Commenting on a speech on child protection given by Education Secretary Michael Gove MP at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) that advocated an expansion in the care system, with more children taken into care more quickly, BASW has called for careful assessment of the long-term needs of children, backed by better resources to do this vital work.
Bridget Robb, acting chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, who witnessed Mr Gove’s speech this morning, said:
"Social workers will genuinely welcome aspects of the secretary of state's analysis of the lack of support afforded to social workers in this country, as well as the reality that it is not the care system that creates dysfunctional adults but the lives such young people live before being removed from their homes.
"Social work professionals will also concur with Mr Gove in recognising that the voice of children should be heard first and foremost, and ahead of any professional or other interest. What his analysis overlooks, however, is that protecting children also involves learning from evidence from around the world telling us that simply cutting them off from their birth families is not always in their best interests.
“Children’s needs in the short term must be carefully assessed against the long term effects on their mental health and identity of being removed from home.”
"The minister's speech also offers no recognition of how part of the state's ‘failure in its duty to keep our children safe’ lies in a refusal to understand that it requires sustained investment in better services if we are to better protect children, whether this is done through intensive work with parents in the family or by taking more children into care. The latter option is not cheap, and to pretend that social workers can take on ever greater caseloads with ever diminishing resources is a miscalculation that Mr Gove surely must recognise.
“We must have effective mainstream services in place to support children and families, so that social workers, teachers, health and the police can properly work together.
“We need to be careful to resist taking a punitive approach to struggling families – an approach that may play well with the media but may fail vulnerable children who need protection.
“Many “troubled” families are not the lost causes some would suggest. Instead, they are crying out for preventative services that are simply not there and that Mr Gove has made no promise to make available. The state has failed many of our children, but so too it has failed many of their parents, through the inequalities that pervade our society. Letting them get into difficulty then punishing them for it, when there are alternatives that could be pursued, is counter-productive.
“A balance must be struck between those children who are at risk and need to be protected through removal from their families, and those where work can be done to turn challenging situations around, so that children can benefit from being brought up safely within their own families.”