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BASW: Social workers need no lessons from headmaster Wilshaw

BASW has described comments made by Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw that social workers need to send out “tough messages” about taking responsibility to parents “who behave badly” as an oversimplification of the complexities of child protection.

Sir Michael was giving evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee on Ofsted's annual report on social care 2012-13, published in October 2013.

In response to a question on encouraging parental responsibility, Sir Michael said: “These families need to know that they can't go on treating their children like this, they can't go on behaving in this manner and they've got to hit the targets that are being set by social workers”.

“As a head teacher, I used to tell parents that they were behaving badly and that they were bad parents. It didn’t often go down extremely well, but nevertheless that was my responsibility, and it is the responsibility of social workers.”

BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb described his comments as “as an oversimplification of the complexities of child protection”.

“As a head teacher, Sir Michael Wilshaw will have worked with parents with a wide range of parenting skills and he apparently found it helpful to use the language of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parents to distinguish between the people he was meeting”, Ms Robb said.

“Social workers are not in that position. All the families referred to social services will have been identified by other agencies as having problems, or to use Sir Michael's language, being "bad" parents.

Ms Robb continued, “This might be due to health issues for the children or the adults, work problems, behaviour problems, or lack of money. Whatever the ‘problem’, social workers have to identify whether such issues can be resolved to make the home a safe and appropriate place for the children or whether an alternative home is required.

“In schools, disruptive children or families can be removed to another school. Social workers do not normally have that luxury. I don't think Sir Michael has a lot to teach social workers about how to deal with the complexity of family problems they face on a daily basis.”