Skip to main content

BASW backs Action for Children child protection report

BASW has welcomed a report from Action for Children in which the charity highlights social workers’ powerlessness to intervene in suspected neglect cases.

Ruth Cartwright, England manager for the British Association of Social Workers, commented:

“We welcome this report by Action for Children and endorse its calls to government to increase children and families’ access to effective early support services.

“The issue of neglect of children is itself being neglected by the system.

“Neglect forms one of the four areas of child abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and because there is not one single thing to measure, it can be one of the hardest to assess, prove and remedy.

“There are many reasons why a child may be neglected apart from deliberate cruelty, for example, when parents may love their child, but are simply not up to the job of parenting, and have little understanding of the most basic things child needs, like clean clothes, decent food or somewhere to play.

“This may be because of the way they were brought up without adequate parental role models, or drug or alcohol abuse when sadly their own needs take precedence over those of the child, or mental health problems.

“Poverty may also have a part to play as some parents, even when they have jobs, are struggling to put food on the table and this could count as neglect.

“Social workers and other professionals need to have many resources and ways of helping a child apart from removing them from the family home, which is always absolutely the last resort, and these resources and services are not as available as they once were.

“Even if removal is justified in the social worker’s professional opinion, it is can be hard to persuade managers and those who hold the purse strings of this, and the chances of this step being sanctioned by the courts are quite slim.

“Because of the complexities posed by neglect, there must be a multi-dimensional approach to assessment, with all professionals spending time to define the harm.

“Our members report that social workers are under resourced and have limited time to build relationships with parents and children, which hinders any assessment and often children are left far longer than they should be as ‘evidence’ is collected to be considered by the court.

“The facilities to conduct such assessments have recently been reduced, following cuts to resources such as family centres, again delaying assessments. The criteria set by each local authority is so high it means that the only neglect which can be illustrated with significant evidence would be, for example, a child being below average weight or slow in development, illustrated by an inability to perform basic tasks like using the toilet.

“Social workers too have sleepless nights about these children and would want to get help and support into place much earlier, when the situation can perhaps be retrieved, the family can be kept together and the child can get on with enjoying their childhood.”

BASW is currently preparing a submission to the Education Select Committee on the Child Protection system.