a referral,family background etc.and examined all less invasive alternatives to removal. Nor should a social worker furnish the Police with false,unchecked facts and mislead them into thinking a child is in imminent danger. Ex-parte EPO’s also seem to be shady to me although i am no lawyer.
            Helen, in my mind commentators like you and i can go on and on and on talking about our disagreements for ever but we don’t get far.
            We have to concentrate on that we agree on.It then turns out we are not far apart!
            I think we all agree that some social workers conduct cases wrongly.
            What is the best way of ensuring correct practice in every case? Do you agree that one way would be if all SW’s followed the legal guidelines and directions scrupulously or do you think they should be allowed to do as they like?
            I recognise you will not comment on cases which go wrong but this question is about keeping cases on track.

          5. Angelo Granda

            No real progress can be made when parents like myself tend to dominate discussions with outspoken,unqualified criticism continually.
            I think discussions should be more orderly like they would be at a conference and i think we should concentrate on fundamental questions like the one i have just asked. If i was to limit my comments to one a day per thread perhaps,more readers might come on.
            These discussions often begin with a really well-thought -out professional post from Sarah or another professional but they soon degenerate into pointless repetition. Partly the fault of parents,perhaps, but not many others come on.
            If only we had a framework of discussion which would lead to concensus about the essentials at least.I get sick of seeing my own comments so i know others must be.

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Angelo, another reader has raised with me the issue of starting a forum for discussion – I accept that comments on a blog post are not always helpful and get confusing. I am going to need some help with this as my technical skills are very limited, but it is on my to do list. It would be good to have a forum for helpful discussion in a more digestible form.

          7. HelenSparkles

            Police powers can be used if a police officer thinks a child is in immediate danger, and social workers can make an application for an emergency protection order which is granted by a court if they think a child is in immediate danger. Most referrals come from professionals, so health, education etc. it is rare for those facts to be false or malicious. There occasions where social workers need time to make some checks and families can agree to a child remaining somewhere which can be identified as a safe place, usually a family member or friend, so someone who is part of the existing child’s social network. As I say, most enquiries are completed quickly and if during the day, often whilst children are at school so they don’t have to go anywhere, or just go to a friend’s house after school for tea.
            We can’t agree because there is a grand canyon between us! Whilst you continue to accuse SW of being silly, using a theory base you disregard, saying that family courts make preposterous decisions, and that separating families is worse for children than experiencing trauma at home, we won’t agree. The only place we will agree is on exposing poor practice but I don’t think you understand the process so you can’t comment easily on case management, which isn’t a criticism; it just makes it harder to discuss.

            I am sorry you have found this dialogue repetitive and pointless, I shall disengage!

  18. Angelo Granda

    YES! I do dispute the SW theory base. As Sarah has pointed out I dismiss the attachment theory argument . As Helen tells us, much harm is done to children when they are taken suddenly from family. The trauma they are subjected to is explained away by SW theory on the grounds that the children have been subjected to serious abuse by parents. Where does that illogical theory come from? Very often they haven’t. There are merely concerns that they have.

    I do disagree with other theories too.
    For example:-

    1.If parents express disagreements (argue in their own favour) the disagreements are discounted on the grounds (see Brene Brown theory) that they are likely to have invented their narrative. In other words it can be assumed they are lying. If a parent disagrees it does not mean they are in denial. What can be more illogical and less impartial than that? What more can i say, except that Helen herself has told us that Brene is a social worker? She represents a particular faction.
    2. If a parent comes out and accepts and offers to cooperate with concerns, there is another theory of ‘disguised compliance ‘ which is designed to negate the truth.Who came up with that one? Not a lawyer.A Social Worker.
    3. Another social work theory says that there is a ‘cycle of deprivation’. That is false ideology too. Any suggestion that violence, corruption, child-abuse etc. is passed from generation to generation, that the son of a violent father will be violent too, that a child’s genetic connection to or exposure to abuse will affect their own parenting is absolutely wrong! Anyone who believes that is mistaken. I expect some readers to disagree with me and I am quite prepared to discuss it .Over to you, Sarah and Sam. Deprivation has no connection whatsoever to child abuse or domestic violence. Depravation, yes.Deprivation, no!
    5. Other theories such as the one which falsely pronounces that parents are sometimes unable to prioritise the needs of their child over their own are absolutely wrong and an insult to Mums. It is an accusation which is often brought against them. It is human nature for Mum to put a child before themselves. The only ones who put their needs, wonts and policies above those of children are SW’s themselves.

    There are many other social work theories which appear to negate fundamental human truths which is the reason I asked readers to think about ‘false ideology’ in my comment about the holocaust.
    Historically, when human rights are abused, for example, in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe or in this country when children were transported to Australia, the perpetrators cite self-justifying false ideology and pretend they are acting for the Public good.

    All comments welcome.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      1. It isn’t assumed that parents are lying, they just need to present their evidence.
      2. Disguised compliance is those who appear to engage but are not. It is simple.
      3. Nobody is saying a cycle of abuse/deprivation is pre determinate, lots of parents escape that cycle by making conscious decisions about change for their children.
      4. no 4.
      5. It isn’t a theory to discuss how the needs of children are prioritised, it is a statement of fact and needs evidence. I wish it was human nature to do so, it isn’t often, and there are barriers to that.
      If you wish to dismiss the whole theory base, which is around children’s needs, that is a bridge too far for most human beings.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        I disguised compliance, Helen. I pretended I was sorry for things. If you’ve got a boot on your face you will lick that boot, if it’s what the boot wants you to do. I knew they were wrong and that I was right. I had to pretend I didn’t notice they were foul, in order to get my child back.

        SWs dislike angry, non-compliant parents. SWs dislike tactful parents who do the more middle class thing of playing along with them, because it’s “disguised compliance”. SWs like parents who they can control, who think they’re wrong and the social workers are right – regardless of the reality.

        SWs don’t like people who resist and fight them.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          I can only comment when things are wrong for children, SW like it when people recognise that, don’t harm their children and can change. What their mood is don’ts make any difference.

          Reply
    2. helensparkles

      So, if we recognise that it is traumatic for children to be separated from their parents, how awful for them that their parents couldn’t do what they needed to to prevent that? It is that which is absolutely devastating for children.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Thanks for your comments ,Helen.

        The theories sound very feasible but are often deluded.
        The problem is when SW’s apply them across the board. For example,often a SW will apply the disguised compliance theory to a parent who has been advised by his or her solicitor to cooperate with the CS.
        Or often the SW may start saying at the outset that a parent has difficulty acknowledging concerns and will thus be unable to change WITHOUT talking to them ,explaining what the concerns are and asking them whether or not they acknowledge them.
        They will claim a child is a victim of the cycle of deprivation when there is no evidence that the child has ever been deprived.
        In other words,they justify their own wrong actions by citing theory which is inapplicable in many cases,in my opinion. They make decisions on the basis of false ideology in respect of many families. I hope readers understand this.
        You probably missed it Helen but a couple of months ago a parent came on to this forum. Before she even received advocacy ,came around to acknowledging concerns and before she had the chance to change her attitude,the key SW was already accusing her of disguised compliance.The key social worker had all the SW theories lined up and ready to fire at the poor woman before the case had even gone to court or anything.
        In the particular case i am talking about the malpractice was spotted and the key SW was overruled by management. Your particular dept. would probably have spotted it too.However , in many departments these malpractices are not spotted and have a devastating effect.

        Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        So,readers, what do parents need to do to prevent it? Disagree and they are inventing a narrative and are in denial. Agree and cooperate and it is ‘disguised compliance’.
        How do you put an end to the slings and arrows and protect your child?
        I think Helen is advising us all that complete honesty is the best policy at all times and i agree with that. However do not expect that you will get your just deserts when involved with child -protection and do not rely on the CS to protect your child.They may not acknowledge your concerns and cooperate with you.They may apply their general concerns about families to your own even when they do not apply. They may not conduct the case correctly ,may not investigate the concerns correctly and as a result,arrive at misinformed ,wrong appraisals.
        When that happens,your families fate will depend on the judiciary.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Not specifically no,but i think you would advise parents to be honest at all times ,wouldn’t you agree with me on that score at least?
            I think complete honesty is always the best policy.
            My aim on this forum,Helen is to discuss changes to the system because lots of parents consider the current one a flawed one. I listen to all other participants and take a positive approach to their posts when i can. You may have noticed that i have tried my best not to criticise you or pick you up on what do not agree with. I have acknowledged your explanations of how the system works and used them to show how i see the system is wrong . At the same time i have put my own views to stand alongside yours and the readers can see our two points of view together.
            I don’t think we will ever see eye to eye on everything,so why try to.
            Overall ,i think this discussion has been a very positive one mainly because of your participation in it and i have to thank you.It isn’t often we see a social worker so involved. I am sure we all thank you.Like i said in an earlier comment , the detailed references to how the system should operate has confirmed our views that there is considerable malpractice within the CS.
            That is not your fault.That is not any SW’s fault except those who are maliciously dishonest. Who’s fault is it? It is the L.A’s fault.It is they who apply to Court ,it is they who foster the malpractice and employ some badly trained and dangerous SW’s.
            It is they who do not finance social work support services properly and it is they who apply for placement orders because they find it more prudent financially than supplying various support plans.
            To be absolutely honest , we have not learnt much we did not know before, we have only had our previous thoughts confirmed.
            As before ,we parents believe some SW’s are good and we praise them; yet there are many who are bad. You won’t hear many talk about good ones;they may not have met one.Unlike them ,i have seen both sides of the spectrum so i have seen the good and the bad.
            One thing all of them always say is that it is the Court which decides on adoption not they. You have said the same.
            Therefore,fundamentally ,if the Court comes to a wrong decision, the Court is where we should address complaints. I think the Court System requires radical reform.Let the CS look after itself for now and we should concentrate on Family Court reforms.
            I thank you again for your comments,Helen.Some of your posts are priceless. I look forward to your future comments.

          2. HelenSparkles

            I just think it is important for it to be clear that I don’t advise anyone on here, to do so would be unprofessional, because I never know enough detail.

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          And you see no role here for the parents’ lawyers, in making and promoting their case? It’s not just the SW and the Judge. If the LA are not conducting the case properly then your lawyer will point this out and do something about it.

          Reply
  19. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I agree with you.The law and the Judiciary are the main players and the parent’s lawyers are there to protect families from the LA. In fact,all the lawyers are there to play their part in protecting children and the parents from INJUSTICE.
    Lawyers, check out the newspapers this morning all of you and learn if you will.
    Draw parallels between Police professional malpractice and that of the CS.
    Follow the headlines think deeply about your own roles and apply the principles.
    HILLSBOROUGH – PROSECUTION-CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE-FAILURE IN DUTY OF CARE- CULTURAL DENIAL- TRUTH AND JUSTICE-COWARDS-LIARS-SENSE OF INJUSTICE-ESTABLISHMENT-ACCOUNTABILITY-POLICE INVESTIGATION-COVER-UPS-PERJURYDELINES-PRACTISE DIRECTIVES-PUBLIC ENQUIRIES-CRIMINAL MANSLAUGHTER-BASIC PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE-ACCUSATIONS AGAINST PARENTS AND FANS-FALSE ALLEGATIONS-PUBLIC ENQUIRIES-CRIMINAL MANSLAUGHTER- ANGELS AND DEMONS VICTIMS-SLEEPLESS NIGHTS-PUT THE LIARS ON TRIAL-CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE-MANY DID THEIR BEST-PUBLIC LET DOWN-SENIOR OFFICERS TO BE HELD TO ACCOUNT

    We should all call for a Public Enquiry.

    Reply
  20. Jason

    I want to thank you again, Sarah, for hosting these online discussions.

    In the edit to your thread about the dangers of conspiracy theories for parents, you said the following: “But I accept it must be hard for parents who know they have been the victims of really poor professional practice to feel that their concerns are dismissed. I hope they accept that I don’t – but it might be the subject for another post.”

    I don’t feel that you have dismissed anything that I’ve written in either discussion, but I don’t think child protection professionals are going to come on here and talk about the false narratives/lack of empathy that they or their colleagues have ever shown. So it looks a bit like the last thread about conspiracy theories in terms of winding up being yet another “parents don’t realise they have to change” jobbie.

    I don’t much care about the processes of social work – I’m sure there’s not much wrong with them – just a pity that so many LAs appear not to stick to the protocol.

    You ask a question in your original post: “But what are the dangers for professionals of a false narrative?”

    And I can answer that question: there are absolutely no dangers for professionals whatsoever. These people have immunity, and that is why they don’t care.

    That’s why it is very unlikely that the system will ever change. I try and be optimistic, but I can’t really see change; there is no incentive for the morally corrupt or incompetent to alter the error of their ways.

    I’ll try not to generalise or judge someone I haven’t met; sadly the system is not as fair as me. The social workers I have met are limited to a small bunch. I hate all of these social workers (barring one or two) with good reason. I would not want any of these people to have either empathy or sympathy with me. I would want them to be honest and have integrity, and they do not. I have nothing but contempt for these people, who enjoy the same privileges and reputation as social workers who don’t cheat or lie. Other social workers should stop ignoring the fallout from the nasty ones.

    There were some comments above about CAMHS that I couldn’t reply to. Yes I really would have to be mad to go to anyone for help (regarding myself) and no, I’m not that crazy. Of course, a lot of parents whose children have been wronged by SWs are too afraid to get help for their children. Your comments about that Sarah, in terms of it not being healthy for me or my child, were not helpful; it felt like victim blaming. It’s not our fault. It’s the responsibility of good professionals to do something about bad professionals – there is absolutely sod all I can do about them.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I’ve mainly responded to queries about the process when I have commented on that but Angelo has said the same thing really, that it doesn’t matter what the process is if it isn’t followed, and I’d agree. I haven’t come on here and said I have seen what you describe because I haven’t. I do think honesty and integrity are key and any SW who doesn’t adhere to our code of ethics and values should be held accountable. I don’t defend the indefensible and I think bad practice is exactly that so I am sorry that anyone has had that experience of SW, it doesn’t reflect well on me or any other SW and I really mind that.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Helen,i did not really mean your comments or mine are uninteresting ,pointless or repetitious.What i really meant was that we aren’t really getting anywhere .I get bored with writing comments and bored with reading them when ,because of fundamental differences ,the chasm is wide.So ,i hope you will continue to grace us with your comments.

        Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am not ‘victim blaming’ and I am sorry you think that.
      I am stating a truth. It is bleak and horrible for you and your child to think that there is no one you can trust but each other. That is no lesson for her to grow up learning.
      To state that is not to ‘blame’ you for feeling like that. You may not be able to feel any other way if you have had a traumatic experience. But I hope for both your sakes you can get beyond that.

      I think there are real consequences for professionals who can’t break out of unhealthy narratives – but I accept it may take a long time for these consequences to be realised. Some have waited over 20 years. #Hillsborough.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        There will be no consequences that I can think of for professionals who can’t break out of unhealthy narratives. In all likelihood when we’re old and grey (or we’ve died of old age) and God knows how many children and families have been harmed, they will still be trotting out the same old mantras. But then maybe they won’t be – we’ve got to hope.

        As for us not trusting anyone here – there is no other sane position to take when you see how crazy the council are; they will cover anything up, because it will always be us or them. We’ve got our lives, but there’s others haven’t been so lucky. I just go around now as if we’re living in a frontier town – all the people around us could be the enemy – there’s no point whatever in finding out if my pessimism’s wrong – been there, done that.

        Reply
      2. helensparkles

        Oh yeah, let’s extrapolate from every time things have gone wrong that nobody can be trusted to gets things right, that is so helpful.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          I hope that’s not addressed at me Helen. The trauma caused by wrongdoing is permanent. Professionals need to show more empathy, as you say. Rather than judging people who have been irreparably ruined by the system you work in, try and think how you would survive if YOU were the victim of grotesque injustice. Until even the professionals, behind their walls of stone think “there but for the grace of God ” what hope is there? I’d prefer it if we didn’t “oh yeah” each other.

          I said “we’ve got to hope” but you ignored that bit. Reading what you said corroborates for me how wrong I was to say I should even dare to some day have hope.

          Professionals need to have empathy, not just for “psychopaths” who they work for, not just for vulnerable families they are severing, but for innocent victims of their system as well.

          What happened to me could happen to anyone: even you.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            It wasn’t Jason, I was replying to Sarah, who I thought would have taken that in the humour it was intended (which was wry and a bit defeatist rather than anything else – tho’ I can see how that might not come across on blog).

            I see you have assumed it was a response to you and replied to me in that vein so probably worth pointing out that all of the things you have said are things I have been thoughtful about and hopefully are reflected in my responses to you.

            I don’t really know how comments come up on this blog but will try to remember to include a name next time.

    3. Angelo Granda

      Jason, I am with you on your opinion.Re-Hillsborough, I understand that the lawyer representing the parents referred to the ‘culture of denial ‘ and false narratives within the ‘establishment and throughout the force and its officers AS A WHOLE and that even now they persist in trying to ‘defend the undefensible’.He says ‘that has to stop.’
      Does the same apply to the cp system as a whole?
      Failures to follow protocol,perverting the course of justice,perjury.All appear to be allowed to pass and defended saying actions are in the ‘interests of children’.
      Sarah,I think SW’s and lawyers ,in many respects , seriously misunderstand the law. For example, it is written on this thread

      Police powers can be used if a police officer thinks a child is in immediate danger, and social workers can make an application for an emergency protection order which is granted by a court if they think a child is in immediate danger. There occasions where social workers need time to make some checks –

      None of those reasons,on my perception of the law, justify seperating a child from natural parents (particularly a babe from the mother’s bosom}.If it is felt a child is in immediate danger then Mum and child can be placed in safety together ( even if that place is prison). A place of safety is somewhat delusional when family are not together because of the massive emotional damage done and the innate danger of attachment,disorder, peril from predators and lack of adequate care provisions etc.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        Sometimes that place of safety is with one parent, I didn’t say it wasn’t, but you are (a) assuming gender (b) assuming nurture based on gender & (c) that is actually the law if a child is in immediate danger. Please bear in mind this is the most extreme circumstance and most routine safety planning does not involve separation.

        Reply
  21. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, Regarding useful discussion. I suggest on a discussion forum, there should be a specific question asked just as in a formal debate.
    This might be one like -Does this forum believe that legal guidelines and frameworks and safeguards should be followed scrupulously in accordance with the Human Rights Act? or perhaps this- If legal guidelines are ignored by professionals,is that criminal negligence?

    The forum arbitrator or leader would put a series of points for the motion in a list followed by a series of points against.

    Then each commentator would be allowed to make a contribution for or against with a maximum number of words ,say one thousand. An end date would have to be set for the completion of all contributions.Following that an online vote would be called.Following that ,the forum would move on other questions such as -What action should be taken when a case is not conducted correctly? Should the case be thrown out?

    I am glad i’m not the only one who has suggested it.Sarah,if you publicised the existence of the online debate amongst your professional colleagues ,they might contribute .Anonymous contributions would be allowed but no more than one from each e-mail address.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      You have a lot of rules! I wouldn’t participate in a forum, too many problems in the past, not sure why they get more difficult than a blog but I observe that they have. Maybe they were just unmoderated.

      Reply
  22. Angelo Granda

    If i were to sum up this discussion constructively,i would say that generally we are not so far apart. We all seem to agree that sometimes the system gets cases terribly wrong and we seem to agree that we all put different interpretations upon the Law and its legitimate aims. Some parents are good, some bad.Some SW’s are good,some bad.
    Bad parents invent false narratives to justify their actions.Bad Social Workers invent false narratives to justify their actions.
    The problem is there is an imbalance in power as a result of which the LA can impose opressive sanctions upon the Public,in secret,to the detriment of the Public interest,ostensibly in children’s best interests ( whether parents are culpable or not).
    The Courts stand in the middle to arbitrate and issue orders.When miscarriages of justice occur , the justice system is to blame. There are processes and legal guidelines which are supposed to guarantee fair decisions but often these are set on one side because lawyers are also prone to accept the ‘child-rescue’ narrative too readily. There are also problems in regard to the Public Right of access to the Law( legal funding,advocacy etc).
    Can readers agree that the legal system has a lot to answer for?

    To Jason, I have read your comments fully and note that you had complaints about your lawyers. It is the same for all victims. I think the attitude of lawyers is the main problem One’s OWN lawyers are the worst challenge we face! I believe you found your witness not they and i imagine your own lawyers were taken by surprise just as the LA were.I expect they showed just a little bit of consternation that their ‘cooperate’ advice turned out wrong.
    You could see the SW’s were wrong quite clearly.The other professionals ,such as your GP could.Often NHS staff and Police know the LA is wrong,will say so in private ( but not in Public).Often your lawyers will agree with you they are quite wrong in private but seem unable to express it at court ,for whatever reason.
    There must be something wrong with the Family Court System,surely. It is time Sarah and the other professional lawyers came up with ideas for radical reform and these must go beyond transparency.

    All comments welcome as always especially from those who will deny what i say.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      The idea that all professionals collude with each other is unhelpful, they don’t consciously in reality, that isn’t to say you can’t have confirmation bias.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I agree that the word ‘collude’ is unhelpful because that implies – to me at least – something deliberate and malicious. I think confirmation bias or not checking lazy assumptions is far more likely.

