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Children’s commissioner questions consistency in social work practice

Children and young people say that social workers are not always respectful and open, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England has said in its submission to the College for of Social Work consultation.

The submission cites reports from children and families which indicate a lack of consistency in the quality of social work practice provided and these reports are backed by information from Serious Case Reviews, it adds.

“Our consultations have frequently identified the value of high quality social work for children but have also shown that the experience of too many children is that basic skills such as communication, demonstrating respect and openness are lacking in the social workers they meet,” said the consultation response.

“Children value continuity of relationships within which trust can be developed and to them the personal qualities of social workers are most important,” it adds.

Nushra Mansuri BASW joint England manager said: “In the current climate how can anyone feel confident that children and young people are getting the quality services they should get due to a scarceness of resources and experience?”

“There are many good committed social workers disempowered by so many of the obstacles which are impeding good practice,” Ms Mansuri added.

She added that social workers are not happy because they are not given the time to develop relationships as 80 per cent of their time is spent doing bureaucratic tasks and with caseloads meaning they are working beyond capacity diluting the quality of direct work which should be the premium, but isn’t.

They are not getting support, supervision or time for reflective practice, all essential parts of social work, she added.

“We are still in crisis in children’s services,” said Ms Mansuri. “There needs to be a transformation of frontline services to get the relationship bit right.”

However, she added that any young person experiencing a poor service could not be ignored and should be addressed as that is why systems and regulations are in place.

Ms Mansuri said the submission showed that BASW’s campaign against cuts is essential and backs the need for a Social Work Bill which BASW is set to launch in October.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s submission welcomed the establishment of a College of Social Work and “sees it as an important route to greater recognition of the valuable role played by social workers”.

“Good social workers understand a great deal about the lives of vulnerable children – for example about the value of early intervention, of ways in which services could best meet children’s needs and of the impact of poverty in children’s lives. They can be champions for children’s needs and rights,” said the submission from the Children’s Commissioner which is led by Maggie Atkinson, a former director of children’s services.

It added that the College would have a vital role to play in upholding standards of practice and in gaining recognition for the role of social work.

“The College can ensure that opportunities are taken to influence policy directions which confirm social workers as experts in their field. The College should be then able to promote an improved reputation for social workers,” said the submission.

“There is much good work taking place in spite of increasing pressures, particularly in the field of child protection,” it added.

The authority the College of Social Work would provide for the profession should also lead to better representation of social work in the media, it concluded.

BASW has put forward a proposal for a convergence with the College of Social Work.

For more about BASW’s campaign against cuts: