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SASW: Voice of social workers and families key to Child Protection Review

SASW has welcomed a comprehensive review of the child protection system in Scotland but says it must take heed of the ‘lived experience’ of the system from social workers and families.

The review, announced by Education Secretary Angela Constance, will make its recommendations by the end of the year and will focus on four key areas; child protection committees, Initial Case Reviews, Significant Case Reviews and the child protection register. In addition, the review will consider if legislation on neglect needs to be strengthened.

Ms Constance also announced additional funding for the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, a new degree-level qualification for those working in residential childcare centres and a leadership summit to be held in the summer.

Commenting on the announcement, SASW Manager Trisha Hall said: “We sincerely hope the review will take account of the experiences of social workers, who are an essential part of professional protection and support, and who have come into the job because they wanted to make a difference to the lives of children and families.

“Our members work tirelessly on a daily basis to protect vulnerable children and support, enable and empower them and their families to live the best lives they can within their community. However, some families are very frightened of child protection and find there is very little in the way of help. Therefore, we recommend the review also includes the lived experience of parents and children.

“New legislation may be necessary, but can also lead to new systems, new forms, and new levels of bureaucracy. We need to give workers the space and the tools to do the work they were trained for in universities across Scotland, so that they don’t leave the profession after eight years, as is the current turnover. We can still recruit workers in Scotland, but retention is beginning to be an issue. Children are best protected if we invest in them and their families at the early referral stages, and if we tackle the poverty and inequality which is evident in so many of the current cases.

“Child protection work is complex and demanding, and social workers need the time to reflect, to be able to make relationships with those around the child, wherever possible their families, and they crucially need to have the time to do the follow up after the crisis has been dealt with. The longer term planning is so often where we are not able to do the work which may lead to better sustainable outcomes.

“There is no doubt that child protection work has become more complex and fraught as the impact of austerity bites; neglect is so often linked to poverty and it is no coincidence that the number of investigations in families of low income is disproportionate to those enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle.  

“The Christie Commission focused on prevention, and giving people help when they ask for it is infinitely better both from a human and an economic perspective than spending funds on more systems. SASW is keen to support the review as we believe our members are well placed to inform any such process.”