        I concede it is often of little interest to a parent WHY a professional makes the wrong decision but I think it is important to keep the discussion as far as possible based on reality, otherwise we all waste our time and energies. I think there is a big and important distinction between someone making assumptions without being challenged by colleagues and a group of professionals getting together to stitch up a parent.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          I did not use the word collude.I agree that would be unhelpful.
          Collude means to connive in a fraud.
          However ,the solicitors do work together with fellow members of the Children’s Legal panel, social workers ,Guardians,paediatricians etc. in professional’s meetings held behind closed doors in the ABSENCE of the respondent parents who thus cannot defend themselves against false allegations. Also they work together with their legal colleagues and all the other professionals in the absence of respondents in pre-proceedings confabs just prior to entering the court room.I hope professionals will not try to dispute this happens.
          If, as a result of parents not having a say at these working meetings, fraudulent evidence is allowed through, i imagine some parents may use the word collusion but it isn’t helpful.
          I did not use it nor would i.

          Reply
        2. Hols

          Well I mentioned something elsewhere (but not sure if it was deleted) about turning up at the court to support my friend, and I had important information. I thought at the time that they were all conspiring to humiliate and frighten me, because my friend’s solicitor made me leave, even though I would have been useful. My friend’s solicitor warned people that I was there. Solicitors you have GOT to see how scary it looks to people when you behave in this way.

          The mum’s solicitor was trying to persuade her that she was best off agreeing to her child being adopted. The thing is, with a couple of year’s hindsight I can see that the reason they did all get together to try to get my friend to agree to that, was because they all saw her in the same way, and genuinely thought it was the best thing she could do. Now my friend tells me that her solicitor has changed her mind and said I should have been there! How frustrating is that.

          Look I don’t know about collude, but all parties including the mum’s own solicitor saw things the same way, but it was the wrong way. I just wish they weren’t such a closed circle. It was a terrifying experience for me because of what I’d been through myself.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Thank you for your comment ,Hols. I am glad you understand that your friends solicitor might have thought ,along with her opponents ,that it was genuinely the right thing to do.
            Victims are at fault when they fail to empathise with child-protection professionals; they should understand it is best to collabourate with the professional narratives and help push these miscarriages of justice through rather than respond by defending children against them. Parents should accept that time-scales are short and recognise that cp professionals are acting solely in the children’s best interests when they jump to conclusions.They have a tough job and they have seen much abuse in other cases.Parents should be more liberally-minded towards their opponents ;i am sure that is what solicitors mean when they say cooperate. It is best that children are condemned to permanence plans away from families quickly . Why should the professionals bore the Court with facts.
            Child-protection is a highly -skilled profession; inventing cp narratives and finding ways to blame their victims for their own mistakes and sloppy reporting is not easy.
            Parents have to have more empathy.Never use the word collusion and never,never use the word lies.
            I read in the newspaper today about Hillsborough that professionals (police officers) falsified at least 116 statements. No -one has yet been punished for it.Apparently the suggestion is that they suffer from Compulsive Statement Alteration Syndrome (CSAS). ‘ Different realitied’ is another term that has been used . It is negative and unhelpful to suggest they made things up. Surely the officers should be promoted not criticised for getting it wrong.Same with SW’s.

            It is hard to tell whether the writer of the newspaper article was being serious or whether he,himself is in collusion with the Police.. It seems he is still trying to defend the indefensible.

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes, it is the imbalance of power that is the root cause of the problems here I think.
      Parents lack power. That means they can’t challenge effectively poor professional practice.
      Their lack of power means they often get desperate and despairing, which causes them to say or do things that simply confirm to professionals that they aren’t safe people to care for child.
      And so a vicious circle begins.

      Of all the things we are hoping to do at CPConf2016 I have the highest hopes for the parents advocacy scheme (which hopefully will be up and running by October). What we need to do is something practical to balance out the current power imbalance.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        There are numerous cases where lack of power doesn’t cause the issues in CP cases and neither does desperation and despair. Having said that, I am always glad when parents advocacy, it helps a lot.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Of course. But it is likely to be a contributory factor at least in very many because power balance is so out of whack from the outset.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah,i think the parents advocates should attend case conferences etc. and part of their job should be to speak out when various guidelines are no or haven’t been followed. They should also make copious notes . They should have professional training and some sort of qualification and they should preferably have a lawyer on their office letterhead. Then if the case goes to court ,they can submit a written letter ( which comprisaes PROFESSIONAL evidence that a case has been conducted wrongly which may lead to wrong appraisals and give it to the respondent’s lawyer. That would go some way to restoring the balance of power .At present,if a parent tells the Court,it takes little notice because the parent is not a professional.
            Ideally the advocate should also go to solicitor’s appoiontments.
            Who will be footing the bill for this advocacy?

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I don’t see advocates as performing mainly that kind of role. Rather the advocate is going to act more as friend and given guidance/support to parents who are worried. To try and stop walls building up between the parent and the professional. To improve their communication. To let the parent feel supported. that may include attending some meetings but if the advocate is simply seen as someone else to be brought into the ‘battle’ with SW, that is going to be pretty counterproductive.
            I haven’t yet read David Tobis’s book about what happened in NYC but it is next on my reading list! I will be interested to know what kind of system he set up, because it had fantastic results.
            The parents advocacy scheme we are hoping will be funded by a mixture of charitable grants and government funding, but it is very early days. I know of schemes which have got about £10K in lottery funding for eg. I don’t know yet how much training will cost. But if we can prove it is cost effective, hopefully funding will come.

          3. helensparkles

            Advocates can attend conferences already and any other meeting. How they contribute to those meetings does have to be negotiated but I have never known anyone refused. They can also enquire about process, make notes and attend meetings with solicitors. I don’t think the issue is what they can do when they do it, there are a couple of problems which Annie’s great work should address. One is collusion, which doesn’t help anyone, they also have to understand the process which training helps. At the moment, where the advocacy service exists, it is funded by the LA in the main. This is similar in a way to how charities or other voluntary agencies are funded, some central government, some fundraising, and some local government. I can see some people may think that wouldn’t be independent enough but you’d be hard pushed to find another funding stream which has capacity to support that service. It also means it would be regulated and the agenda clear. I don’t know if you know Women’s Aid but they would be funded in that way, but operate independently of any children’s services involvement.

          4. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I know Woman’s Aid. They were interested in coming to the conference but as soon as they realised that members of the Transparency Project had been critical of the methodology in their 19 Child Homicides Report, we never heard from them again.

            A great shame, but a sad illustration of the bunker mentality – how people will not come out of their silos and engage with any views which challenge their own orthodoxy.

            As a result of that experience I am afraid I would not see Women’s Aid as necessarily a positive force for change.

          5. helensparkles

            This is our code of ethics, just thought it might be interesting if you haven’t seen it. http://cdn.basw.co.uk/upload/basw_95243-9.pdf It isn’t the best time for me to talk about this because I am exhausted from working to empower someone who is making some choices which put her child at risk, so I won’t.

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Yes I have seen it. It is included in this site. If there is something you want to say Helen, say it. You appear to be making quite a lot of comments that are hinting at something or implying that I don’t think SW do a good job or are ethical people?

            I am not commenting about individuals. I am commenting on a system which is manifestly unfit for purpose. The reasons behind that are many and varied, as I have set out at length in many posts since 2014. This site is not about SW bashing – or parent bashing. Its trying to make people think about what we can do to make things better.

            There are very many codes of ethics and statements of intent etc, etc. I am not really interested in those. Words are cheap. I am interested in what actually happens on the ground. What I see happening in courts around the country. You may see a lot more good practice than I do. I probably see the worst because I am at the sharp end, in the court cases that have gone wrong.

            So maybe you are frustrated with me for dwelling on the bad. If so, it would be more helpful and constructive if you just came out and said it, rather than commenting in this way. I always find it is much more tiring to skate around an issue than deal with it head on.

          7. helensparkles

            Women’s Aid was just an example of a funding model in case families thought it collusive that advocacy services were funded by LAs …

          8. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I am afraid I don’t find groups/campaigners who stick rigidly to their agenda in the face of alternative evidence at all helpful. They may well be free of any taint of collusion but I don’t think that necessarily makes them a useful part of the debate as they appear to be focused on proving that the family justice system discriminates against women in favour of violent men – which I don’t think is true at all and is certainly not my experience.
            The problem is that – as ever – we lack proper resources and support systems to help get people out of violent relationships. And we leave our children to grow up in culture of pornification and provide little or no help to understand the basic ground rules of a decent relationship. So there is a lot going on.

          9. Angelo Granda

            In the successful NYC parents advocacy project ,Sarah, do you happen to know whether or not parents and the advocates are allowed to attend meetings equipped with cassette recorders?

          10. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I am not sure – I would suspect not, but simply because the scheme was up and running before the technology was easily available to record conversations. I think it started in the late 1980s. BUT – as the Transparency Project has clearly shown with its recent guidance on recording there is NOTHING unlawful about recording such meetings so long as those recordings are for your own personal use and you don’t go on to publish them more widely without permission from everyone present or court order.
            I think there are many positives in recording meetings as often notes take a while to circulate and can be inaccurate. A recording puts it all beyond doubt and allows a parent to listen again to any parts they didn’t take in first time round. This is particularly important for parents who have learning disabilities

          11. helensparkles

            I could have said the NSPCC. It was an example of funding using an agency people would have heard of.

          12. helensparkles

            Sarah, I really can’t work out how comments will come up on this blog but hopefully you can see which comment I am replying to.

            The code of ethics mentions the word empowerment about 20 times (I haven’t counted) it seemed relevant to a discussion of power. I haven’t read every post and I didn’t know you had covered it previously; I will look at that sometime. If you’re just not interested in it, that’s fine, it wasn’t just for you but I probably do say things that aren’t interesting sometimes. I also wasn’t hinting at anything or implying anything. It might not work on a comments trail not to have fixed point of view, but I don’t always, sometimes I am just thinking something through. It is what I do, both as a SW and how I function, it doesn’t mean I am skirting around anything, it’s usually something I just haven’t taken a position on.

            You do discuss bad practice; you say you have seen it in court, I don’t like it either and it doesn’t help me any. I probably do see more good practice than you; after all I see a lot of work that doesn’t enter a court room, but maybe this isn’t a place to say what good social work looks like. My comments about how things should work don’t seem to have been particularly helpful anyway.

            I hope have been clear I hope where I disagree with things, I disagree for example that professionals don’t have empathy and I strongly disagree there is a rescue narrative. The latter reminds me of a rather pathetic NSPCC ad (which I loathe btw exactly because it is the rescue narrative). I also don’t agree that the entire system is not fit for purpose.

            What most SW know about people who discuss “forced” adoption is IJ his ilk who have supported people who have hit the headlines (because they have harmed children). It is easy to write those people off. The danger of those people is that they have a very loud voice and representation in a “respected” newspaper in the form of Booker. It isn’t so obvious to SW what the chasm is between the CP system and parents, which is why I am here. I’m not on a mission to defend the whole of social work.

          13. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I don’t find it helpful to simply be referred to a Code of Ethics. What I am interested in is finding out WHY there is such a gulf between the words and the practice. Because, I am afraid, you will have accept my experience of 17 years in the field that a LOT of cases when they get to court, the wheels have come off.

            Yes, there are many reasons. Systemic system failure is made up of many problems. Sometimes those problems are parents in massive denial who can’t or won’t accept what they have done, who dismiss emotional issues as ‘psychobabble’. There are many such cases. But there are also cases where I am frankly horrified at the arrogant disregard for people’s basic humanity shown by child protection social workers.

            Maybe they are tired and stressed and jaded. Maybe that isn’t a reflection of their fundamental personality. I do hope not. I hope no one who seems to dislike people as much as some of these SW do was like that even BEFORE they started work because I just don’t understand what drew them to that profession otherwise.

            What we need to do is provide a system where everyone has at least the opportunity to be the best they can be. Parents need support to be able to understand they are hurting their children and support to be able to parent better. SW need support to manage their case loads and to feel on top of their work.

            No one here – apart from Ian Josephs – is saying there is NO good practice. Your comments have been incredibly welcome in giving the view of a SW in practice. It is sad that it is only you, Kate Wells and Rupert Holderness who have commented substantively. Philip Measures did comment in the beginning but I haven’t heard form him in over a year. Why won’t more SW speak out about the good they do? Little wonder the bias towards the negative becomes confirmed. I appreciate what you say about punitive social media engagement policies, but I have invited anonymous posts on many occasions, and receive none.

            If you are not finding this helpful then by all means step away. But I think the time has come to engage with the fact that our system is not fit for purpose. If you don’t agree with that – fine. But don’t expect me to take happily or lightly criticisms of the work that I have been doing and my efforts to get the word out. Because those criticisms are very unfair and not constructive.

        2. helensparkles

          I’d be horrified if I saw what you say you have. I am glad I haven’t, but I did take your word for it. I haven’t just been lucky; I have worked all over the country with SW who have a humane and empathetic approach to families and their children. As Jason pointed out that might not have been direct involvement with their day to day practice (I wasn’t a fly on the wall) but I can tell what those people are like just as you can when you meet SW in court. You are at the sharp end. By the time cases get to court, SW are going to be certain about the decisions that have taken them there (rightly or wrongly). Maybe I don’t think the whole system is unfit for purpose because I work with families who don’t go to court as well as those that do, I still want to know more about the research and evidence base.

          You are not at the case conference where the CP plan ended after the best part of a year, and everyone had tons of help to change what needed to so pre proceedings could end. I wish I could film that ending so parents could see how happy all the professionals and the family involved were. It wasn’t plain sailing to get there. I haven’t written a post about ‘good’ SW because it is very hard to do without giving any examples and I am not able to talk about cases even anonymously. I would end up giving quite broad examples which would just be pulled apart by anyone who has anything negative to say about SW. I can write more about adoption and alternatives because that can be more thematic and I could write for ever about the need for support, services and early intervention. Many others with wider reach have already done that. SW have to be represented, not speak as individuals, unfortunately the only body which would have had potential to represent all SW was managed out by this government.

          I can tell you are annoyed with me; it was fairly obvious a few comments ago. The conference last year was the first I had heard of the Transparency Project and I didn’t walk out of that room agreeing with everything everyone said, I followed up with Lauren afterwards in regard to her research. In the last year I have as much button clicking as I have time to and been in touch with people to find out more, you know from that how much I do agree with on a number of issues. When I read a blanket statement saying we agreed the CP system wasn’t fit for purpose I want to know more about the justification for that sentence, I am asking questions, but that is engagement not criticism.

          I agree with all of this: “What we need to do is provide a system where everyone has at least the opportunity to be the best they can be. Parents need support to be able to understand they are hurting their children and support to be able to parent better. SW need support to manage their case loads and to feel on top of their work.” & I’d absolutely agree that there are systemic issues. Some of those are about society on a much wider basis.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            Helen, obviously I wasn’t at Sarah’s meeting, but as a member of the public all I can comment on is what I’ve seen on here. And from what I see on here, you are in denial; it’s there in the language with phrases like “if I saw what you say you have”. Isn’t it possible for you to say ” if I saw what you’ve seen”?

            You then say you agree with this quote, “What we need to do is provide a system where everyone has at least the opportunity to be the best they can be. Parents need support to be able to understand they are hurting their children and support to be able to parent better. SW need support to manage their case loads and to feel on top of their work.”

            Well you would agree with that, wouldn’t you? But then who wouldn’t? But it categorically refers ONLY to the parents who ARE hurting their children, and not to the MANY who have been wronged by people in your profession.

            Is there one, just one social worker out there who has the courage to actually condemn some of the poison coming out of child protection today?

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            The reason there are probably so few SW willing to engage with what you say Jason is – in my view – encapsulated by your final comment. We seem to be operating in a system of ‘blame and shame’. You are asking SW to ‘condemn’ the ‘poison’ coming out of child protection.

            For someone who works hard within an ethical framework and sees colleagues doing the same, it is asking a lot to demand that they now ‘condemn’ their colleagues.

            I think this is the problem that has bedevilled the system for many, many years. A child dies and the media want a SW’s head on a platter. No wonder they withdraw and get defensive. There always has to be ‘blame’ there always has to be ‘accountability’. So no one feels that they can have an honest discussion about what went wrong and what we can do about it.

            I have no doubt Helen feels defensive and I think this is born out by some of the comments she has made. I am still smarting at her remark ‘a very small number of people in a room’.

            None of us do well with harsh criticism. Our instinctive reaction is either to withdraw or fight back. Battle lines are drawn. Corners backed into. And nothing ever changes.

            We have to do better. I am quite sure that the vast majority of parents love their children and are doing their best. Just as I am sure that the vast majority of SW want to do a good job and help people be the best they can be. Something is stopping that working at the moment. I have tried to highlight what I think the reasons are on this site. They are many and varied. So to fix it will be hard, but we have to try.

            The only thing I know for sure is that we will never fix it while we seek to isolate, blame and condemn the majority for the failings of the few.

          3. helensparkles

            Denial would be if I was here saying it could never happen or it never does, I am just saying I have never seen it.

          4. helensparkles

            I could tell you that I don’t feel defensive but that might sound defensive.

          5. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Then I would be keen to know what motivated your comment ‘a very small number of people in a room’

            Because I don’t think it was factually accurate and ‘the story I am making up’ (Thanks Brene Brown!) is that it was a deliberate attempt to make us sound like a group of Maggie Tuttleesque single issue fanatics, gathering in some dark room to mutter about satanic ritual abuse.

            I don’t think a group of about 70 lawyers, social workers, academics, psychologists, judges, parents, Cafcass etc, etc who gave up a day of their time to come and discuss issues, can or should be so dismissed.

          6. helensparkles

            It isn’t a criticism of you, your work or anyone there to say that it was a small group of people. Great things start from a small group of people and I admire what you are doing. I had absolutely no intention of making “a deliberate attempt to make us sound like a group of Maggie Tuttleesque single issue fanatics”. I can honestly say (whether anyone believes it or not) I am not here to defend the whole of social work, rooting out bad practice is in the best interests of everyone, and I am always interested in change. SW are agents of change after all.

            In the first instance I was asking for qualification of the assertion about who the “we” was who’d decided the CP system wasn’t fit for purpose, I’d never take something like that at face value, I always want to know my evidence base. Maybe I should have known you would say the conference, given we are on this blog, but I didn’t know that would be your response. I’d expected reference to a wider cohort. Given that it was the conference, I think it is fair to say that it was a relatively small group of people who were all likely to think similarly (given they all attended and were interested) but that you don’t actually know what they did all think. I am only one person in that room and I hadn’t decided that the (entire) CP system wasn’t fit for purpose, you were therefore making assumptions about me which I could tell you were incorrect and there was no vote unless I missed it? All of that seemed very little to justify a statement that a decision had been taken that the CP system wasn’t fit for purpose.

            The conference was held very soon after I had first heard about the Transparency Project, transparency is a subject I feel strongly about. Without over-exposing families who are vulnerable, I think it is really important that everyone can see how courts make their decisions and what SW is. Of course I knew the title of the conference, but I didn’t know what the content would be, and a lot of it didn’t bear any resemblance to the SW I’ve witnessed in my career. That doesn’t mean I dispute it or that I don’t take your word for what you have experienced in yours, it just means I still have questions. You’ve also asked me to take into account who the speakers are, I did when I signed up in the first place, but I have also said I don’t know enough. That isn’t dismissive of anything except my knowledge base and I have also said that I’ve asked Dr Devine for more info, I will ask again. Most of all I want to read the research, I don’t dispute it, I just don’t know enough about it and the open access isn’t very open unless I have missed something (I’m not criticising that either – just saying I want to read more). So overall I walked away wanting to know more about how those conclusions were drawn.

            I hope you will understand that rather than feeling defensive I am feeling a bit ambivalent at the moment about the lack of room for any dissent or questioning of your premise that the CP system isn’t fit for purpose. There wasn’t at the conference either, you have written elsewhere about how I felt it was hostile to SW, I don’t remember using that word but what I actually felt was silenced. I do again. It is perfectly possible that I am not as far down the road as all of you, I have said I haven’t got a fixed position, but if that is the case it still doesn’t work to say I need to take your word for it and the word of all these very senior professional and knowledgeable people who know more than you do. Maybe I really am in the wrong place, maybe this has to be a place where everyone agrees the entire CP system isn’t fit for purpose, whatever their rationale for that.

          7. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Thanks for your reply Helen and I am glad you don’t think I am in the same small room as Maggie Tuttle.

            I hope I always welcome dissent, argument and challenge – proof of that is this website which I have maintained for over two years now and upon which I am frequently challenged.
            But I am not prepared to start arguing about whether or not the CP system is fit for purpose – been there, done that. It isn’t, and things need to change and they need to change NOW.
            So the more time I devote to discussion about what degree of unfitness I am really talking about, the less time I have to do the necessary work.
            Of course you must always look hard at your evidence base, I don’t criticise that for one moment. I hope it reassures Jason and Angelo to hear you say that.
            BUT it wasn’t just this one conference saying the CP system is not fit for purpose. I have been to several other conferences – the most recent being the Humane Social Work conference I have blogged about here.
            Judges are saying it. Parents are certainly saying it. More and more lawyers are getting uneasy.

            I have considered the evidence base and I am satisfied. I now want to move on to the next step. I don’t want to censor anyone who thinks differently but I need to chose how I can best spend my time.

          8. helensparkles

            You’re right that decisions mean you can move on and they need to be taken for exactly that reason. I mentioned the conference on humane SW in one of my comments, I don’t recall it concluding that the entire CP system isn’t fit for purpose, and I have commented about the need for humane SW. You asked me to explain so I did, more than anything because I didn’t want your story to be the one in your head with Tuttle! The conclusion though is really that this and the conference are not the place for anyone who hasn’t made the decision that the whole CP system isn’t fit for purpose because you’ve been there and done that.

