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Conference news - June 2014

June saw many opportunities for us to attend and participate in a variety of conferences.  It gives us opportunities to network and spread the word about the importance of bottom up, professional input from workers.

BASPCAN Edinburgh event

The BASPCAN (British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) Edinburgh event was led by Professor David Shemmings, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2014 for Services to Child Protection

The event, on the theme of “disorganised attachment and child protection” provided a thoughtful analysis of the usage of “attachment” and the sometimes over-emphasis on lack of “secure” and “insecure attachments” as a description in reports (often used against families). 

The conclusions can come from a number of materials, tools and risk assessment questionnaires which result in social workers subsequently signposting to “other services”. It was suggested that “relationship problems” may be a more appropriate term than attachment, and Prof Shemmings continued to elaborate on identification of the behaviours related to carer risk factors and the linkages, mechanisms and pathways that can cause child maltreatment.

NSPCC Scotland Conference

This theme of developing relationships as well as prevention continued with the NSPCC Scotland Conference Beyond Boundaries: giving every child a better start.

Julia Donaldson gave a presentation on the GIFT (Glasgow Infant and Family Team), a model of early intervention. Professor Harry Burns also gave a presentation, saying he no longer apologised for repeating his mantra on early intervention as well as prevention. Professor Philip Wilson also spoke about the importance of primary care support in early years, and how universal services can protect children.

The evidence is there, whether it is medical, such as increased cortisol and its impact on DNA, or through the stories of people involved in various initiatives such as the Family Nurse Partnership. We need to now grasp the nettle and use this evidence to shape interventions in practice, not keep repeating the evidence in time-limited projects. 

The powerful examples cited by both Professor Shemmings and Julia Donaldson of working intensively with parents and carers to enable them to care for their child had convincing results.

In the GIFT model, social workers were essential contributors. In many of the other scenarios and examples we hear about, social workers are there at an assessment stage and possibly as part of subsequent formal processes, CP conferences, Children’s Hearings.

They monitor the support and assistance provided; frequently the actual engagement is left to colleagues in the voluntary sector. There was evidence of good and productive relationships within integrated teams around the child and services informed by GIRFEC, e.g. Highland council, and a brilliant East Lothian project on family participation at Child Protection Conferences.

While we may be less at risk of an outsourcing of Child Protection and other statutory services as our colleagues in England are, we do need to make sure that our profession remains in the vanguard. There are many examples of positive joint working within the Scottish social services workforce, and we are working hard, with others, to showcase where we make a lasting impact and really empower and enable lasting change. Our statutory services in local authorities should not have to comment that they “simply don’t have the time” to do the “actual work” with the people who need our services.