    3. Jason

      Hi Angelo.

      Yes, it was a real challenge getting my solicitor to believe that it was me who was telling the truth. She was very dismissive of me at first . I spent ages convincing her, and by the time I had it was almost too late.

      Reply
  23. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your comment,Helen.
    I had not previously thought about LA funding of advocacy services being a reason parents might use to suggest that advocates might be collusive with the authorities.This is a difficult one.
    The imbalance of power is caused partly by the fact that LA’s are immensely powerful and have the finance ( supplied by us,ironically) to obtain legal advice and the best counsel. As it is our money they are spending ,it is perhaps equitable that they also fund each family’s legal representation and counsel.
    That radical change would undoubtably alter the balance of power and parents would not have to rely on the legal funding commission.

    As you have suggested ,there would exist a POSSIBILITY that because the advocates and solicitors are ultimately funded by the LA that they might not be entirely independent ( especially when the same solicitors also act for LA’s in cases).
    The judiciary would have to decide on the issue. I am only a parent but the possibility could be avoided by granting a ‘budget’ to each family rather than a LA funding the services directly and having its own approved lists of contractors etc. etc.

    I am pleased that Sarah has identified the ‘ imbalance of power’ as a major issue and delighted that our discussion can thus move on.

    Constructively,i suggest that another factor in the imbalance is that the LA’s apparently employ and apparently have great influence on the CS which is responsible for CP investigations and assessments. The imbalance often becomes self-evident on those occasions when the Court funds an ISW to get involved. Independent assessments are often diametrically opposed to the previous CS ones.

    How can we tackle that problem? How can the system ensure that assessments are 100% independent? Unfortunately there is a lack of trust in the current system and there are many reasons for it. To restore the trust and achieve Public confidence in the system,what changes can we make? They have to be made!

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I have not suggested anyone is not independent Angelo, just that people might not have confidence that they are when they are, as they don’t with lawyers who work for the LA and families for example. I don’t know all the advocacy services in the country, they are to be mapped I believe which will be helpful.

      Reply
  24. Angelo Granda

    There is a point about the present system which is also worth considering ,readers.
    Theoretically , i think the Children’s Act ,in all its intents and purposes,expects that the Sw’s are to act as parental advocates themselves and give assistance to families .They aren’t supposed to be adversarial.
    Likewise,is it not true that Children’s Guardians are supposed to be completely independent and it is intended that they also work with parents, advise them etc?
    Many parents complain that Guardians adopt an adversarial attitude with them too and make little attempt to work with them. They will go through the motions and make one home visit but following that they appear not to communicate except behind the scenes with the other professionals.They give no independent advice or help to parents.

    Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Is it not the role of the Guardian to work independently in partnership with families and the CS with the object of supporting the child and family? The Child is the top priority not the parents or the LA plans and the child’s best interests are to remain in the home except as a last resort when nothing else will do.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Thank you for all the information and your views,Helen.I appreciate you discussing it all with us. I know you have seen all sorts of terrible neglect and abuse and i fully appreciate that sometimes children have to go into care temporarily.
            Where i differ from you is about ‘proportionality’. I abhor non-consensual adoption under any circumstances because of the emotional disturbance and unhappiness ( mental trorture) that sanction condemns children to for life. However,not only that,i regard any form of permanence plan which separates families long-term for the same reason. When children have to be removed ,it should always be with an eye to rehabilitation to natural family. To me that is more humane.
            The damage done to children in care is tremendous and mums suffer extreme mental and physical torture too. Children and parents should always have hope and the door to rehabilitation should never be closed completely as it is now. Children’s lives are totally ruined and they suffer degradation. It is inhumane .
            Thus orders should be reviewed every six months and change etc. reexamined.
            You don’t agree with that ,do you? So ,we differ about the proportionality of sanctions to circumstances,as i said.
            The problem is that the threshhold are too vague. For example,in one case no neglect was reported by any of the court experts ,by school or by any of the medics who knew the children before removal. No child had ever suffered any physical harm with parents. An anonymous referral was received by the CS and it was later found to be false.Yet the key social worker stated he ‘ thought’ the children were neglected. Although it was not strictly true, the SW reported to Court that the children had shown dramatic improvements in care. So the Judge found ,on the basis of that,the threshhold was crossed and removed the children permanently and the younger one separated permanently from his sister and placed for adoption because he was only four. I don’t think that was a proportionate care-plan and i believe the Court decision was disproportionate. What do you think? Before you say you will not comment on cases without seeing the full case papers,take my word for it that what i say is true .I am not asking you to decide the case. I am not asking you to judge whether the SW was wrong. I am asking do you think that decision was proportionate.
            BTW the child psychologists who assessed the boy for the Court stated that the child was securely attached to both parents and his sister.
            To me, significant harm and the risk of it in the future is too vague a term.
            I think that such extreme measures should only be imposed in the direst circumstances and only when something approaching deliberate malice from parents towards the child/children can be shown.
            So perhaps you can tell us what you regard ( not what the law says or what the rigid policy imperatives say) as proportionate to permanent removal?
            I have told you my idea of it.You tell us yours. Then we can discuss compromises and try to close the gap.

          2. helensparkles

            Thresholds aren’t vague.
            You are underestimating the damage caused by non malicious acts.
            Children would be very damaged by moving in and out of care.
            A court couldn’t make a decision based on that information.

  25. Hols

    In reply to what Angelo was saying under my post: yes it does feel as if a lot of professionals are taking families down with false narratives.

    In my case when my daughter was a baby I met some lovely social workers – one of them spent ages showing me how to express milk – these must have been connected with sure start I think. It wasn’t until my daughter was about four that I was suffering from such severe fatigue that my friends were getting concerned; two of my friends, and I as well, kept phoning social services and trying to find out how they could help. It was eventually agreed to give my daughter respite care for one weekend a month so that I could rest. I was suffering from debilitating levels of stress, tiredness and anxiety. The social worker who did the assessment said that there were no parenting concerns, and my daughter was thriving, but she was going to make my daughter a child in need so that my case would remain open to services and I would not have to keep asking for help over and over again.

    I was worried that the team that were organising the respite were called “Child Protection and Welfare” – I emailed the social worker who had made the referral and said I was worried about being connected to something with “Child protection” in it, and I asked her straight out if she thought my daughter needed protection from me. She said absolutely not, it’s just the generic name of the team. So my daughter got a different social worker who needed to set up the respite. This woman came round for coffee, drove my daughter to the respite ( I have no car) and she was nice and friendly. She asked for my counsellor’s number, so that they could “support” me, and I gave it to her.

    I think it was the fourth respite, when I accompanied my daughter when the social worker drove her down to the placement, which was nearly two hours drive from me. Very nice long chat about life with the social worker on the way back, and I stopped off in the supermarket on the way and got her some pretty flowers to thank her.

    A few days later, instead of getting my daughter back, I got the social worker, her manager and my counsellor all arriving on my doorstep. I was then advised that two weeks before there had been a “strategy meeting” about me, held by the social worker, who had then taken dramatically fabricated minutes from the meeting to a “threshold meeting” where, on the basis of further melodramatic fabrications from the social worker, the LA solicitor decided that threshold had been reached. None of the people in the strategy meeting got to see the minutes in which they’d been misrepresented, so of course this all only came out later; the minutes had my counsellor as saying I’d threatened to take my life and my child’s life – she had never said this, and I had never said this, but this helpful little snippet of disinformation, which originated in the social worker’s case file, was manipulated into the meeting minutes.

    So my counsellor couldn’t clarify things either, because the local authority had not told her that they were using misinformation they were purporting was from her, as the case against me. The LA didn’t make the meeting minutes available to my solicitor until the day AFTER the first hearing. The fabrications were shocking. I only got to see the “threshold minutes” about one and a half years later, when I was making a stage two complaint. The local BBC came round and interviewed me, saying they were shocked that the council were allowing workers simply to LIE like this. The police told me these people aren’t teflon, they are public servants, they can be removed. Well, not really.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      If there was a strategy discussion, something has happened which needs investigating. Of course the counsellor could correct information she felt was not accurate. The LA would not have been able to use the minutes for the purposes of the hearing if they had not also provided them to your solicitor, so they had other evidence?

      Reply
      1. Hols

        Sorry – only just saw this so I will comment. No – nothing had happened. The social worker held the strategy meeting. She asked for my counsellor’s number “so that we can support you” I gave her my counsellor’s number. The social worker did not tell me that she had any concerns about me, so I had no chance to tell her she did not need to be concerned, or that she was mistaken. She, however, arrived in my counsellor’s office out of the blue and said (according to my counsellor) that her managers were putting pressure on her to take my child into care. My counsellor said that there was a risk of me committing suicide if that happened. So…. the social worker swung it round to say that there needed to be a strategy meeting because of what my counsellor had said. The social worker and her manager falsified the minutes and then took them to their legal panel. The social worker then told more lies about me at the threshold meeting. On the basis of her disinformation it was decided that the threshold had been met. That was it. There was no other evidence. The other “evidence” was the social worker’s opinions in a legal document. The social worker did not use the minutes for the hearing. She used them to fool her legal team that there needed to be a hearing. I hope you get it now. I’m beginning to feel like a dissident gulag victim on trial for being one of the OGPU.

        Reply
  26. Angelo Granda

    To all readers, the inspiration behind Sarah’s post was the lack of empathy,emotion and compassion. We have read many comments over 200 which is a higher number than on most threads.
    Sw’s and lawyers inevitably,Sarah hints, have to remain detached emotionally and that is understandable.They operate in a circumspect world.

    The CPR is a resource open to everyone,a Public resource. If the organisers wish to carry out useful research and wish to really learn about the good and bad aspects opf social work and particularly about Humanity ,emotion and compassion, i have a suggestion which they should consider at CPR conference 2016 .
    Use some of your resources to sponsor a poetry competition open to Looked after and adopted children. Send messages nationwide inviting poems and entries and offer a prize and a CPR award ( an honour) to the winners.
    Then we will all really get to see the truth. Not inventive narratives.The truth from the mouths of babes.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Poetry competitions have been held for children in care and adoptees. They tend to reflect what I always say which is that children would always prefer to be at home with their parents, if only their parents would stop doing xyz. That is a broad theme but most children are happy that they have a family they can grow up with safely despite the problems.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Thank you for your opinion, Helen. Against that I have to report to readers that from the earliest stages, the CS subject children to false narratives and brainwashing techniques designed to mislead them.They have specially written picture books containing information that their Mums and DADS are unable to care for them ( whether true or not), telling them the difference between foster-care and adoptive ‘new’ ,kindly Mums and Dads. The books are like dreamland to children, depicting lovely new houses,bedrooms of their own, ponies,kittens,puppies and other pets all the child’s for the asking.
        I saw a t.v. documentary which showed this brainwashing in detail.A social worker was going through the pages with infant children. At the same time they were telling them how nice it would be to have new families and asking the children leading questions such as ” wouldn’t you prefer a lovely new Mummy and Daddy than staying with your foster-carer?
        I am sure i don’t really need to tell readers that not once were the young ‘brainwashees’ asked “Would you prefer to go home to be with your real Mum and Dad? Or When you were at home, did x,y and z happen ?
        These frontline practises are despicable ( designed to make the CS aims easier to impose. Inhumanity the easy way.

        The CVPR should hold its own poetry competition or an essay competition then the truth will be there for all to see.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          What you can’t see on those documentaries are the heartbreaking conversations social workers have with children about why they can’t go home, that would be a complete invasion of privacy for them and their family, and nobody would expose them to that. As I say, all children would prefer to be at home, SW know that, there is no brainwashing and it is unhelpful to suggest otherwise. there will be any number of conversations whilst children are in home, while they are in foster care, and when a court makes a decision. It is a process of making sure children understand their own story, nobody even blames their parents either, we would say it is really sad that they were doing xyz so couldn’t look after the children properly.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Fact: The children are subjected to brainwashing techniques ,and misinformation about their real parents coupled with a lack of opportunity to express their true thoughts at the time when they might make a difference. See various research on their voices not being heard which has been mentioned before.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Readers, it is true and has been proven. Apparently to con children into compliance to make it easier and more practicable to traffic them abroad ( see stories of children illicitly transported to Australia in the 20th century) many of them were deceived into believing their parents were dead! Shameful but true.

          3. helensparkles

            I wasn’t talking about Australia at any time, I was talking about practice here and now, here being the UK and the 21st century.

  27. Angelo Granda

    Perhaps also a competition for Mums. They are the next most affected by child-protection.
    Never mind fathers,they did not actually bear the children and they are somewhat less emotionally involved .somewhat stronger physically than Mums and more able to cope.There responsibility is to children and Mums.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I think you marginalise dad’s and make some gender assumptions there. I don’t know Jason but it doesn’t sound like he was less emotionally involved or affected because he isn’t the mother.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Thanks, Helen. Dads aren’t “stronger”. And there are increasing numbers of single dads out there. When cases get highjacked by interest groups – be they feminist or men’s rights – it all goes downhill.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Tell me about it, Jason. Sorry about missing you out but I am a lone parent too right now and ,in my experience and in my view Mums are more vulnerable and less able to cope with gross inhumanity and the attached emotional problems than we are.
          Yes we suffer too and ,in addition, we have the extra responsibility for our wives as well as our children so it can be even worse for us.
          To see your child suffering is heartbreaking and to see one’s wife suffering immense torment also is just as heartbreaking.
          I would love to see your child’s impressions of her life up to now in verse.I imagine they would be interesting !

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            I don’t agree with your gender bias in any sense. In the 21st century there should be a nod to equality and here that means the recognition that men suffer just as much as women and neither are any better at coping with terrible things because terrible things are difficult to cope with. More men commit suicide than women for a number of reasons, the first grim reason is that they use methods that are more likely to succeed because of their violence, but the other really important factor is that they are less likely to seek help. Stating that they are not only responsible for themselves but any pain of a spouse is an incredible burden, we should look after each other. I would also add that your gender assumptions are probably even less applicable in CP. where most of the parents we work with have been damaged by their own experiences. Male or female, they will be more vulnerable as a result.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Jason,when i wrote ‘Never mind fathers’ i was just being unselfish. I give precedence to women and children.I hope other fathers can understand that.

  28. Angelo Granda

    I have no intention of discussing gender assumptions, suicide rates, feminism,interest groups , the theories and biased reports of SOME cp professionals or whether men are stronger physically than women. All cases are different. I am merely stating one parents view.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Perhaps you need to personalise your comments so it is clear they are just about you because your comment sounds like you think all men and all women respond the way you say. Hence my response about gender assumptions.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Okay,okay. Helen,Sarah,Jason, we should treat everyone equally and have a poetry competition for Dads too!

        Reply
  29. Sam

    I think Angelo is right. Mums tend to be primary carer’s and especially working class mums( who are largely the class that go through care proceedings) are less likely to have a career see their primary function in life to nurture their children. In an ordinary family split if the father walks out that’s OK woe betide the mother who does she is automatically dubbed a bad woman.
    We may have equality in theory we certainly don’t have it in practice. Angelo has talked about before tearing a baby from a mothers breast. As a former breast feeding Mum I agree with him completely. I would also love to know how the attachment theorists can work out that a baby that is exclusively breast fed could not be attached to the mum, as nothing can be more bonding in my eyes anyway. Social workers tend to be primarily woman, I am sure some have more empathy for mothers, unfortunately my experience has been the complete opposite.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      It is generally true that women are the primary carers for children but children for whom others are the primary carer form just as secure an attachment with them, with fathers for example. Unfortunately breast feeding isn’t the only thing a baby needs to form an attachment so it is possible for babies who are breast fed to have an insecure attachment to their mother. This could be if for example they are not always fed when they are hungry and distrust about when their needs might be met is established. You’re right, mothers are criticised more for leaving their children, whether to climb a mountain or to start a new relationship, that isn’t just either. The media are terrible at that kind of stuff. I didn’t really want to open up a whole debate about gender either but I do take issue with men feeling less than women about their children.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Of course,i know there are exceptions to this rule. My opinion especially applies to younger men.When men become older and more responsible ,they can learn how to care for a baby but even then it isn’t ideal.

        Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Sam,i am glad you agree with me. Mothers are natural child-carers and by their genetic make-up,hormones etc. they are attuned to child care ,especially the care of babies and infants,in my view.
      Men are most definitely not ,in my opinion; they are not attuned to looking after baies and infants in particular .In fact ,i would go further than that and say that it can be irresponsible to leave babies in the care of a male for any length of time. A woman should always be present.If Mum is ill,in hospital or she has to go out then gran,sister or a girl responsible baby-sitter should be called upon.I just don’t think males can care for a baby and give it the attention needed. I can imagine that in some cases when men pick up a constantly crying baby and shake the child , it may not be with any real malice. They just cannot cope and don’t know what to do. Other men would know the solution is to rock the cradle or make another bottle. If a man does drink in the home or smoke dope,as many do these days,he might lose control all together and bash the baby which is deliberate malice. Yet i don’t suppose it is premeditated. He just is not a capable,responsible carer in many cases.
      All comments welcome about this.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        Many men look after children very successfully on their own, widowed or divorced, and I hope none of them read this questioning of their ability to look after a child without harming them.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          I am quite prepared to accept that some men can learn to care for a baby and that in no way can we criticise this when it happens. Some can be,but they are the exception.Most men are not as gentle as women and boys do not engage with their mothers when caring for younger brothers and sisters as girls do. Nor do they tend to engage with cleaning,hygiene,cooking meals etc.
          Especially in working class families ,boys engage with their Dads in male orientated tasks such as heavy manual work and decorating etc. They often have larger,less nimble hands and tend to be more physical and rough than girls in everything they do. To do be reared otherwise runs the risk of making ‘pansies ‘ of them.
          That is not ‘politically correct ‘ in terms which present day SW’s and other do-gooders might use but nevertheless it is a fact of life. Reality. If SW’s want to arrive at realistic appraisals , around child-care then professionals really should LISTEN to parents and pay less attention to p.c. nonsense. LISTEN! Don’t lay the law down on the basis of arrant nonsense and get with it for heavens sake.
          After saying all that, all praise to those fathers who do learn to care properly for young babies by force of circumstances ( such as the illness or absence of Mum.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            What childcare workers do is to look at the individuals without making sweeping generalisations, as you are.

    3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Attachment IS NOT BONDING. This is the crucial difference. A baby becomes securely attached to a care giver when that care giver provides consistent, reliable, attuned parenting. Disorganised or other kinds of insecure attachment flow from a carer who is unreliable, inconsistent and not attuned. It is quite possible to breast feed your child, feel all kinds of ’emotion’ towards your child and yet do your child harm by not being a consistent and attuned care giver.
      I do not like putting women on a pedestal as the ‘uber parent’ as it is just a short step away from that to saying that this is women’s only role and the only thing she is fit for. Yes, women who breast feed are doing something a man cannot. But that represents such a short space of a child’s life. I would rather we promoted both mothers and fathers as important for children – because they both are.

      EDIT – sorry, I realise ‘attuned’ is jargon. What – as I understand it – this means is that an ‘attuned’ parent is one who can recognise a child’s cues and act on them. So the child who is hungry gets fed, the child who is scared gets a hug, the child who is acting up gets an authoritative boundary set (nb NOT ‘authoritarian). The child whose needs are never met – or worse, gets needs met inconsistently and unpredictably – is likely to suffer harm as they grow. This isn’t the ‘psychobabble of charlatans’ as Ian Josephs would say. Its real, its documented, its proven. I see it in many of my adult clients.

      If in doubt, watch this from Dr Perry at the Child Trauma Academy. Long, but worth it. Childhood emotional abuse can manifest itself in physical illnesses in later life, as well as mental ill health. this is why professionals are so keen to intervene.

      And it is why ‘love is not enough’.

      https://vimeo.com/146858278

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        QUOTE: ‘love is not enough’: UNQUOTE

        Why don’t you ‘tweet’ that soundbite, Sarah? I think it is significant and somewhat controversial . It is a new take on humanity.
        ‘LOVE IS NOT ALL WE NEED’
        Given that the most of humanity is in agreement that the opposite is the case, that throughout the centuries most human philosophies , religious and secular are based on the principle that love is all, your view should be given more exposure .
        In your ideal society ,in order to avoid the possibility of emotional disturbance and its serious effects including illness in later life, should we consider eradicating emotions and love altogether because it isn’t enough? Too risky to allow emotions perhaps! If parents and children show excessive love and emotion , are the children safe?
        Not really. It will be in their best interests to be taken to a loveless care home run by the authorities.Do you believe the myth that children thrive in care?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          It depends entirely on how you define ‘love’.

          Many parents I deal with seem to think that ‘love’ equates to ‘feeling strongly about something’.

          I LOVE my child they tell me – but they also LOVE drinking, taking drugs, staying out late, getting up late, not cleaning the house etc, etc, etc.

          ‘love’ is a verb. It is what we DO that counts, not what we think or feel, however strong those feelings are, however much thinking about your child makes you want to cry – if you cannot or will not meet that child’s even basic needs, your ‘love’ is pretty useless.

          So I stand by what I say. Which is what I usually do. Otherwise I wouldn’t say it.

          There is no ‘myth’ that children thrive in care. Everyone is well aware of dire outcomes for children in care. Hence push for better options such as adoption.

          Reply
        2. helensparkles

          The state doesn’t make a great parent based on the outcomes we all know about where children in care are overrepresented in all of the cohorts we would rather they weren’t. It is important to know that those outcomes are also the impact of trauma and abuse which was the antecedent for them being in care. The UK does family based care rather than homes, residential settings are more common elsewhere, although they work well for some children. Some children thrive in care, but even for those children, the experiences they had prior to entering care are extremely damaging long term. That the person who is supposed to love, protect you and look after you properly didn’t is devastating.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Thanks for the replies.
            Sarah,I know from your previous comments that you are very interested in the use of language so please forgive me for the irony in my comment above.
            You criticise the language used by common folk for its rhetoric etc. yet you appear to allow yourself to be influenced by heartless and soulless ‘newspeak” and ideology .theories etc which you see on sources like Vimeotape( who are they?) and factions with names like Brene and Lundy ( who are they and who bankrolls them?)
            Who is more of a danger to the administration of justice,those who use rhetoric or these newspeak practitioners? Who is the most human?
            Think abou itt, the trend we are seeing now has been predicted in the classics by authors such as Wells,Huxley and Orwell not to mention in non-fiction by wise old birds like Churchill.
            Anyone who disagrees can be given the cold shoulder with accusations they are inventing a false narrative.No one evendares thinks they might be right
            Put yourself into the position of a respondent and ask yourself whether you would rather be assessed by politically correct perfectionist cp staff ,part SW.part risk assessor,part safety expert,quasi,psychologist,jack of all trades but master of not very much except switching on a computer and clicking on files or would you prefer a jury of peers?

            Think before you answer.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Bree Brown is not a ‘faction’. She is a very good writer and speaks eloquently about issues of shame and the need for empathy. She is about as far away from ‘heartless and souless’ ideology as you can get. I recommend you read some of her books if you want to get a sense of what modern SW really should be about.
            ‘Lundy’ I assume is ‘Lundy Bancroft’ the author of Why Does He Do That about violent coercive and abusive men. I haven’t read it but those who do say its a brilliant book and describes very well the mindset of an abuser and the ‘script’ they often follow.
            No one ‘bankrolls’ them. They both write books that sell well and earn money from that.

            I don’t know whether to laugh or just shrug my shoulders at your frankly lunatic suggestion that I am some proponent of a Stalinist authoritarian world view, who would have Orwell at my heels.

            I am making the obvious point that ‘love’ is often a catch all word for nothing much at all. ‘Feeling strong emotions’ is not love as I understand it. And it is certainly not the ‘love’ that a child needs. A child needs a parent who is able to keep the child in mind, meet their basic needs at least most of the time and respond to them emotionally at least most of the time.

            I know many parents who say they ‘love’ their children. But they can’t meet either basic physical or emotional needs of that child.

            So no, love is most definitely not enough. And it doesn’t make me Stalin to say so.

            Of course I would not want to be assessed by some ‘politically correct perfectionist’. I don’t think that describes the majority of SW in this country. And even if it did, it certainly doesn’t describe the Judges, who would be making the eventual decision about me. Having worked with a variety of Judges over 17 years I would be reasonably happy to let them decide.

            I would much rather a Judge decided than a ‘jury of my peers’. I have seen how people react in a knee jerk, prejudiced and unthinking way. I don’t want to be judged by ‘people’. I want to be judged by a trained professional.

          3. helensparkles

            I don’t understand most of your post and no idea who Lundy is but if you mean Dr. Brené Brown? She is a compassionate woman and social worker mainly involved in research around vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. This includes guilt and empathy and she has written some books that are just really really helpful for anyone http://brenebrown.com I’ll leave the rest to Sarah who probably has more idea.

            This judgement might be helpful in regard to threshold and harm.
            “Hedley J. in Re: L (Care: Threshold Criteria) [2007] 1 F.L.R. 2050:
            “What about the court’s approach, in the light of all that, to the issue of significant harm? In order to understand this concept and the range of harm that it’s intended to encompass, it is right to begin with issues of policy. Basically it is the tradition of the UK, recognised in law, that children are best brought up within natural families. Lord Templeman, in Re KD (A Minor: Ward) (Termination of Access) [1988] 1 AC 806, [1988] 2 FLR 139, at 812 and 141 respectively, said this: ‘The best person to bring up a child is the natural parent. It matters not whether the parent is wise or foolish, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, provided the child’s moral and physical health are not in danger. Public authorities cannot improve on nature.’

            There are those who may regard that last sentence as controversial but undoubtedly it represents the present state of the law in determining the starting point. It follows inexorably from that, that society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting, including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent. It follows too that children will inevitably have both very different experiences of parenting and very unequal consequences flowing from it. It means that some children will experience disadvantage and harm, while others flourish in atmospheres of loving security and emotional stability. These are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the state to spare children all the consequences of defective parenting. In any event, it simply could not be done””.

          4. helensparkles

            I think Brene Brown would have a lot to say about the story you tell yourself Angelo when you describe her as a faction.

          5. Angelo Granda

            Why not laugh AND shrug your shoulders AND write me off as a member of the lunatic fringe? Exactly what I am talking about!

            Stalin has nothing to do with it, I’m thinking of politically-correct perfectionist authoritarianism based on an oppressive world view. The danger is clear and the oppressive measures are much easier to implement when the authorities invoke ‘best interests of children’, the risk of harm, health and safety of the little children as you know.

            Orwell did write ‘Animal Farm’ which is renowned as a critique of socialist materialism and how it can result in oppression and rule by supremacists, that is true but there is no mention of mass murderers or politicians like Stalin.
            I would be talking of ‘1984’ which alludes to a prediction of life in the UK as run by a controlling elite ( not necessarily either a socialist one). Propaganda, political correctness and control of the use of language (one of your interests).

            Please don’t bring Stalin, Hitler or other particularly oppressive despots masquerading as statesmen such as Mao or Saddam Hussein into it. I didn’t.

            I refer you back to your post about photographing your child. That post was your own work and relates to my way of thinking.

            Brene Brown is a member of the social work faction. She writes books that sell well to child-protection professionals particularly social workers. One of the general theories is that rather than accept concerns and change, parents are likely to have invented a false narrative. The theory appeals to SW’s because it allows them to avoid the truth on account of the ‘likelihood’ it is false without looking at it and proving it false.

            Sarah, many SW’s are politically-correct perfectionists and Judges are influenced by their assessments. They use risk assessments and safety values not to help families but as a means of erecting barriers to avoid doing so. As excuses to justify removing children from families. If there are no concerns about a parent and no reason not to allow a child to live at home, then they will invoke a ‘risk assessment’ ,safety assessment and anything else they can dream up.

          6. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, the reason i brought this subject up waqs because,in my opinion, you are the one who keeps repeating one consistent fit-all argument not I.

            You consistently keep going on and on about parents being unable to accept and face up to faults and inventing excuses and false narratives . You appear to be over-occupied with ‘extremist, lunatic conspiracy theorists’ who just happen to be opponents of the ‘system’.You also criticise their use of language despite to the right of free speech.

            Do you ever think the SW faction might be leading you by the nose. As you are a lawyer , how can you possibly support any theory which attempts to ‘negate’ the evidence of one party to a case?

          7. helensparkles

            I don’t know Dr. Brené Brown’s book sales demographic but you should look at her website, you wouldn’t know she is a SW necessarily from what she writes, which is about any human being’s emotions, not social work. That she happens to be a social worker is more relevant to her understanding of the human condition rather than anything to do with child protection. Brent does write about the stories we tell ourselves and they would apply to anyone. She isn’t a SW text, just a writer and researcher who tells us more about ourselves and other people, which is helpful.

          8. helensparkles

            Political correctness is a term which is used to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. It is about making sure what we do doesn’t offend, it has very little to do with anything except for that.

            Your view of safety and risk is about those factors creating a barrier, you appear to be happy for children to be harmed in a way that ECHR, UK legislation, policy and practice are not. Article 8 is a qualified right not an absolute right, it is consistent with UK family law. By the time a case reaches a courtroom, which is mainly what we are talking about here, people are very worried about the children. That isn’t just SW, it is health, education and any other involved agencies. Nobody actively wants to remove children, they want them to be safe, and they are not safe in any of the alternative scenarios you have suggested.

            I don’t think anyone was laughing, shrugging or writing you off. I don’t see any mention of Stalin, Hilter, Mao or Hussain anywhere other than in your posts, have I missed something?

          9. Angelo Granda

            Helen, You did miss something. I merely responded to
            Sarah’s comment of May 8th. She thinks i am suggesting she was a proponent of Stalinist views. She never mentioned Stalin by name but used the word ‘Stalinist’.I connected her use of the word with Stalin and followed on from it.
            You most definitely have not seen any mention of despots in any other of my posts.I hope you will accept that.

          10. helensparkles

            I found it “I don’t know whether to laugh or just shrug my shoulders at your frankly lunatic suggestion that I am some proponent of a Stalinist authoritarian world view, who would have Orwell at my heels.” It was an adjective really in response to your comment.

          11. Angelo Granda

            Thank you very much for your interest and comments,Helen.
            Would you agree with me that ,taking into account Sarah,s interest in the use of language and of our rights to free speech etc, my mention of ‘newspeak’ and classic literature was pretty average comment. Just the mention of it incited Sarah to laugh, shrug and consider writing me off as a member of a lunatic fringe. Just thinking and discussing such things was enough to write me off.
            Actually, Sarah’s reaction and your own give me cause for even greater concern.

          12. helensparkles

            http://brenebrown.com Angelo, just have a look at the website for Brene Brown & listen to the Ted Talk, there isn nothing sinister, PC or even very social worky about it.

            There is nothing average about your comments, they reference what is conspiracist or authoritarianism, they are what they are. I don’t see any curtailment of free speech here but you are aligned with your own comments.

          13. Angelo Granda

            I appreciate your comments, Helen, but you really must refrain from putting your own spin upon particular words and expressions to fit with what ever you prefer them to mean. Your definition of the term political correctness is quite different to the one in the dictionary.
            Your definition is a wrong one. Furthermore, you are not only foolish but inhumane if you think it is possible to ‘make sure what we do doesn’t offend’. It is against human rights to control the public’s use of language and the behavior of citizens to the extent which would ensure that we can all go through life without ever being offended. Any attempt to impose restrictions on our use of language and any other policies or measures designed to achieve that would not only be totally doomed to failure but also oppressive.
            I really do not think that you have much appreciation of freedom and civil liberties. Freedom means that, as long as one does not break the law, one can say what one wants and offend who one wants. Likewise, others have the freedom to offend one’s own sensitivity and criticise as much as they like. Citizens have the right to say what they want and write what they want. They have freedom of speech. No one can take it away from them as long as they don’t break the law and the law would not be as stupid as to try and stop people offending one another.
            So ,I am afraid it has nothing to do with that contrary to what you tell us. If you don’t believe me look it up. Think about it logically too. Where would it leave us, especially at a child-protection conference or in a court of justice if the truth offended the authorities or the Judge?
            Helen, if you don’t mind, how have I referenced what is ‘conspiracist’? (your new word not mine)? How can there possibly be a conspiracy .You have openly declared that you mean to ensure no-one ever offends another, that can’t be a conspiracy.
            Political refers to the state authorities and political- correctness is mainly to do with not offending the authorities; it has always meant that. If one wishes to be p.c. ,one should not say anything to offend the authorities. The danger is that language controls can be used to suppress the truth.
            Thank you for the link to Brene. I dare say her work is good work .She is a smart person, however, as with all theories, the problems arise when SW’s apply them to families to whom they don’t apply. A few parents may invent narratives but not many. Most are honest. Having said that, I do admire your loyalty to your colleague.
            I don’t want to offend any SW out there but if you would pay a little less attention to text book theories, computer links etc. and paid a little bit more attention to the facts of a case, it would be in the best interests of children.

          14. helensparkles

            I gave you a dictionary definition of political correctness, different dictionary I guess. It turns out there are several definitions, who’d have thought there could be different perspectives on the same thing.
            I didn’t say anything to contradict your view that you can say what you like if you don’t break the law. Please don’t ascribe a view where there isn’t one.
            You have posted several comments which indicate you think people conspire together, judges believe social work assessments rather than parents, unless you validate the assessment process and the SW as the expert, you are assuming they are all in it together.
            “You have openly declared that you mean to ensure no-one ever offends another, that can’t be a conspiracy.” I absolutely haven’t.
            I don’t have any particular loyalty to Brene Brown, either as a social worker or anything else – you are just getting her wrong so I suggest you stop critiquing her without any knowledge base unless you are going to follow the link.
            You again dispute the theory base again, well I spend my own time making sure I know about research, family law etc. and my work time with families and their issues – cases as you call them. They are all people and all individuals, most appreciate me helping them with what will work. Those who don’t do the things that we work on together usually aren’t interested in changing what needs to be changed. I haven’t met a family I can’t work with yet, and if the first thing doesn’t work for them, we try another. Together. They are the experts on their children.

          15. Angelo Granda

            Thanks as always for your reply, Helen. If I criticise anyone or anything , I do so with justification. I sense,on occasion, that you misread much of what I actually write.

            Let me go over your last few comments and make some points:

            Re- Dr Brene Browns book sale demographics. Lawyers buy books by other lawyers, miners buy books by mining engineers and SW’s tend to buy and read books by other SW’s. Generally , whilst I might find small parts of Brenes books interesting , most of them are boring to ordinary folk and her books will mostly be read by other SW’s. Looking at her work , it oozes social work theory. Why should we parents want to tell ourselves stories? SW’s may wish to invent narratives and live Walter Mitty lives as child savers but the average parent has no other interest than reality. When faced with the truth, it is human nature to accept it not deny it.
            How do you come to the opinion that I appear happy for children to be harmed? I am never happy for children to be harmed and have never written any thing to suggest I am. Of course, children are not safe in the less invasive alternatives I have suggested. Neither can they ever be completely safe in care or at home. It is a social workers duty to consider all less invasive alternatives to removal.
            You are not wrong to state that I am aligned with my own comments. I do tend to do this and I think most folk do. I agree that I denounce authoritarianism – who doesn’t? However, my comments have consistently denied that there is any conspiracy by any faction against any other in child-protection particular by the LA’s against the General Public. Likewise, Sarah, Ian, Jason, Sam and most regular commentators deny there is a conspiracy of any kind. Some believe there is a conspiracy theory but I don’t go along with them.
            What you have to remember is that most parents who comment on this forum come from the position where they have been there and they know the actual truth. CP professionals can put their own sanitized version of it to the General Public but not to us. I have heard lower court judges say openly that they ‘prefer’ the evidence of SW assessments to the evidence of parents because it is ‘professional’ evidence. I have seen a High Court judgment which refuses a parent leave to appeal on the grounds that ,despite the evidence of a parent which disproved it, the lower court judge was quite right to exercise his reasonable discretion and to prefer the professional evidence. This is not a conspiracy and I have never accused the judges of collusion either.
            I confess I do have many faults but I hope I admit them and apologise to them.
            I have to confess that I tend towards over-empathizing with child-protection professionals but only because I hate seeing children suffering harm, that is only natural. I have been consistent with my praise for good social work and good social workers over many months now and I have recognised what a good job they do in most cases. I am sparing with my criticisms of comments from social workers and tend towards saying nothing and allowing the comments to speak for themselves. However,on occasions, I do not shirk slating bad social work and I am like Kate Wells in that respect. She criticises the system with honesty and she is constructive . She balances praise when due and criticism when due. I hope readers agree her approach is the right one.
            As regards Brene Brown, I have read some but not all of her theories and have written that she is a smart cookie that writes good work and that her books sell well. Why do you suggest I stop critiquing her work? When have I denied that some SW’s and parents invent false narratives?
            I am fairly good at taking criticism and usually ignore it when it doesn’t apply. I ask you to read my comments with a little more care.

            If anything,i may be over-critical of the judicial system and family court but i try to temper all my comments.I don’t wish to offend anyone. Don’t invent a your own false narrative about me!

          16. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I bought my copy of Brene Brown’s ‘Rising Strong’ in the WH Smiths at Plymouth Station. This is clearly a book that MANY people are interested in reading. I don’t imagine Smiths stocks books based on the off chance that a SW might be passing by. I am afraid I think you are simply blinkered and not genuinely willing to take on another world view.

            Many of the examples she gives are about how your relationships with other humans in general can be improved – from your spouse, to your work colleagues, to your children. How on earth could anyone object to that? Her central point is that the stories we tell ourselves about why others act the way they do can get in the way of us understanding what is really going on and what we contribute to that process. Its about self evaluation. Its a crucial life skill. Its not some do goody airy fairy social work faffing about. Its about what makes us human.

          17. helensparkles

            There aren’t enough SW in the world to account for Brene Brown’s book sales, so there must be an awful lot of ordinary people being bored.

  30. Angelo Granda

    SW’s should not base decisions which affect human rights on statistics,psychological theories,tick-box exercises or political correctness. It leads to the mistrust in them which we see too often. They appear inhumane because those decisions are unrealistic,if that makes any sense.
    It is all about individual cases;they are all different so we must stick to actual facts not possibilities and probabilities.
    We should never make any assumptions about men,women or look at cases in a general way. In all my life,for example, i have never seen violence committed by men within a family. To most men,it is absolutely unacceptable for the strong to exercise their physical superiority over a weaker man let alone a child or a woman. It is absolutely taboo to strike or disrespect ones wife (just as with one’s mother) and even if it can be acceptable in certain circumstances to smack a boy to discipline him ,most men would never impose anything excessive and it is never acceptable for a man to discipline a girl. Yet it seems to be assumed that men are violent. Not so, i have been in the services ,i have worked down the mines,in the construction industry and i have been in all sorts of rough situations and i have never seen much physical violence amongst men.At work men are not constantly fighting and physical violence would result in the sack. Jason, do you meet many violent men except inside a boxing ring?.I don’t. They aren’t even violent on the football pitch or in the heated situations on the rugby pitch these days.Men are very good at self-control,i have found.
    I don’t want to generalise about SW’s either but i just cannot resist saying,on this occasion, that the only real bully i can remember at school went on to become a social worker,ironically.
    We cannot generalise about women either but i have to admit that i have seen violence between women on many occasions .On one occasion,a male security guard attempted to break it up and ended up with a broken rib.I have never,ever seen a woman violent to her own child. Yet, if a child sustains an unexplained bruise,SW’s too often assume the parents are to blame.
    Yet i will never disagree with you Sam or SW’s that there are violent controlling men even though ,not having seen it, i think it is a very small percentage of men we are dealing with. I suggest most of it is caused by drink/drugs etc. and moral badness not by deprivation.Deprived men and deprived social groups are often the most gentle in spirit. Wealthy people can be the most violent of people. There are bad and good members of the same family and very often, far from following in fathers footsteps, it is more likely that a son will rebel and deliberately resolve not to be like a bad father. Likewise girls will resolve not to be like a bad mother.
    If problematic families and violent behaviour has increased in the last twenty years or so ,it is more likely to be the lack of moral instruction in the classroom not any cycle of deprivation. Indeed in the early and mid 20th century needy,working class families were often happy ones despite the challenges faced.
    So ,Sam , consider other causes than the Cof D. For example, the lack of moral and ethical training in schools ( dare i mention religious instruction).
    Doestievsky once wrote of Russia that it was only Russian Orthodox Church teaching of children which stood between that country and barbarianism! Does that apply to our country given all the changes to society which have evolved over the last fifty years?
    Perhaps this does not fit on this thread,though.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Can i just add that i have never ‘smacked’ either of my children,i just have never considered it and thinking back to when i was a child ,my father ( we were working class) never smacked us children. The only one who ever smacked us was Mum who would do it on the back of our legs but not maliciously. To stop misbehaviour ,she would threaten to tell Dad when he came home and he would give us a ‘good hiding’ but he never did, it was just a threat .
      I think that was the general rule those days. The use of alcohol in the house was not common amongst families except at Christmas and for a man to go home drunk was greatly frowned upon. Loud arguing and rowing was a cause of shame because all the neighbours would react and violence by a man towards his wife was just not tolerated either by the other members of the family or the neighbours . A man who hit his wife would be castigated and dealt with by family. The wife would report it to the elders herself straight away,not stand for it. Unfortunately,communities have changed so much and families are often miles apart. The way of life i describe is not the norm anymore.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        I don’t know where you lived but years ago everyone else was busy turning a blind eye to violence and the place saying it was just a domestic!

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Not true,Helen.As i wrote ,family and neighbours consistently reacted strongly against domestic arguments and violence.
          The only ones busy ‘turning a blind eye ‘ were Police to whom it was reported and/or the Authorities.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            That’s exactly what I said re the police!

            In my experience DV was also ignored by friends & family.

      2. Angelo Granda

        May i add that ,in the days i am talking about ,it was regarded as socially unacceptable (taboo) for women ( especially housewives) to drink any form of alcohol in the home or to take beer or strong drink when out with their husbands. Most women concentrated on child and home-care and rarely went out until mthe children grew up. When violence does occur between men, it tends to be caused by women. Was this why women sometimes were not allowed in some pubs and clubs ( in others there were special women’s lounge bars)? Is this why there were girls and boys secondary schools ( boys and girls segregated)? At junior schools there were seperate playgrounds.
        Women were shown great respect by men ,indeed they were derided by their fellows if they even played with girls ( even their own sisters).
        When they did , girls inevitably got hurt perhaps by rough play and natural differences. When premature and inappropriate sexual behaviour occurred, it was usually at the instigation of girls. Boys were warned in no uncertain terms about this and warned to steer clear of girls until they were sixteen. It was intolerable for a boy to hurt a girl. Now boys and girls fight and argue and nothing much can be done about it. They ‘play about’ with one another regularly and expose themselves to one another even on camera.Is it any wonder that men have less respect for women?

        Society was governed by many more strict conventions and rules which were instilled into children from a very early age. To modern day ‘interventionists’ this way of life seems outdated and non p.c. but the system worked much better then than it does now.
        Was it wrong? Will Helen and Sarah mark me down as a deviant for even writing of it? I think they will.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          People just didn’t know as much about what was going on I’m afraid, rather than it not happening. As for women causing violence toward them, I am not sure that victim blaming was ever helpful, even if it might be convenient.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Please don’t misunderstand what i wrote. I wasn’t victim blaming. I wrote that violence BETWEEN MEN was often caused by women. That is common knowledge .

          2. helensparkles

            The only people who cause violence are the people who are being violent. There are other ways of dealing with issues.

          3. Angelo Granda

            Helen,your assertion that the only cause of violence are the ones being violent is illogical and untrue in real life.
            There are causes of violence which are well-known except to you,apparently.
            There are many factors which incite otherwise non-violent and law – individuals to violence as has been acknowledged since the year dot socially and for centuries in our legal system.
            Amongst them:- goading ,disrespect of one man’s partner by another; incitement by way of offensive and insulting language.

          4. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I agree with Helen. There are many social, environmental and genetic factors that may make someone more likely to chose a violent response and we should try to identify and reduce those we can – BUT the only person ‘causing’ the violence is the person being violent and I am uncomfortable with any philosophy that would attempt to remove or gloss over the responsibility of each individual to own their own behaviour.

            Obviously that doesn’t apply to someone who is psychotic or otherwise very seriously mentally ill. I am referring to neuro typical adults.

            ‘goading’ or ‘disrespect’ is NEVER a ’cause’ of violence. It is the excuse relied upon by violent people to minimise their responsibility for what they have done.

          5. Angelo Granda

            I don’t wish to goad you Sarah, but that is rubbish!
            I repeat there are many factors which incite otherwise law-abiding individuals to violence.Others are the cause of it and this is recognised in law. I have mentioned of,obscene and violent language and there are many others such as self-defence and the protection of ones wife partner and children. Face the reality of everyday life.Come out of those marbled halls you dwell in.
            Why do you think CS buildings are built like fortresses with steel bars on the windows and barriers between the Public and the staff? Because the staff act in an insulting way,invent things,intervene in lives disproportionately and ignore them.
            Do you think those who go to war and fight for their country are unable to control themselves and that war is their fault? I don’t think so.
            Anyway,these disputes are unhelpful,let’s move on to something more constructive.

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I face the reality of everyday life, er, everyday. Because I live it. I am a disabled single mother. Just what kind of marble hall do you think I dwell in?

            Please don’t post more offensive crap like that – it demeans the value of the good points you make.

          7. Angelo Granda

            Backtracking slightly,I am trying to be constructive by telling readers THAT THE CAUSE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is moral badness and that education society is the cause not disadvantage,environmental factors,the cycle of deprivation or genetic influences. Those explanations are false ideology.

            Both Sarah and Helen, you are uncomfortable with any philosophy ( home-spun or traditional ones dating back to ancient civilisations) that would attempt to remove or gloss over the responsibility of each individual to own their own behaviour.
            Perhaps that is because you are looking for excuses to take away the human rights of familes.

            On another constructive note, one cannot agree to disagree with another person who holds power over one. Decisions will be made on the value judgments of the latter person. Thus i suggest again that serious cases should not be heard in civil family courts influenced by value-judgment ,political correctness and social theories. They should be taken before a higher court preferably one where there is a jury of peers taking the decisions.
            Again ,to be constructive, Sarah you have said “There may well be a legitimate argument for looking at changing the standard of proof given how serious the consequences are” Any constructive ideas? Let me hear other thoughts than my own first.

          8. HelenSparkles

            It isn’t constructive to ignore the evidence base and you are doing some lazy gender stereotyping.

          9. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, If you are so stuck in legal circumspection that you are offended by simple metaphoric language like ‘marble halls ‘ in relation to chambers then i do pity you.
            As far as ‘offensive crap’ is concerned , do not offend the human race with ultra-right, insulting ideology that violence is caused by ‘socio-economic’or ‘genetic’ factors ,if you please?
            I can empathise with much you say but not with supremacist rubbish.

          10. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Of course I am offended by your reference to ‘marble halls’. You meant it to be offensive. You meant it to say that I am so cloistered from the ‘realities’ of life that I cannot understand it.

            That is offensive because it is a lazy, knee jerk stereotype from you. Because I am a lawyer I must be ‘cloistered’ and unable to understand ‘real’ life. You know nothing about my life, other than the very little I have chosen to share with you. Believe me when I say I have had sufficient experience of ‘real’ life – death, disability, disease, pain, suffering etc, etc to find your wish to confine me to a ‘marble hall’ extremely offensive and unhelpful.

            I will delete any such further comments from you as they serve absolutely no purpose other than to annoy me.

          11. helensparkles

            I think you’ll find socio economic and epigenetic rationales are not ultra right (more like he polar opposite) and they would be rejected by those delightful supremacists you make mention of.

          12. Angelo Granda

            Thanks for your comment ,Helen.It made me stop and think. Such rationale can be ultra – right but can also be ultra-left! Both of those extremes are often supremacist . Somewhere in the middle we have concensus and reality and we should try and stick with it.

          13. helensparkles

            In the way they were used here on this board they can’t be interpreted as ultra right.

            There is absolutely no consensus between polar opposites & your reality and mine are exactly that.

          14. Angelo Granda

            Thanks again for your reply,Helen.However,whilst i do agree we differ in some respects, i have acknowledged it before and said we should not try to agree on everything but concentrate on those things with which we agree. We are not as far apart as we may think we are and we all have the same aims( to protect children and keep them safe from abuse whereever it comes from.
            Sometimes ,i think that the reaction of CP professionals to criticism is not as empathetic as that of parents who comment on this forum. Whilst the ‘professional’ language seems mild and less offensive,it can be extremely insulting.They might not mean to be so .We have learnt how to take the stick but we can dish it out to. It’s hard to be humble.

          15. helensparkles

            Angelo you trash social work’s research & evidence base whilst being very clear you’d never do the same to the medical profession for example because you aren’t a medic. You are therefore writing off all the sound and testable information we have about keeping children safe and helping them to thrive. Not quite sure how a childcare professional being humble will help with that.

    2. helensparkles

      If you mistrust social workers because their work has a theory base which is evidential and testable, you mistrust them for the wrong reasons. Those theories are all about people and how they function and they help SW to help individuals and their families.

      Reply
    3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Deprived men and deprived social groups are often the most gentle in spirit.

      How do you reach that conclusion? As it is unlikely you have met and interviewed every deprived person in the country you must be basing that conclusion on something outside your own direct personal experience.

      Which is what SW and other professionals do. I haven’t met every alcoholic or drug addicted person in the UK. But from those I have met, and looking at the research/statistics about how easy it is to give up alcohol/drugs, I can reach some pretty reasonable and sound conclusions about the likely trajectory of this person’s life – particualrly if they are in denial that they have a problem, refuse to self refer to rehab, carry on hanging out with the same old crowd of bad influences etc, etc.

      Yes, I appreciate we are all individuals and some people will be the exception that proves the rule. But what are you proposing for children? That we leave them with a heroin addict who won’t get help in the hope that this addict will be the one to turn his/her life around in time? A number of children have died from ingesting their parents methadone. These were parents who either resisted advice to keep their drugs locked up OR ever worse were deliberately dosing their children to keep them quiet.

      No one is or should be prepared to sit back and just wait and see. sometimes swift and decisive action needs to be taken. And we need to take that action based on as firm an evidential foundation as possible. And I am afraid the evidence about the likely life impact of a life of emotional and physical deprivation is very clear. It is very bad for people and can have a very negative impact on their parenting.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sarah.I appreciate your comments and i agree generally with what you say. I base my comment about deprived communities on written studies of Australian aboriginals, Tibetan Buddhist monk communities, deprived working-class communities in the UK prior to the abolition of moral teaching and daily prayer in schools, studies of family life in mediaeval times before the industrial revolution etc. Basically it is one parents view.
        Sarah may i comment that earlier on this forum somewhere you have commented that the CP system doesn’t have the wherewithal, resources etc. to deal with the problems faced. You have also stated that the Family Court hasn’t the power to make proportionate decisions when they affect financial budgets of other agencies. You are saying the system is unfit for purpose. Some,like i, agree with you,some don’t.
        I have pointed out before that in cases like those you have described above (heroine addicts,methadone in the home etc) that the cp system cannot deal with it, it has not got the power or the ability. The heroine users are criminals , methadone left about in the house is criminal neglect and it should be dealt with by the criminal system.Same with dv ; instead of passing dv cases on to the CS ,Police should deal with it and the children protected by a system which has the power to enforce reform.Lock them up if necessary or put them on a probation order with all the attendant support systems.
        Does any reader agree with this comment?

        If you don’t mind a little reasonable criticism,Sarah, I do not subscribe fully to your continuous concerns that parents often fail to see and acknowledge faults thus they condemn themselves to their fate and cement your view that they are unfit to care for children.
        Why do i not subscribe fully? Because from what i have seen on this forum and others, from the evidence of several years reading of the general outlook of parents, i detect that, far from what you continuously say, parents are very empathetic towards SW concerns and ARE ready to admit to faults and reasonable crioticisms and accept support ,change etc. I think you have a certain mindset, to an extent, in that respect. In fact , as Jason has said , he would rather have looked at the concerns and have been able to acknowledge and own up to faults.How much more empathetic to the CP system can parents get? There are many,many parents like Jason. Parents continually stand and ask SW’s ” What are the concerns, what can i do to improve?” Often the CS will not reply to them or explain concerns properly but when they do the concerns are not based on reality.
        The CS must follow procedures and conduct cases correctly or these problems are inevitable.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Sorry, we will have to agree to disagree that ‘many’ parents are willing to look at what they need to do to change. Certainly by the time it gets to court the majority are not. That’s often why it’s in court.

          Re criminal charges for neglect – yes of course. Very often these parents ARE prosecuted and go to prison. The problem is that the criminal courts are not set up to make orders about children. So if the child doesn’t die or has siblings that survive, there has to be some state agency that will intervene to make sure the children are safe.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            It is the over-arching priority of the Police and criminal court system to protect children ( and other potential victims e.g. mums ) from danger and the criminal system is set up and has the power to make proportionate orders and intervene to make sure that children are safe.
            I have to say that the cp system does not have the power and also that the welfare of children is not always its overarching priority. It is over-influenced by the Local Authorities financial interests,budgets etc.
            Why don’t we accept it?

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            No, the over arching priority of the police is to investigate crimes and protect the public from criminals. Child protection is a very big part of what they do, but it is not their defining philosophy.

          3. Angelo Granda

            I am quoting the Public Protection Authority or whatever it is called and i have done so before.So you will have to agree to disagree with them.

          4. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I have never heard of the ‘Public Protection Authority’.

          5. helensparkles

            Angelo I think you need to post a link to the body or document you are referring to. The police don’t make orders for children unless in an emergency and then they are time limited.

          6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            The police don’t make orders for children at all. They can exercise their powers to take and keep children in a place of safety for up to 72 hours but this is NOT an ‘order’. Only the court makes ‘orders’.

          7. helensparkles

            You’re right (obviously) it is police protection powers, we do call it a PPO but that is wrong.

          8. Angelo Granda

            Sarah and Helen, I am sorry for the confusion caused by my mention of the Public Protection Authority.I suppose i was lazy , acknowledge i was wrong and i will try to change and mend my ways.
            What i should have written was PUBLIC PROTECTION DEPARTMENT. As cp professionals ,you will have heard of it as SW’s work with the department on a regular basis.
            For the information of lay readers of the forum, each Police Constabulary has a Public Protection Department . A letter from one of those departments to an MP who made enquiries on the behalf of a parent constituent informed of the over-arching priority in relation to cp inquiries,allegations etc. which i was citing.
            When referring to ORDERS ,i was referring to orders which can be made by the criminal courts when child neglect,abuse or domestic violence has occurred and if there is a risk of a recurrence in the future.
            For example :- orders to prison officers to ‘take him down’ – probation orders- bail orders-conditional discharge orders- anti-social behaviouir orders- and so on and so on.
            These courts have real power, can protect children and they arte able to ENFORCE reform. In cp cases it is their priority to protect children.

            Sarah, please accept my most humble,profuse and sincere apologies if my comment on ‘marble halls’ and ‘face reality’ offended you to the point you might delete it. However,take my word also that i was not deliberately trying to offend you. Take note, at the start of the comment i said i don’t want to goad you.
            It just goes to show how offensive language can incite folk to react strongly.

          9. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I have never heard of the Public Protection Department either.

            thank you for your apology, which is accepted.

            I have never doubted the power of language to stir strong emotion and to change our perceptions – and not always in a good way.

        2. helensparkles

          Angelo – I am not sure why you think that any parent has been asked to have empathy for either the system or SW? I wouldn’t expect that and I am not sure it is reasonable to.

          Reply
      2. helensparkles

        If you google Public Protection Departments, police forces seem to have them as an umbrella term for various teams which deal with DV, child abuse, sex offences etc. I am more familiar with the individual teams and had no idea they were clustered like that, don’t know if it is all police forces.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            You have now ,Sarah. In child-protection cases,it is it’s duty to protect children and ensure their safety.It has the power to do so.
            If it has reason to believe that a family has problems which means children are at risk and that the family needs support and/or monitoring,it can make a referral to Children’s Services in line with the Children’s Act.
            The CS has the duty to provide support etc. and can lead a ‘child-protection enquiry.That may lead to a child-protection order.However the Family Court cannot safeguard a child and enforce change in the same way the Police and criminal courts has a duty to. This is why i say that some SW’s and lawyers misunderstand the Law.
            That Sarah did not know of the Public Protection Departments and that Helen had to google it, supports me to an extent.

          2. Angelo Granda

            When i have asserted in the past on the forum that it is not the primary duty of the CS to protect children and prove significant harm,this has met with howls of protest. In serious cases , the extent of harm ,the level; of risk and the need for removing children from home SHOULD already have been fully investigated and ‘proportionate ‘ decisions according to the circumstances of each particular case will already have been taken by the Public Protection Department which has the duty to do so.
            I realise that radical reforms of the system and alterations in current frontline practices based on this view of the law will be a massive culture shock to SW’s . However, they should,i suggest , concentrate on supplying support and/or supervision, monitoring etc. to families and abdicate the perceived responsibility to protect children,allot blame to parents and prove significant risk to the Public Protection Department in serious cases where circumstances appear to demand the removal of children. It would still act in the ‘paramount interests of children involved ‘ above that of parents but it would act in a different way.
            I do not expect such a radical change to come without much protest from those already well-esconced within the current system of working but i think the CPR should contemplate the possibilities carefully and develop a fresh way of interpreting the current laws.

            All comments welcome. Especially more constructive ones ,if possible.

          3. helensparkles

            Angelo, I tried to explain how the term is used, I think you might be misunderstanding what it is and what its powers are. Some forces, I don’t know if all, use it to describe a cluster of teams who work with particularly offences. I for example work with CAIU (Child Abuse Investigation Unit) regularly which would be part of that group. It is a police department, that Sarah and I haven’t heard the term doesn’t mean we don’t understand the law, it just means we didn’t know how the police have organised themselves. The teams within that department have police powers and do investigate. They cannot make orders (ordering someone to go down to the cells is not an legal order!). They do have powers to intervene in cases of immediate danger and they do investigate. Should the police investigate and not prosecute, doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns about harm to children. That is IJ’s view, no crime, no removal (as if that is all SW do anyway).

  31. Jason

    I’ve known violent men, although I’m not violent myself. Men are often raised to deal with emotions by showing aggression and anger – this can be a problem if we react with anger to a loss of control. This could make us appear more dangerous and confirm the authority’s low opinion. The thing about men being stronger though – that’s a bit of a false narrative, I reckon. Men are told they need to be the strong ones but there’s a lot of bluff involved. As Helen says, a lot of blokes aren’t great at getting help.

    Ultimately this is about justice? All women, all men deserve that. Some people are better at coping with injustice than others. I happen to be crap at it.

    Reply
  32. helensparkles

    Statistically men are more likely to be the perpetrators of violence or domestic abuse, the stats don’t tell all because lots of stuff isn’t reported, but it is a theme. Class is a red herring. I don’t have a low opinion of those men, it will have evolved from somewhere, and responses that cause harm like violence need help & support. Pain is pain, everyone feels it, everyone displays/conceals it in different way, none are more valid that others.

    Reply
  33. Angelo Granda

    Jason, i agree with you,it is all about justice and truth. Same as Hillsborough.
    No matter how long it takes to get to it,the truth will always out.
    Another cliche- you can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Or i think that’s how the saying goes.
    They cannot deny the undeniable for ever. The truth is undeniable.

    Some truths: – The child protection fails all the tests of justice. To err is acceptable,to believe obscure theories when they just happen to fit ones case whilst ignoring the same theories when they don’t is also perhaps acceptable. To make a mistake is acceptable.To bear false witness ( give false evidence to a Court under oath ) is not acceptable. It is a serious sin and it is punishable. The Court System turns a blind eye to it in a lot of cases, solicitors advise parents to cooperate with SW evidence come what may and barristers often make no protest. The SW’s don’t do it by accident; the truth is they should be placed in handcuffs and locked up.They aren’t.You know that you got your child back for one reason only and that was because a witness came forward to state the SW statements were false.You were lucky ,they withdrew the case. In other cases ,respondent witnesses are refused entry to court . Limits are put on the number and type of witnesses.
    – to set out to protect children is honest.To come to wrong conclusions as a result of what you are told,as a result of hearsay,as a result of medical evidence,Police evidence,snapshots,bruises, misinterpretations, because of overwork , exaggerated fear for innocent children etc. is not dishonest. To repeatedly flout correct procedural guidelines and working together frameworks set by statute,to flout court orders and to break the rules of disclosure is dishonest and punishable. They fail that test time after time. The lawyers turn a blind eye.
    – Human Rights,Extreme disproportionate sanctions endorsed by the civil Family Court without following procedural safeguards which have been put in place.Discrimination against mums for having been in care themselves,for MH problems etc. Lawyers turn a blind eye.
    -All this happens on the false basis that it is in a child’s best interests. The Children’s Act is clear about a child’s interest and the legitimate aim is to provide support to a family in order that they remain united. The LA will not provide support for various reasons mainly supposed lack of finance. They cannot report that to the Court honestly because they know that they are acting illegitimately and the decision would be instantly appealable were the Judge to let it pass. That is dishonest.

    I can call to mind only four cases ,off the cuff, when parents have won against the Local Authority before the lower court.. One is yours where you were able to prove false evidence under oath. One was when the parent demanded that an Independent Social Worker was appointed .Twice she was refused and on the third occasion she asked ,the Judge finally succumbed. Third time lucky. The other two were when the parents argued the case on the basis of the cases being conducted incorrectly, that legal guidelines weren’t followed. Yet lawyers appear to deny the validity of those arguments.Strange. To co-operate and throw oneself upon the mercy of the system is the best they can do.

    Every injustice is a stain on society especially in our country which sets an example to the world.
    Is the Child-protection rotten to the core? Only a Public Enquiry can decide.It could take one or two to get to the truth just as it did at Hillsborough.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      ‘rotten to the core’ – again, see my commments to Jason’s last comment.
      I don’t think the system is ‘rotten to the core’. I think it is not fit for purpose and the reasons behind that are many and varied. Not all, not even many, can be laid at the door of ‘rotten’ or corrupt social workers.

      As ever, its much more complicated than that.

      A big part of the problem is that so many parents just refuse to accept that what they do can have harmful consequences. They are encouraged in this denial by the likes of Ian Josephs who rejects the very existence of ’emotional abuse’. Which is tragically ironic given that so many of the adults who seek his help are living proof of just how an adult life can be blighted by it.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Sarah, I think Angelo was asking IF the CP system was rotten to the core, and saying only an investigation could determine that. It certainly is a legitimate question, and one that many people are asking. It’s not being expressed as a statement of fact.

        I do, however, have grave suspicions about social services. If it really were such a minority of social workers making mistakes (and sometimes “mistakes”) we would see condemnation from the majority. We would see arrests being made and colleagues reporting fellow social workers to the HCPC. What is causing social workers to cover up evidence, get together to delete and alter records etc, as they did in my case? They may have empathy for each other, but this just furthers the moral corruption.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Every email I get from Community Care refers to some HCPC disciplinary tribunal and SW being disciplined or struck off. The last one I read was a SW being struck off for letting someone else type up confidential documents on her personal lap top. You are just not going to see vast numbers of people being arrested for these kind of offences as the police and criminal justice system are on their knees as it is and priority will be given to prosecution of crimes of violence.

          I can only say (and hope) that the widespread deliberate falsification of records you describe is NOT widespread. I have certainly never seen it in 17 years. And please don’t say that is because I am ‘naive’ or ‘in denial’ as I am neither. Others I know have seen it – but only isolated incidents in equally long careers.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Ah but we all know that Munroe has simply been sidelined. As she said – focus too much on the bureaucracy and the ‘heart of the work is lost’.

          2. Angelo Granda

            QUOTE: And please don’t say that is because I am ‘naive’ or ‘in denial’ as I am neither. Others I know have seen it – but only isolated incidents in equally long careers: UNQUOTE

            You rarely see it because the truth is covered up. You must have heard of the term ‘cover-up!

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Then it must get covered up before it gets to court.
            Because I am not an idiot and I will take my clients instructions, if there are lies in documents I will find them.
            It is very difficult to cover your tracks over many years worth of documents.
            That has to be a pretty major cover up.
            I accept it happens – but I think it is rare.

          4. helensparkles

            We do, that was a comment on exactly how Munroe has been sidelined. It is ridiculous suspension in my view.

  34. Jason

    I’m taking denial to be the “refusal to acknowledge the validity of a claim, suit, or the like”. This is not always a flat-out “this isn’t happening”. It can manifest itself in an “if what you say is true” or “well I’ve never seen anything like that”. It is an ostrich position that allows its adherent to avoid condemning bad behaviour – they just deflect by saying that they’ve never seen this bad behaviour. This denial can then be furthered by an account of how they have travelled far and seen many many things, but never seen this bad behaviour, which is mighty curious, given the alleged ubiquity of the bad behaviour This again strongly suggests that the person who has doubts is deluded, and should be bowing to greater knowledge.

    I was merely pointing out that Helen agrees with the bit of your post that clearly shows that parents are to blame, and that social workers need support with their case loads. I agree that this is a problem. But it is not THE problem in itself.

    I don’t have your experiences and insights. I can only go on what I’ve read here and elsewhere, as I said. And the other parents I’ve spoken to. Are we in denial about the fact that there are some terrible parents out there? No. Am I in denial about my faults as a parent? Absolutely not. But to me part of being a good parent is knowing that you can do better. Are we conspiracy theorists? No.

    But we are seeing miscarriages of justice taking place too often in public services, and routine trivialization, belittlement and mockery of our concerns.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Its not that curious. There are many reasons why ‘bad behaviour’ is deemed to be ‘ubiquitous’ and some of those reasons have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it really is ubiquitous.
      I have had a very alarming twitter exchange over the weekend with a father who insists on drawing comparisons between Medway Childrens Services and the Nazis for eg. The problem is, I have seen the documentary produced by Russia Today where he spoke at great length as to what had gone on for his family and it was very revealing – but not I suspect in the way he meant it to be.
      However, just because he says Medway SW are like Nazis and others come on Twitter to agree that yes they are, does not give that claim any realistic credibility.

      What it does say loud and clear is that people are hurting, not feeling listened to, not feeling respected, not feeling as if they are treated as human.

      And yes, I fully accept (because I have seen it) that sometimes this comes from unfeeling, uncaring, jaded, incompetent professionals

      And sometimes it comes from parents who are so lost in denial they can’t or won’t engage.

      You said you got good advice from Ian Josephs for eg. He probably contributed to about 5 months delay in a recent case of mine; I have seen the email he sent to the father. The fact that this case is now banjaxed is nothing to do with incompetent corrupt SW but more to do with parent who just would not or could not accept the really serious concerns about his parenting for many months of I am sure, patient and humane social work.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Unless there is a public enquiry we won’t know whether the falsification of records is widespread. Personally I don’t think the falsification is that widespread. But what IS widespread is the blase trivialization of miscarriages of justice. There is a culture of complacency, and it’s not just regarding social services.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Records don’t have to be ‘falsified’ deliberately to be false don’t forget.The problem is SW’s don’t conduct cases correctly and check the facts as they should. They fail to follow guidelines.That is the test which lawyers should apply scrupulously.

          Reply
        2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Not sure I agree that ‘public inquiries’ are the way forward. They seem to take an inordinate amount of time and cost many millions of pounds. We have identified things that WILL work because they have worked in other jurisdictions, such as trained parents advocates. There is also growing awareness of the importance of abiding by the legal tests as flagged up by many Judges now. So rather than using the vocabulary of ‘condemn’ and calling for a public inquiry, I would like to try implementing these changes on the ground now.

          Reply
    2. helensparkles

      I agree with a lot of what Sarah says and I agreed with the part of that comment which said parents and SW need a good and supportive system. I don’t think either of us was saying that parents are to blame, I’ve been really careful not to play the blame game, blame = shame and that doesn’t help anyone. I don’t particularly want anyone (families) I work with to feel shame or guilt, they might but I don’t want them to, or to feel blamed. Overall I work with vulnerable people who are over challenged by meeting some of their children’s basic needs. They shouldn’t feel blamed, shamed or bad for who they are. I’m not social engineering, I am going to do all I can to prevent that broken cycle repeating itself but I mostly I am just going to make sure their children are safe.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        As far as i’m concerned,the whole point is that if parents are the guilty ones,neglecting or abusing their children,they should be blamed and shamed surely.They should be dealt with by a court which has the power to impose reform on them.The Family Court apparently does not have the power to protect children except by the excessive sanction of ‘permanent liqidation’ of the family against the paramount interests of children in contravention of their human rights.
        As i have tried to explain before even guilty parents have human rights and reform is the solution . EVEN THE CHILDREN OF GUILTY PARENTS HAVE HUMAN RIGHTS.
        If only cp professionals would learn to respect human rights!

        Reply
  35. Jason

    In response to Sarah’s point: I think most coverups DO occur before court, or at least OUTSIDE OF court. I noted in the stats that someone posted about the number of cases that are withdrawn from court – there are a few hundred a year – quite a few of those are social services and/or their legal teams bricking it and deciding that they can’t face a keen barrister and/or judge scrutinising their shoddy, over-hasty and/or fraudulent claims.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Parents have lawyers in pre proceedings as well and it is always better when they have good representation. I don’t know a lot about the detail of LAs withdrawing from proceedings but it is often the introduction of a new safety factor which means an order isn’t needed.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Well yes Helen, the new safety factor, that’s what they said in my case. You don’t seriously think they said “we’re withdrawing this case because we lied about the family and don’t want to be found out”, do you? They identified a “new factor” of course. I’m not saying this is always about authorities lying, I’m saying that withdrawing a case can be used to cover up mistakes, something you are not willing even to consider.

        God this really is impossible. And it’s too risky for parents to engage with your agenda, I reckon. You’re not willing to make any compromises to what I’m saying at all: I was just making a pretty reasonable explanation for why Sarah may not have seen some of the worst cases of cock-up. Of course there will be times when cases close legitimately due to “new factors” but that is not the point. Sorry, but it seems to me you really are wanting to bury your head in the sand.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I acknowledge your deliberate comment ,Helen and it is a constructive one.
            Good representation pre-proceedings is needed.
            I have read a document in relation to the Children’s Legal Panel and to recommended good practice and representation. It says that solicitors should endeavour to attend pre-proceedings cp conferences etc. in order to represent clients and intervene on their behalf.
            In practice solicitors often tell parents they are unable to attend the meetings.
            Do you see them at cp conferences everytime or indeed most times?

        1. helensparkles

          Jason – as Sarah says “For someone who works hard within an ethical framework and sees colleagues doing the same, it is asking a lot to demand that they now ‘condemn’ their colleagues.” Given that i do, it would be a bit bonkers to say otherwise. There are plenty of comments on this website trashing SW, the child protection system is a lot wider than just SW, it is a whole system. I think there are real debates to have about the way the state intervenes in family life and the way adoption is used in this country, as well as the current political system which is punitive.

          Reply
  36. helensparkles

    Once in pre proceedings solicitors usually attend conferences but they are not, as far as I am aware, there to make a contribution or intervene. That happens in pre proceedings meetings where everyone has legal reps.

    Reply
  37. Sam

    I did not have a pre proceedings meeting and there was no urgency as the child was already accommodate d under Section 20 I had an absolutely useless solicitor who did not know the law. The most scary thing is she was supposedly a public law specialist. I found out more than her by looking at a second hand family law book. I summarized the law for her and she thought I had taken legal advice from elsewhere. I am not a know it all but it was a very simple point she had missed. Of course I got no empathy from her or the partner when I complained just one hell of a cover up . Which left me at considerable disadvantage. As a friend says the whole of what has happened has been similar to the Emporers New Clothes. Unfortunately it’s all too real not a fairy story with a happy ending.

    Reply
  38. Sam

    Yes there is a care order . One child has been placed with the other parent who abused me . Even though I am supposed to have contact I have not for 2 years. Thus he is still in control. He has not had any therapy . There was a multi agency cock up at the beggining and a cover up ever since. As stated before I am mentally well ; have insight into why I stayed in an abusive relationship and into mental health conditions. He is absolutely fab at projecting a public character and manipulation . My children will more than !ikely end up in similar relationship s as adults as they dont know anything different .

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sam,If i understand your narrative correctly , the multi-agency cock-up was partly due to misunderstandings and unrealistic appraisals and that was partly because the CS failed to follow legal guidelines,talk to you and hear your accounts.Perhaps you can confirm this for Helen or tell her i am wrong.
      Despite all that,am i right in saying that you were not granted permission to appeal .

      That is why i have proposed that in serious cases , the right of appeal should be automatic and legally funded without means or merits test.
      Appeal is the only remedy when cases are conducted improperly.Because if and when an application for discharge,contact orders etc. are made, the original wrong decision stands.
      Does any reader agree with this sentiment or am i alone? This policy would not lead to thousands of appeals.It would only take on or two and once the ability to appeal is established, the CS will have to conduct all cases correctly in the first place.

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      QUOTE: As stated before I am mentally well ; have insight into why I stayed in an abusive relationship and into mental health conditions: UNQUOTE

      I hope you don’t mind me commenting on your case,Sam. Firstly, the only time that the LA will be interested in MH assessments is when they can be used to back up their own claims. That you are well now and that you have received counselling etc. is of no help to them so they will ignore it. Furthermore ,if at the time of the original hearing you had been well and had immediate therapy been available within timescales, they would have ignored it. They would have got the decision they wanted anyway nine times out of ten.

      You question attachment theory in some respects and asked ‘how can a breast -fed child not be securely attached to her?’ I am afraid the same applies to attachment theory as MH assessments. If a child is securely attached in theory, they will still do what they want anyway.

      In other words,assessments are not impartial ,cases are conducted improperly ,court appraisals are misinformed ones and the only remedy is by appeal to a higher court on those fundamental issues,in my opinion. To argue about assessments and their flawed evidence base in detail is futile.

      Reply
  39. Sam

    With regard to empathy V sympathy. The Police took a full history of DV but a Detective Inspector told me sympathetically that they would not prosecute this time as the matter was already in the family court and would be resolved that way. If she had had empathy or even had regard to her oath a prosecution would have gone ahead . This record never made it into the family court and I went through a very distressing experience of being told that I was lying. I have absolutely no faith that police who work closely with CS are impartial.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      That doesn’t add up, police reports should go to Children’s Services regardless of whether there is a prosecution, DV still presents a risk to children, and (Sarah knows more law than me) but if there is evidence for a prosecution the police don’t decide not to prosecute based on cases being in the family court.

      You need some legal advice, if you you go on the law society website you can find one in your area that has children’s panel accreditation. It also isn’t only a police report that can evidence DV for legal aid purposes (should you need it), so you should look at the MoJ website and see if anyone on their list who can would be able to for you.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sam, I don’t quite know how to take Helen’s advice that you seek assistance from a solicitor in your area with Children’s Panel accreditation. Didn’t you do that two years ago?
        Let us assume she is genuinely trying to be helpful.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Why would I be making such a comment if I wasn’t trying to be helpful?

          Sam may have done that years ago, I am suggesting that she does it again. Not everyone knows about Children’s Accreditation so it did seem like it was worth mentioning.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            It is difficult to know what to write in reply. I do not wish to reflect the behaviour of poor SW’s upon good ones like yourself,Helen. It is unfounded in your case but let us just say that your advice sounded just like the kind of stonewall which parents oftyen come up against when they complain to other SW’s when they refuse to communicate or acklnowledge complaints.
            I was not beiong critical about you personally but i an afraid there is much mistrust of SW’s in general. I hope you understand this.

        2. HelenSparkles

          Telling someone to get good legal advice and giving them some guidance about how that might be possible (in case they didn’t know and because they didn’t think they got good legal advice before) is the very opposite of stonewalling. It giving someone the only advice I possibly can.

          Reply
      2. Sam

        Helen Thank you I have tried and tried again to get legal help. Unfortunately I live in an isolated area and everyone including lawyers watch each others backs. This is not a conspiracy theory, when you think about the major social work scandals ie Cumbria being in an isolated backward community is part of the problem. I have read quite a bit about Rotherham and spoken to some people from there and it is a similar scenario on a smaller ( at least I think it is) scale. I am very well aware that there are human rights breaches on the part of the police and I am aware that I am not the only woman in this county that it has happened to. There is very little social mobility as the education system is poor , so deference still reigns. Fortunately I was brought up to question.

        Reply
  40. Jason

    Hi Sarah, you published a tweet saying “More real life consequences of the false and dangerous ‘baby snatching’ narrative of @johnhemming4mp @SobukiRa et al ” with a link to an article from a Manchester newspaper, about how someone had fired shots at a social services office.

    I read your tweet and I was dismayed at what seemed like your unsubstantiated assumption that this person’s violence was a consequence of the particular narrative that you are demoting. You’d surely be angry if someone tweeted something saying “More real life consequences of a corrupt system in which innocent families are not being heard.”

    When I read the article my first thoughts were: How does Sarah Phillimore know that this was caused by a believer in a false narrative about “baby snatching”? It might have been caused by a person who has been victimised by injustice. My second thought was that it doesn’t matter what caused it, violence is NEVER the answer, and violence is the responsibility of the culprit, regardless of the provocation. That always has to be the case, however unfair anyone feels that their position is – there has to be zero tolerance of violence. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that an individual’s violence is a “consequence” of someone else’s narrative. It feels like an attempt to silence people. We’ve got the right to say what we think needs saying, and can’t hold back merely because someone can choose to ascribe unsubstantiated causation upon some violent wrongdoer.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is an assumption that is unsubstantiated as no one has (as far as I know) admitted anything and no findings have been made in court.

      However, it is an assumption which is reasonably based on the available evidence – shots fired at SW office and graffiti on building. I, along with journalist and John Hemming shared this assumption.

      You will of course be alive to the medium of Twitter – where I accept one often sacrifices nuance for sound bite.

      It it turns out I am wrong in this assumption I will of course apologise and correct it – which is rather more than John Hemming has ever done about any of this (many, many, many) proven false assumptions about the family court system.

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Jason,you say that there should be zero tolerance of violence.Maybe there should.
      Nevertheless ,it is accepted in law that normal law-abiding individuals can be incited to violence and they will not be convicted of the offence. I am pretty sure i am right in saying this. For example, Police and victims of crime can use reasonable violence to stop the culprit and/or make an arrest.If someone threatens violence against one and shouts obscene,abusive language and gets in one’s face that can be considered as cause to use reasonable force against them.Hence my argument that the cause of violence is moral badness ,foul language,threatening and insulting behaviour etc. not some of these SW theories about deprivation and genetic factors.
      Please consider this case which is not an imaginary one!
      A man was having a shave .Whilst doing so ,his wife came into the bathroom and threw a dagger at his back. He spotted it in the mirror just in time and it hit his shoulder and bounced off.Just a glancing blow.
      He threw down his razor , took hold of his dear wife,put her across his knee and spanked her bottom,saying “if you are going to behave like a child,i shall treat you like one”. His wife called the Police and he was charged. He admitted what he had done . He was cleared of any offence.
      There can be extenuating circumstances for violence. However this argument of mine does not condone violence.VIOLENCE IS BAD AND MUST BE STOPPED.
      I am merely giving a more realistic explanation for how and why it occurs. Moral badness. Depravity.Mostly on the part of the perpetrator like those who habitually abuse their wives but not always.

      Reply
  41. Jason

    I understand that twitter sacrifices nuance. You published it a few days ago and I thought it was unfair, but the reason I commented today was because you were claiming today that the cause of violence was the perpetrator, which certainly seemed at odds with what you were saying in the tweet. Let’s face it, even when people SAY that they committed violent acts because of what they have heard it’s not taken to be the cause in any legitimate sense; it’s perceived to be an excuse or a rationalisation most of the time. So it’s not a question of whether you’re right or wrong in your assumption – I just think that you’re not showing an entirely consistent attitude regarding causation and violence.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I thought it was interesting that the office was committed between 4.30am and 7am on a Sunday, probably the only time you would be virtually guaranteed not to find a social worker in the office. They’d be working at home at that time.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Yes, it does seem to rule out any attempt to harm SW’s ,that is true.
        I really cannot see any intelligence in firing off a shot at the outside of a building .Graffiti would be a more effective protest ,although i would not advocate it ,of course,that would be irresponsible.
        It is interesting that the office in question is entirely within a local precinct and car-park within 20 yards of both Mc Donalds and an all night filling station with cars passing at all times night and day .The area will be well-served by c.c. cameras.
        The Social Services district is North Manchester which ,locally, is infamous for the ‘culture of child sex abuse ‘ scandal exposed in the late ‘nineties when SW’s were convicted of the sex abuse of children ‘within hours of them being taken into care’. They were procuring children from families for their own sexual gratification,in other words. Perhaps just perhaps some of the abused children have now grown up and being discriminated against themselves and degraded ,have decided to protest but i don’t think that will be the right way. Their lives have already been ruined and it is likely,in the present system, that of their children’s will be too. Maybe that is happening right now. We will really have to wait until the Police finish the investigation and hope publicity is given to it.
        Let us just pray that no SW comes to any harm,they cannot be blamed for the department’s past outrageous and criminal behaviour.

        Reply
      2. Sam

        Helen Do you think from your view point would SW’s actually working to rule help improve the system at all? I know it may not in the short term but it may be the shock it needs. I know that I make more rational decisions if I am not exhausted so I expect SW are the same.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          The system would collapse but I can assure you were are not all exhausted, just working a lot of hours for free, whereas people in the private sector might be paid for the hours they work.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I agree with Sam that SW’s should stand out against bad management.
            40 years ago it would have been absolutely unacceptable in any industry that staff should not be payed for hours worked .Workers these days take the injustice lying down.
            Likewise hours of work. It seems Helen actually does out-of-hours work on Sundays and Bank holidays. This practice ,although unavoidable within badly- managed departments, is not conducive to good social work.
            SW’s should be entitled to at least one full,clear day free of work and preferably two full days off per week. In addition,they should have two ‘rest days’ per month to be taken (perhaps saved up) as and when they wish. In addition,of course, they should have minimum 2 weeks fully-paid holiday per year. Plus a ‘company’ car.These minimum benefits were enjoyed by all professionals prior to the 1980’s and there was plenty money to pay for them. Bad management and bad staff representation.
            The main victims of this inefficiency are children. Most important also is the long term health of staff.

          2. helensparkles

            I am not sure how you would hope to achieve that after the cuts of recent years but I can also assure you that SW has never been adequately funded, and because SW care about the families they work with, they have always done long hours. The systems of checks and monitoring in place has increased with the use of computers and enquiries/SCRS etc. that is a more recent pressure as is the inspection regime. The number of support and admin staff decreased as cuts were made which means whilst front line staff are preserved because they have to be, they have to mop up those roles. I do have about 4 weeks holiday a year and I do have at least one day clear of work a week, often 2. But a rainy bank holiday is a time when I can catch up on written work so I can spend my week this week seeing children.

      3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        There was a similar attack on the Bristol CJC a few years ago where a man fired a large catapault at the building and smashed the glass doors. He did this at about 5am. I think it is simply because they don’t want to get caught and if they had done it at 4.30pm they would likely have been shot by armed police officers.

        I am quite sure it was meant to convey a clear message to social workers. There has already been a social worker shot dead in America recently. It will happen here. Its just a question of when.

        Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Clearly, Twitter is not the best kind of forum for this kind of argument. I was annoyed and fed up with John Hemming and his pet legal commentator Natasha Philips who had spent two days tweeting the most offensive rubbish. I am at the sharp end of trying to deal with parents who swallow that kind of guff and wreck their own cases. It makes me really angry. Which no doubt clouds my judgement.

      What I meant to convey was that constant fear mongering and ludicrous lies about the child protection system from those who should know better may lead to desperate and frightened people doing desperate things. They are responsible for their own acts of course. But there is always a context. Is ‘consequence’ the same as ’cause’ ? I think there is a subtle but real difference. So I don’t think I am inconsistent but I accept that some arguments are not best made in a sound bite fashion.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        OK. I accept that there is a subtle difference between cause and consequence but it is a subtle distinction indeed, and saying that fear mongering may incite someone is a far cry from saying that it HAS done, especially in the absence of evidence.

        To be honest what surprised me the most is your belief that it is a false narrative that would make someone likely to do such a thing. I thinks grief over losing a child could make someone go deranged and do a thing like that (although to be fair there could be all sorts of reasons.) Do you seriously believe that people who have not lost a child would bother to write “baby snatching scum” etc etc and commit acts of arson, and other violence? I’m afraid the “baby snatching” narrative is itself just a consequence of the imbalance of power and the draconian tactics we see in operation.

        This is a post about empathy, and feeling what others feel. What would you want to do if someone took your child? I wanted to drive my car through the biggest shop window in town, stand in the middle of a crowd in the shop and say “Hello, I’m being lied about, I’ve lost my child and I’ve been told that I could go to prison if I tell people about it, even though it’s complete shite.” I met a woman who told me she was going to do something really desperate in the court. I did all I could to get her to chill, and I warned her that if she used any violence in the court she’d get sent down for a long time, never see her kids. She told me that if she committed a criminal offence she’d be in the news and people would know what was happening to her. I read a case in the paper about a woman who threatened a social worker because she wanted to get arrested and locked up! People are desperate, and on their knees, and not being listened to, they’ve had their beloved children taken away. Their behaviour is a consequence of that, but you seem to think it’s a consequence of a false narrative!

        I wouldn’t suggest that you’re in an ivory tower, or a penthouse or anything like that – I think you’re an ordinary and down-to-earth human being. You aren’t lacking in the way that the parents you see in court are, so maybe the thing is this: you haven’t fully thought through the idea that this really can happen to anyone. It probably doesn’t occur out of the blue that often, but it does happen: mistakes are made. What if you had people arriving at your home and saying “we’ve removed your child. We can’t tell you where she is.” Surely at first you’d think it was a mistake, pinch yourself, and so on. And then I guess with your knowledge you’d get yourself legal representation quickly. But then all these delays and people saying you just had to trust them, and that you had to agree that there was some sort of problem – how long before your faith would start to melt away? You’d never be violent, I’m sure, but I’m also pretty sure that you’d soon stop being you.

        Anyhow, we have to have a zero tolerance for violence, no matter the terrible provocations that we may receive, and no matter how terrible we feel. As soon as anyone commits an act of violence, they have lost.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I think the problem here is that you and I have such different experiences. You have experienced the grief and misery of proceedings which were wrongly pursued, and you found Ian Josephs a kind and helpful man.

          I have direct experience of many parents having their case royally screwed by incitement from the likes of Joseph and Hemming. I know this because they tell me. This makes me angry. Because I have real and serious doubts about what motivates these men. I don’t think they give much of a shit about the actual parents and children – I have also heard many stories from parents who were dropped like they were hot by the ‘campaigners’ if things got too difficult.

          So I approached that news story from my perspective. You have a different one. I don’t doubt at all that desperate people can do desperate things and what’s making them desperate can come from a myriad of sources.

          But nor do I doubt that irresponsible scaremongering from arrogant closed minded individuals can and has done enormous harm to some very vulnerable people.

          Reply
        2. Angelo Granda

          The idea that learning difficulties autism or any physical disability should disqualify parents from looking after their own children and that children should not have the absolute right to a family life with natural parents if he or she has these disabilities is so grossly inhumane, I cannot believe any honest professional can subscribe to it.
          Should motherhood be conditional upon a test of physical fitness and agility? Are we to start insisting on reading,writing and arithmetic tests for prospective parents? Are we going to insist on computer literacy and an acceptance of new technology as and when it is developed?
          Professionals should get their act together. Otherwise the sight of mums with learning difficulties on their knees outside CS offices will be commonplace. Wheelchairs and disability scooters will be lined up in the CS car-park. The Police will have to be called to clear them from the streets etc. What a horrible situation that shall be.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            I don’t know where this originated from, as long as children are safe with any parent they stay with them. Adults have SW too when they need one, as some people with LD, autism, and disabilities do, and may have extra support around looking their children. Most people with a disability of any kind are absolutely fine looking after their children, to suggest otherwise is scaremongering.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Helen, I find it ironic ( though not at all offensive) that you hint that i am guilty of scaremongering; particularly when , in general, much of the CS assessments and care-plans are based on scaremongering .That something might happen or might happen again.
            However, it is fair comment and you are entitled to accuse me.

          3. helensparkles

            This was a comment about something which doesn’t happen and isn’t likely to happen, don’t know how you would describe that, alarmist maybe?

          4. Angelo Granda

            I regret to report to readers that it does happen and children are condemned to long years ( possibly life) within special needs care homes involuntarily.
            Helen,i can say with absolute confidence also that autistic girls, to make their care simpler for staff, are injected and given oral drug treatments ( contraception techniques)without their own informed consent ( which may be impossible to obtain or not as the case may be) and importantly, without informing and consulting with parents and without any attempt to obtain formal,informed consent from parents.
            So much is swept underneath the carpet and concealed from the Public. I can quite believe Helen is not aware it goes on because it happens under the auspicves of CS ‘permanence teams’. I have no doubt these teams have there own persuasive and well-considered theories that it happens in the best interests of children but that does not excempt them from the law or from following care-plans strictly.

          5. Angelo Granda

            My comment on this was not alarmist but a reasoned extrapolation of current events.Jason reported he saw and spoke to a mum with learning difficulties begging to see her baby outside the CS office. Not only had the baby been denied the right to live with the poor girl, she had been denied contact.
            If the Court felt the child was at significant risk of harm, i feel the mum and baby should have been placed in a ‘supported care’ placement TOGETHER. That would comply with the Human Rights conventions. A more proportionate sanction.

          6. HelenSparkles

            We can’t actually extrapolate by someone who told Jason her story, not that it isn’t accurate, but we have no idea if it was and she may have harmed her child. If that child is only safe when someone else is there, for argument’s sake, that is a bodyguard/carer and not normal and safe family life for that child.

          7. HelenSparkles

            “I regret to report to readers that it does happen and children are condemned to long years ( possibly life) within special needs care homes involuntarily.” This is generally at the request of their families as previously commented. It may be involuntary for them, but it is not CS intervention.

            “Helen,i can say with absolute confidence also that autistic girls, to make their care simpler for staff, are injected and given oral drug treatments ( contraception techniques) without their own informed consent ( which may be impossible to obtain or not as the case may be) and importantly, without informing and consulting with parents and without any attempt to obtain formal,informed consent from parents.” A child without capacity is not deemed Gillick competent and therefore cannot be given drugs without the consent of the person with PR. This may not be a parent.

            “So much is swept underneath the carpet and concealed from the Public. I can quite believe Helen is not aware it goes on because it happens under the auspicves of CS ‘permanence teams’. I have no doubt these teams have there own persuasive and well-considered theories that it happens in the best interests of children but that does not excempt them from the law or from following care-plans strictly.” They are not exempt from the law or care planning and those care plans are reviewed regularly, I have had extensive experience in those teams.

          8. Angelo Granda

            Thank you for your comments, Helen.We should not generalise. I fear for the human rights of children condemned to the care system without consultation or the consent of parents.

            Two questions: Who conducts these tests of ‘Gillick competence and decides a child does not have capacity? Are they conducted in secret (behind closed doors) or are the child and all those with parental responsibility present at meetings (along with advocates) and consulted for their views?

            I am afraid the CS teams act in contempt of the law and care –plans. The care-orders stipulate in no uncertain terms that the Local Authority shares parental responsibility with parents. The orders also state that decisions about the welfare of the child should always be taken after due consultation with parents and that parents are to be informed. The care-plans say this also in most cases.Thus the permanence teams appear to exempt themselves when they review care-plans without consulting parents. I have no doubt that when you were involved with these teams; you observed LAC review procedures strictly. Unfortunately, bad Sw’s do not.
            I think decisions are ‘authoritarian ‘and often inhumanity results from them

            Helen,you say that care-plans are reviewed regularly and i assume,if you were on the team, you would not review them or make alterations without consulting the parents and keeping them fully informed. For example you would send them a copy of the reviewed care-plan ,at the very least. Can you honestly say that this always happens or have you known bad practice?

            Just one further comment if i may. If a parent goes to a permanence team ,saying scenarios have changed etc. and that care-plans should be reviewed in respect of rehabilitation home and/or contact, they are often told that it is not possible to alter the plan without the permission of the court and that the parent must make a court application.

            Do you see the contradiction?

          9. Angelo Granda

            You have made one comment ‘for arguments sake’.
            May i argue that many of your comments appear to describe a truly toxic mix which will inevitably lead to authoritarianism and breaches o f a child’s human rights.
            For example:-
            1.You have told us of risk assessments and emphasised they are not based on tick-box exercises. I have never seen one of these assessments. They are certainly not done in consultation with parents and the results are not always circulated. Are they impartial?
            2. You appear to say that some sort of assessment of ‘safety’ is involved in decisions but ,earlier on this thread, you say they are not H&S assessments.I have the same concerns i have about risk assessments.
            3. Now you also suggest that some sort of judgment is taken about what is and what is not a ‘normal’ family life. I have not seen the criteria relied upon to assess what is normal. Who does these ‘normality’ assessments?

          10. helensparkles

            My response was to your comment about children being injected without their parents consent and I was making the point that some children with disabilities are in care because their parents have asked them to be looked after by the LA. The “contradiction” emerges from the difference between parents requesting children are accommodated and a court deciding. The former does not involve a legal order, can be withdrawn at any time, and does not give the LA PR. For practical purposes there is usually a delegated responsibility document which is drawn up with parents and which covers the minutiae of a child’s life and who can make decisions about/for them which is drawn up with parents. Once a Care Order is granted, the LA has PR and can make decisions about a child’s life. An application for revocation of a Care Order is a court process.

          11. helensparkles

            I used your example but you can argue what you like. I accept you have a view on human rights that is not shared by the legislative framework or what is in the best interests of children, but you dispute the evidence base for that. My comment about risk assessment is that it isn’t a tick box exercise, it is an assessment that there is either a risk or several risks to a child and they are shared with parents. You may never have seen one but an example would be a report for a case conference which sets out the issues, explain why they are risks, and what needs to change. Once in pre proceedings risks would be shared in a pre proceedings meeting with all having legal representation. Safety planning is key in child protection and is all part of working with families on child protection plans without (hopefully) having to enter into care proceedings and to effect change in oder for risks to be ameliorated. “Normal family life” is a phrase used in statutory guidance around children in care, it would for example be life without SW intervention (or bodyguard) or the kind of interventions you suggest which would damage children but which you would like to suggest would keep families together.

          12. Angelo Granda

            Helen, Thank you again for all your interesting comments which i find most informative. I am sure you will not be surprised when,again i say that as you describe the correct procedures , it confirms to parents what is going wrong and why.
            I am interested in comments made about the law being an ‘ aspect’ of social work by yourself and Sarah. Both of you appear to be concerned about it and i would like to go into it a bit further. Parents may not understand the full relevance of it.

            I remarked on Maggy Melon (BASW) and her comment about a policy imperative but no-one seems to know what the policy imperative is.I don’t think it is available to the Public . I suspect it is a policy decided upon by the L.A. Social Services executive ( in grey suits). It probably is not published .
            Putting that to one side, you have written about a rigid legal structure and a legislative framework which you have to follow.
            Has that been published and can you provide a link or is it for the department’s eyes only?

          13. helensparkles

            Legislation and guidance are not just available to “the department” they are available to everyone and are all publically available on government websites; you just need to Google (other search engines are available). Legislation is at http://www.legislation.gov.uk guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications

            I told you exactly what the “policy imperative” was that Maggie Mellon had commented upon, I said they were about a government policy regarding adoption. Again available on a government website https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/512826/Adoption_Policy_Paper_30_March_2016.pdf

          14. Angelo Granda

            Helen,thank you for the links.
            I was aware of the published guidance and legislation but it is perfectly clear to me that it is often not followed by the CS. Thus my question about the statute law being just an ‘aspect’ of social work.
            I gather Sarah and your goodself are concerned about it too.
            What i am trying to get to the bottom of is whether or not Social work management regard the law as a barrier to be overcome first in order to impose their own policies on families.Do they present ordinary social workers with a rigid structure and framework and command them to follow it?
            I am concerned that the Local Authorities may have employed lawyers to examine the statute and to come up with a rigid template for the removal of children which may morally be against the spirit of the Children’s Act. These lawyers would approach the statute rather like a tax lawyer will interpret fiscval ,law and in the same way as a lawyer specialising in traffic offences will look at drink-driving laws and so on.
            They will examine the statute ,look for every ambiguity and loophole,then create a rigid framework to be followed when seeking to gain a care order based on legal precedent etc. Therefore i am asking whether the more junior ( but key) social workers are under orders to follow those legal principles ( templates) which are actually designed to attain illegitimate aims.

            I have reasons to suspect this might be so. I have noticed,for example that some social workers will unnecessarily ‘persuade’ parents to sign an S20 also before even talking to a parent and explaining concerns, they will state to conferences and a court magistrate that the parent will not accept concerns and does not show the ability to contemplate issues and change. On one occasion,despite the FACT that a parent went to the office and signed an S20 within two hours of being asked, the key SW stated to the Court and professionals that he would not accept concerns and would not sign an S20. The children were already in care under the auspices of an S20.
            This suggests to me that the SW had extracted a rigid template from a computer and was not checking the facts. These are just a couple of examples.It is unprofessional to act in such a manner and , to me,indicative of an inhuman bureaucracy. I look forward to your further comments and i hope Sarah can come on about it too. Have a good weekend,by the way,and have a good rest.

          15. HelenSparkles

            Angelo, when you ask for information I spend time trying to find it for you because I know it is often easier for me than some people, I know where to start for example. If you already know about that information I have wasted my time and, as we know, I don’t have very much of that. There isn’t any secret information you can’t access re legislation and guidance.

            I can’t say what Sarah was worried about but the main issue for me was the realisation that SW do not all have easy access to legal advice, where it has been outsourced for example, and LAs have to pay for it. I think Sarah has said that she is referring to cases where the wheels have come off and it would have been better to have legal oversight sooner. It is about expertise, obviously SW are not going to be experts in interpreting the law or following case law, which is for lawyers.

            Where it comes to primary legislation, statutory guidance etc. SW are clear and it is part of their training and continuing professional development. I would say that the law is not regarded as some inconvenient barrier as you suggest, legal thresholds are what they are, and it is the LAs responsibility to evidence they are met. All parties do have legal representation by the time either pre proceedings or proceedings are entered into so oversight is there before people go into the courtroom.

            The law is the law and I suppose I don’t see it is as rigid but it is a very important framework which everyone needs to know is being adhered to. LAs lawyers are not some dodgy tax avoidance scheme trying to find a loop hole! Your problem is you don’t agree with the legislative framework which is your prerogative. You also need to read more about human rights legislation because your comments indicate you don’t understand it.

            There was some ambiguity around S20 in child protection cases, and there is now more clarity. The main issue was whether it should have been used at all or if a court should be hearing those concerns. Whether parents agree it or not, if they continue not to work with the LA or show insight into concerns, they will be in court where a decision will be made but they are then represented as well of course.

            Templates are used for reports, but SW fill in the words, they aren’t tick boxes either! Thankfully nothing is rigid and commands and orders aren’t necessary in my world – I do of course take direction from managers and lawyers but anything really inflexible wouldn’t be great for working with human beings really would it.

          16. Angelo Granda

            Unfortunately Helen,with respect, parents are not all as stupid as some SW’s and lawyers think they are. What you say , whilst it may be right in theory,does not quite match what actually is seen to happen in real life.
            Ordinary folk put two and two together and make four not 28 like those in your profession.
            In the examples i mentioned ,it seems obvious that the SW concerned was either following immoral instructions from superiors,committing deliberate perjury or was an utter cretin. Parents are bound to surmise all sorts of things when SW’s act unlawfully like that. It is just impossible for any normal person to make mistakes like that so please forgive me for my suspicions. It is only natural especially when , as a result of the misreporting ( to put it politely), an ICO was issued unnecessarily on the grounds the child was at risk where he was ( in the care of the CS) and eventually the Judge ordered a mum’s child to be adopted because she was unable to acknowledge concerns ,would not accept support and was unlikely to change. Yes that just so happens to be one of the criteria for the removal of children.
            You should not criticise my comments and be quite so ‘patronising’. Don’t forget, parents know what they are talking about, we know the truth! For example ,there are tick boxes on assessment report templates ,strategy meeting reports etc. etc. also in other documents. If the boxes are ticked at all, they may be wrong. For some reason, you say there are no tick-boxes.
            As far as the human rights legislation is concerned ,i understand it in one part at least .Families should get a fair hearing . Unfortunately ,that is impossible when SW’s do not keep strictly to the truth. Despite all the fine training and career development you talk about it, why can they not learn to tell the truth.W efind that acceptable,you seem to think it is.
            If parents lack understanding of legislative frameworks and strict legal principles,fair enough, but please don’t you belittle them for it . At least parents know one fundamental principle of it and that is tell the truth.By the way, i do understand the legislative framework and working together directions etc. and i do agree with them In fact, i understand the guidance has to be followed rigidly . You cannot twist them around ,they are to be followed scrupulously.
            Sorry if i am a bit testy this evening but i have had a difficult day working,having worked all night last night too. I try not to argue with you usually.

          17. Angelo Granda

            Sorry for the slip.I meant to say ‘ we find untruths unacceptable’ .

          18. helensparkles

            I don’t think parents are stupid and I have no idea what has happened in any cases mentioned her so I don’t comment on them, as you know. I can say an ICO was a decision made by a court based on evidence of risk, if families don’t understand the concerns, that means they are not going to do what they need to in order to remove the risks. Given both parties have legal representation in court, a solicitor would have acted for them and yes, children being at risk is one of the reasons they are moved to safety away from their families.

            I haven’t criticsed your comments and I fail to see why you think I have patronized you. I just respond to queries you post and ask me for a response to where I can. You are actively hostile toward SW and I don’t comment on that either. I’d actually appreciate the same kind of respect I give families but I don’t expect it.

            When I say assessments and reports are not a tick box exercise I am telling you that they are a narrative assessment, it is a turn of phrase. Their content needs to reflect the case detail. There might be some actual tick boxes on some, there aren’t on the ones I use, but I did just tick a couple of boxes on police check tonight to yes/no questions.

            You really don’t understand the legislation and that isn’t a criticism, human rights or otherwise, you just think the way it works is wrong. I have never said it is acceptable for professionals to lie and I will never say that, no idea where you got that from. I think “truth” is not absolute, there are different perspectives, and it isn’t my job to determine THE TRUTH, it is for a judge to decide.

            If the law wasn’t open to interpretation there wouldn’t be case law was my point about rigidity. Not that it wasn’t an important framework and I think I was quite specific about that.

            Don’t apologize, I didn’t read your comments as testy anyway, only you know how you feel. You actually always argue with me., which is fine, there are arguments to be had about the way the state intervenes in family life.

  42. HelenSparkles

    Can you give me a reference for this?

    “The ‘culture of child sex abuse ‘ scandal exposed in the late ‘nineties when SW’s were convicted of the sex abuse of children ‘within hours of them being taken into care’.”

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sorry, Helen but i cannot find an electronic, digital link or specific reference for you.
      However,you will probably find the Crown Court trial reports alongside reports of the Police operation which led to them in the Manchester Evening News ( circa 1998-2000). The case is in the public domain somewhere.
      If you are interested ,i suggest you seek inside information from colleagues who were around at that time.
      I did not take a note of names at the time i read the newspaper reports. I would comment however,that one of those convicted was,i believe,the Deputy Head of Social Services.
      Hope this helps.Suffice to say,my comment about the episode was not unfounded or malicious. I hope no-body thinks that.

      Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Many thanks,Jason. My credibility is restored.The articles i saw reported all about Operation Cleopatra and the Crown Court cases which convicted quite a number of SW’s.I am unsure which city the court was. It may have been Liverpool,Preston or even Lancaster. Where the Court was is irrelevant but the Judge described long-term ‘culture of sex-abuse ‘ within Manchester Social Services ,how children were sexually abused on a regular basis ‘within hours of being taken into care’,
          The reason i brought it up was because of the shots fired at the CS office. As the children of many of the children taken into care will now have grown up and be facing degradation and discrimination by the CS,it may be a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

          Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I have googled Operation Cleopatra and the abuse was even more widespread than i thought and had apparently flourished for at least 50 years.
        To correct one point ,it was not the Deputy Head of Social Services who was convicted amongst many others ,it was the Assistant Director of Social Services. My apoligies to the Deputy Head. I would be grateful if Sarah would edit the comment accordingly.

        To readers , i am not trying to be alarmist and had no intention of suggesting child abuse is common-place within the Manchester Social Services now. It all happened 15 years ago and it was stopped.
        I only raised it as a possible explanation for the shot fired at the North Manchester Office.

        Reply
  43. HelenSparkles

    I don’t have any “inside” information or contacts. I just would have expected it to be reported and was asking for the information, I think that is reasonable. I otherwise have no way of knowing if anything is reliable or malicious.

    Reply
  44. Angelo Granda

    It was a great scandal and everyone was shocked to the core inside and outside social work circles. One of your elder colleagues might recall the affair or a search through trade papers might help. If you do find a reference to it,i will be grateful if you would pass it on. I have a letter somewhere from the Police force which conducted the operation and prosecuted those concerned. The letter acknowledges what happened but refuses to divulge details of names,cases etc. without a court order.Since then,I have tried looking online for further information on facilities such as Google, entering approximate dates when it all came out but i always draw a blank. If any reader has any further information ,can they help?

    Reply
  45. HelenSparkles

    It is very odd that it was such a big scandal and everyone was so shocked but there is no online information about it. Pre internet cases usually come up in news coverage online.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Quite,a mystery in itself somewhat,don’t you think? Hence why i thought questions of an elder colleague might assist. I shall try and find out more and come back to you if and when i find something.In the meantime, if the site moderators have any reason to doubt the accuracy of my comment ,they should feel free to edit it. I am not really bothered ,it’s in the Public domain anyway. Had i been more professional,i suppose i would have kept the newspaper article but unfortunately i am just an ordinary parent. I really should keep records. It is over 16 years ago now and a lot of water has gone under the bridge
      A point i would like to add about it , however, for the safety of you and your colleagues ,is that you should tighten up on security. In this day and age, the youngsters are not as docile and more likely to react vigourously especially when they have suffered abuse in the care system themselves . You cannot alter the trends. Also ,i suspect that in areas where there are large communities of immigrants ,like North Manchester, they be less cooperative when their human rights are contravened. Many come from war-torn countries.
      Please be very careful.

      Reply
      1. HelenSparkles

        I don’t have any elder colleagues and I won’t be making any enquiries, if it was such a huge scandal I am sure someone will know about it.

        Your point about safety is moot, SW visit where police officers will only go in pairs and with stab vests …

        I think your comment about immigrants another generalisation.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          I agree it is a generalisation and for security ,you must make general precautions .Wear a stab vest at all times and never hesitate to call Police and report threats and obscene language.
          i suggest at the office you should record all conversations ( even on the telephone) for use in evidence and possibly instal C.C.C.
          In order to abide by the law,i think you will have to warn clients they are being recorded and that will be a deterrent in itself.
          Also,persuade the Association to negotiate danger money with the LA. As i said before ,be careful.Caution is the operative word.

          Reply
          1. HelenSparkles

            I won’t be doing any of that, my job is to build relationships, not barriers! Obviously assaults and threats are reported but not obscene language, that would be ridiculously onerous. There is no £ for CCTV or to pay SW more….

          2. Angelo Granda

            Particularly considering Sarah’s comment about the death of a social worker being inevitable and having worked within the security industry myself as a supervisor ,i must be straight talking on this issue.
            I feel your attitude towards my recommendations WILL come back to haunt the CS and LA in the future. Especially the position on a lack of £ available to take precautions and pay for SW’s.
            Management should not bury its head in the sand.

          3. HelenSparkles

            What you are asking me to do is not possible but I can assure you I risk assess and am carefu.

  46. Angelo Granda

    With respect, `That a ‘risk assessor’ would send a SW on child-protection duties alone into an area where Police only go in pairs with stab vests is a little iffy, in my view. However,i bow to your expertise. If no-one has been stabbed up to now ,i suppose you know your area better than me. If any other SW’s read this, it is imperative that you do not allow your risk assessments to be influenced by budgetary considerations.You cannot put a price on lives and it will not go down well in any subsequent inquiry if you blame a tragedy on lack of finance.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Well Angelo, I know my job is risky, if I am the SW who ends up dead I won’t know much about it (hopefully).

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Don’t ever say that ,Helen .God forbid anything like that will happen to you or in your area. Use the BASW to negotiate with the LA. You can’t do it yourself. It is it’s duty to sort protection out for its members.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          BASW represents very few SW and has some influence but is not a union and has no power to negotiate as a result!

          Reply
        2. Angelo Granda

          Readers, do you see how this particular issue is in a sense quite a fundamental one. I am making (as an ex-security supervisor and professional risk-assessor) a value-judgment of what i see as the ‘best interests of SW’s’.
          Would it be humane if i were to go down to Helen’s office and force her to comply with my wishes ? Indeed , if she does not share fully my opinion and accept all my concerns, would i be justified to say that children are not safe in her care?

          Of course not ,were i to do so,i would be authoritarian and oppressive.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Of course you are but you miss the point of my question.What if i were concerned for your children’s safety because you would not accept my concerns?

          2. HelenSparkles

            I didn’t miss the point, I made the point that your comparison was not relevant.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            If you did that without the authority of the law, it would not simply be ‘authoratarian and oppressive’ it would very likely be criminal behaviour and you would be arrested.
            Context is very important. If a SW says to a parent ‘you must change’ they say that within a legal framework of case law and statutory obligations to protect children.
            Yes, I agree with you that if a SW steps well outside the boundaries provided by that legal framework, they cannot claim the protection of the law and their actions should also be treated as unlawful.
            But the problem is that you and I appear to have very different expectations about where those boundary lines should be drawn and what the consequences should be of failure to adhere to good practice.
            It is never desirable to fail to meet good practice standards but nor does it automatically follow (as sometimes you appear to be suggesting) that any such failure renders all SW interactions with parents unlawful and unacceptable.

          4. Angelo Granda

            Sadly,i just cannot agree with you ,Sarah because i have seen contary opinion from much higher up.If a case is conducted incorrectly in any way ,the only remedy is appeal to a higher court.Your standards are
            too low.When the LA presents false evidence _nder oath ,that is unacceptable.It poisons the case irretrievably.
            Sarah,you said there may be a case for changing the standard of evidence.Have you any constructive suggestions?

  47. Jason

    Helen, I’m sorry but all most people are going to get from reading your comments is a sense of your denial. Angelo said something about a case in Manchester to do with social services and child abuse and your first reaction was one of denial. You say, “It is very odd that it was such a big scandal and everyone was so shocked but there is no online information about it.” You come across as sarcastic, taunting and glib. It took me about 3 seconds to find the reference to Cleopatra on Google – it would have taken you the same. But instead of being embarrassed by your own lack of knowledge on the subject (which is indeed strange) you immediately issue a challenge. I’m the first to admit I’m not coming at this from a neutral perspective, but you’re not making a good impression here. It’s just that you’re confirming the notion that there is a culture of denial in social services, a siege mentality. An unhealthy culture of defensiveness, conditioning and suppression.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      And why do you think that culture of denial and siege mentality has grown and calcified?
      We are all part of this problem.
      No one does better by being constantly criticised and condemned. Not parents, and not SW either.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        This is true to a certain extent. The crucial difference being that among we parents out there, (who aren’t social workers) we’re not in the habit of trying to remove social workers’ children.

        At least you don’t try and pretend that social workers, who have the power to ruin many lives, aren’t operating within a culture of denial.

        Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        Sarah, in fairness, i don’t think i have been constantly critical and condemning of SW’s or lawyers . I regard it as a discussion where we are all putting a point of view,not an argument. I agree i have perhaps constantly criticised the system as a whole . But the criticisms are constructive and i have asked many questions. I have got few answers . The ones i regard as fundamental have been largely ignored. However , i understand that you and many others are very busy people and my questions may be irrelevant to you. Do not forget that if you think some of the points i make are good ones ,i am relying on you to pass them on to your colleagues for professional discussion.
        Have you any way of telling how many people read these comments. I don’t think very many do for the simple reason that so few people join in. We did have a couple of comments by one i haven’t seen before .Hols. At first i thought it was ian but was mistaken.
        Right from the start of this thread i have tried my double best to show empathy to both Sw’s and lawyers and agreed with them where possible. I don’t see myself as hostile to any of you. I have praised rather than criticised and condemned.
        Overall a positive discussion and a long one. My main point so far, the cause of violence. Moral badness. The remedy- Education and the teaching of right and wrong from an early age.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          You have been consistently critical of both the law and SW.
          Your questions are not irrelevant.
          Moral badness might be your overview but SW are actually less judgemental, I can hear hollow laughs…

          Reply
        2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I am not sure how many people are reading this but this post has had 1,694 individual views and 638 unique page views according to my Google analytics – I assume that means 638 different people have clicked on the post 1,694 times but I am not that clear about what the stats in Google analytics actually mean.

          I have lost visitors since switching from .org.uk to .online – average daily visits have gone down from 1,000 to about 200 but I am hoping they will build up again. The majority of visits were from on line searches so were ‘new’ people.
          I don’t know if that is good, bad or indifferent for such a small website, but I was quite happy with it and it suggested to me there was an appetite for this information.

          I don’t agree I have ignored your fundamental questions – I think I have answered them repeatedly and given you the opportunity to have your own guest post to discuss them further. I do however find that you pose the same question repeatedly so you obviously don’t think you have had an answer.

          I think fundamentally you are unhappy with the system. You don’t think SW or Judges apply the law properly. You would like the police to have a much bigger, even exclusive role in child protection and you are unhappy with children being removed for reasons that wouldn’t satisfy a criminal charge. You also seem dismissive/lacking understanding of the role that emotional abuse can play and its very damaging consequences.

          These are all issues that I think have been canvassed quite extensively in a variety of posts.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, i have had a look back through my comments and not once have i repeated a question . None on this one from me have been repeated on any other thread.
            For you to suggest that i misunderstand or underestimate the role that emotional or any other kind of abuse can play just does not add up. I have often complained and expressed my abhorration of all kinds of abuse especially that suffered by children at the hands of the system. I have tried to emphasise the depth of the feelings of children suffering emotional and physical abuse in care.I have tried to analyse and put my opinion of the cause of bad parenting and domestic violence etc. and suggested the remedy.I have voiced an opinion that bad parents and abusive parents should be dealt with and reformed by a Court with the power and ability to do so be that a criminal court or a radically reformed Family Court.
            I have insisted that all the tests and safeguards put in place by the statute are followed scrupulously in the interests of justices.All possibility of institutional abuse of the fair process should be eliminated.
            I have discussed the issue you raised in the post about CS false narratives and how they will l;ead to over harsh sanctions and miscarriages of justice. I have written of different interpretations of the statute and the Human Rights Convention and how we all have the discretion to interpret it and make decisions with more comp[assion.Following your comment about the methods used to analyse and solve problems in air safety , i have expressed the view that risk assessment,safety assessment and SW assessments of normality are an inhuman method of judging the best interests of children ( one that also is open to abuse ). We cannot eliminate risk,to do so flying would have to be banned. Likewise an element of risk is unavoidable in family life. The only solution is to provide a safety net into which neglected and abused children will fall.

            I have tried to explain a parents view of proportionality and where i understand the High Court stands currently.
            Your summary of my views almost brings me to despair.Clearly ,i will have to write some sort of post.

            yOU CANNOT ELIMINATE RISK OTHERnormaxpost oraised the issue of false

          2. Angelo Granda

            I don’t know a lot about websites and the like .Why the change to online from .org makes such a difference, i know not. I managed to connect easily to the new site and have noticed no real difference. Why others have not made the transition and visits have dropped mystifies me. If anything ,i find the new one easier and if one calls up the old one , one is referred on to the new one . It beats me. I think i might try and produce a regular post in future entitling it SUMMARY AND EXTRACTS FROM RECENT READERS COMMENTS. I will try not to give too much prominence to my own.
            I presume one has to submit posts by private e-mail; to the CPR?

          3. helensparkles

            I think anyone here is able to read the comments here and form our own summary. Your views are comprehensively expressed on this blog, and I do find your comments repeat the same themes, your voice is being heard. I often don’t respond in full, because having done so once, I think my responses then just sound repetitive and defensive of SW (although people seem to think that anyway). You have a different view of harm to the evidence base which underpins the way that family law works when it separates children from their families because you think that is the worst thing that could ever happen. I wish it was the worst thing that happens to a child, once we are in court the worst thing is that the people who are supposed to keep them safe didn’t.

          4. helensparkles

            Unique views is not the same as unique visitors, the latter would tell you how many individuals are viewing the page.

      3. Angelo Granda

        To all readers, Never take criticism as a personal attack. When criticised , look carefully at the content.
        If the cap fits, wear it! Accept it in good part, apologise and change.Be absolutely honest.
        If it does not fit, IGNORE IT. It isn’t personal to you.
        Move on to your next comment and put an alternative view. The critic can then consider your view honestly.

        Reply
    2. helensparkles

      I did Google Jason & didn’t find it. You can make any judgment you like but you are interpreting tone. If I wanted to be sarcastic, taunt or even be glib I wouldn’t comment here, there would be no point. There are other places where people just slate SW and I choose not to be there, here I just ask and answer stuff to the best of my ability. There aren’t many SW here. Your view of me does of course make that more likely to be the case and then, where is the discussion?

      I know nothing about that case – I don’t know about all cases, that isn’t odd at all. Why would ? That’s saying all SW should know everything about all abuse cases. I also think it is reasonable to ask for a link to it which is what I did. It wasn’t a challenge. I didn’t notice Angelo’s comment about credibility until today & I responded to say it wasn’t in doubt.

      I’m not actually trying to create any kind of impression here, I am just saying what I think, and I wouldn’t dream of writing off you or any parent in the same way. I have absolutely nothing to gain by being here. Most of the comments are not giving SW any credibility and I am not in this to defend the whole of SW.

      Reply
    3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      iI would be interested if you could post the link. I have tried to find on line reference to this and can’t.

      Reply
  48. Jason

    Helen, your tone was frankly weird. I understand you’re not trying to create an impression, but that’s hardly the point. After saying you have never seen any malpractice in social work at all, you then say how very odd it is that an abuse scandal has attracted no publicity. You’re coming across as someone who doesn’t notice anything that she doesn’t want to see. My jaw dropped when I saw your comment about never having heard of the scandal. I don’t live anywhere near Manchester, and I’ve never been a social worker, but I recognised what Angelo was talking about anyhow.

    In terms of writing or not writing me off – well bully for you: it sounds like you just did. If your kids are ever wrongfully removed, then and ONLY then would your odd suggestion that there is some sort of parity have any sort of meaning.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I really haven’t seen malpractice so it would be far more weird for me to say anything else. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and i have always said that. It doesn’t do me any favours either. If i means ANY parent thinks I am motivated by removing their children on false premise, that creates fear, and I really don’t want to do that.

      I really didn’t know about that scandal so I asked about it, I could tell you all the things I do know about but isn’t it better that I am honest about that, why would I not ask about something don’t know about? if you look at that another way, someone I don’t know makes a broad assertion about how huge something was and how everyone was so shocked, and I check the evidence base. Wouldn’t you think that was a good thing in a SW, I don’t accept anything, I always look for more.

      This is a blog and I am asking for some parity of consideration about comments just here. I am not suggesting there is parity between our experiences of SW.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        To be absolutely honest, i do not feel you were questioning my credibility but what you wrote inadvertently caused me to question my own credibility and i did not want readers to think i was a scaremongering,alarmist nutter. Period.

        Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Jason, I don’t think Child protection professionals are used to parents making pronouncements to them about the various issues. They are so used to being the ones making pronouncements to us!

      We make the LAW and we expect them to follow it as we do.

      Reply
        1. helensparkles

          I don’t know your case so it is impossible to comment and it sound like you had an awful experience, but you did prove your case I gather, so the law did mean something?

          Outside SW and family law, just for insane, it does happen that people are questioned about things by the police, even arrested before release, it isn’t nice but it is justice.

          Reply
      1. helensparkles

        Great except SW don’t make the law and we already know you disagree with the actual law, but maybe stop blaming SW for that?

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          I have never said i do not accept the law. It says that families should not be permanently separated except in the most dire cases when nothing else will do . The law comes out strongly against non-consensual adoption and says that it should not be imposed on children in ‘their best interests’ only . There has to be a pressing social need in the Public interest.
          I guess ideas of the most dire circumstances differ. Also we differ on the issue of whether less invasive alternatives will do or not.
          So to be constructive , we have to draw a line in the sand. I have suggested that ‘something approaching deliberate malice’ between the parent and child should have to be proven. If there isn’t i say temporary removal (if necessary) and rehabilitation home as and when reform and change is achieved. With monitoring and supervision until orders are discharged.That will ensure safety.
          Where would other readers draw the line?
          All comments and answers welcome.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            QUOTE: i said SW don’t make the law?
            Neither do they enforce it, courts do : UNQUOTE

            Helen ,exactly what do you mean by that?

          2. helensparkles

            “There has to be a pressing social need in the Public interest.” The law does not say this.

        2. Angelo Granda

          Thank you, Helen. Might i suggest you take a look at Article 8, ECHR relating to proportionality. Examine closely the provisions and tests for proportionality,the observance of safeguards etc. including the hidden provisions which have been accepted as fundamental to proportionality.Also check out the Portugese case reported upon by Sarah.
          Please try to understand also that whilst SW’s do not make the Law ( you are not wrong) and neither do lawyers, the Publ;ic who do make it grant all of you considerable discretion to interpret the law and operate it . You , as a social worker, are granted the power to make certain decisions within reason.Your opinions are given much more credit by the Court than anyone else’s. In practice,Guardians,lawyers and other cp professionals tend to rely on the integrity of YOUR assessments.
          Thus you have the discretion to decide what the most dire circunstances are and to make your own judgments about less invasive alternatives etc.
          You have great influence on cases and , in my opinion, sometimes the ‘system’ of which you are a member acts inhumanely. So your personal assessment of ‘dire circumstances’ and proportionality is very, very important. You can decide whether ‘dire circumstances’ means scenarios like a conviction for criminal abuse ,sex abuse etc. ( as with Fred West) is the benchmark or whether significant neglect and less serious scenarios are to warrant permanent liquidation of families.A massive interference with family life.
          I have described what i see as a ‘toxic mix’ bound to lead to humanity in an earlier comment. Risk assessments- it is literally impossible to eliminate all risk. Same applies to safety and normality assessments. Add to those three the failure to follow procedures scrupulously and too much acceptance of false statements ( you say truth is not absolute, it is conditional upon on personal opinion) makes matters even worse.
          Do you accept that you have the power to decide on proportionality ,can decide on support plans etc. or whether to go for adoption and a court hearing? Or does the LA decide ?

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            The right to family life (I do know article 8) doesn’t include the right to harm your children.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Helen, Sadly your assertion is not strictly true and inhumane.( See High Court Judgments).
            We are all human and we all harm our children in one way or another. Even you cannot say with absolute certainty that you have not harmed a child.
            On occasion it may be in a ‘childs best interests ‘ to be removed into care or placed for permanent adoption away from family.Yet that does not warrant interference on a scale like ‘forced adoption or permanent liquidation .The law says it is not a pressing social need and ‘not in the Public interest. It would be an intolerable interference in our family lives and freedoms.
            I would welcome a lawyer’s view on this particular issue.

          3. helensparkles

            & it is right that a court decides what constitutes harm after considering the evidence.

            I am really confused about your use of public interest and social need.

            I’m not commenting again on non consensual adoption, your alternatives are more damaging for children.

  49. Jason

    OK, fair enough. You strike me as a good person. There’s no point in me blaming you. I’m going to stop commenting now because there’s no way the system’s going to change. I know what I know and you know what you know.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      That would be a shame because we all need to talk more, to create systemic change, but i can get lost if it is more helpful for parents to talk here.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        If you both go,there will only be Sarah,Sam,Ian and one or two others left.
        Helen,why don’t you issue a professional post like Kate Wells does? I shall read and comment and i don’t think you would be sycothantic to the official CS line.
        Jason, You should consider writing of your experiences in your own post too. You have been there! Make it a hard-hitting one. Ask your daughter to write an essay or poem on the theme of her life so far and include it.

        When you issue your posts, i think it gets tweeted and will be read by lots of others.

        If you think you are going nowhere , that will be a good idea.
        Otherwise , i look forward to reading your comments again as always.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Same with me but neither do i have the qualifications. Solution, continue commenting as you do now.

  50. Sam

    During a recent hospital stay I became angered by a family of an elderly woman who were swearing about the care she was receiving. The nurses were really doing the best the could, she was reluctant to drink, would not be discharged until she did and they could not force her. The family were ranting away and had no empathy towards the the overworked staff who were limited in what they could do. Then I started thinking, the family were blinkered because of their concern for their relative and could see nothing beyond getting her home. It made me think about my attitude towards SW, I do have empathy towards individual SW , I have also had hatred ( it is not too strong a word) towards those who removed my children. Life throws you lessons: I may too be blinkered and made no allowance for the limitations the SW were working under because of my over riding concern for my children.
    “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”
    ― Desmond Tutu
    As Angelo says all thoughts welcome.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for the comment Sam, it is a point well made. Often fear manifests itself as anger – if the family were frightened about what would happen to their relative, it is easy to see how they would take that fear and direct it at the nursing staff, who were trying their best.

      This is why I think Brene Brown’s work is so useful. She says you must constantly ask yourself ‘what is the story I am telling’. If your ‘story’ is ‘these nurses don’t give a shit, they don’t care about my relative’ then you have to stop and examine that story and ask yourself if it really is true.

      I have spent all morning recently with a young mother with mental health vulnerabilities. It was exhausting. She is going to sabotage her case and there is nothing I can do for her as the story she is telling herself is that her child has been taken for ‘no reason’, she is well now and why can’t anyone see that? She alternated between tears and aggression. I have tried to see her as what she undoubtedly is – frightened and vulnerable – but I only have to spend a few hours with her every couple of weeks. If I had to deal with that every day I have no doubt I would quickly become jaded and fed up. The story that she is telling herself about why SW are involved, will mean that she loses her baby and it is very, very sad.

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Sam, Your reference to an elderly woman and her family is an interesting one. Also the quote by Desmond Tutu in relation to humanity.
      Are the hospital authorities guilty of oppressive actions contrary to the human rights of the families concerned?
      It is certainly true, in many ,many cases that elderly folk have a clearly defined wish to end their days at home. That wish may or may not be in their ‘best interests’ but as a norm they will have impressed that simple and clear demand on their relations and family carers well in advance of being taken into hospital. Some of them may be fully aware of the approach of death indeed some may have had enough and will welcome it.
      They want to die at home with their family around them.
      Refusing to drink or eat is part of the death process ,one’s natural survival instincts break down and as a result one’s vital organs break down.In a home setting, a carer ( perhaps a daughter) will take a glass of water and try to force the elderly person to swallow it and at the same time show other loving care . It may be that the relations are unable to supply all the care a patient needs and in such a case ,it will be easy for a doctor or Social worker to dictate that the person will be better off being cared for by nurses in hospital. In other words ,they make a decision which is the direct antithesis to the patients wishes and human rights.
      Would it not be better if a community nurse or health visitor were to call at the patients home?

      All comments welcome.

      Reply