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BASW England releases new resource for children and families social workers

The scoping review is more necessary than ever to help guide busy social workers to instigate both individual and societal change

The BASW England Children and Families Group has produced a Scoping Review for mid-career social workers in children’s services, their managers, and policymakers. It highlights and reaffirms some over-arching key definitions, principles, resources, theories, and approaches that are considered central to the day-to-day practice of children and families social workers.

Given significant current events, including the ongoing ‘Independent Review into children’s social care’, such a resource is more necessary than ever to help guide busy social workers to instigate both individual and societal change. It includes acknowledgement of broader social and economic determinants of needs and harms.

The Scoping Review concludes that:

“Children and families social work is complex, emotional work that promotes the positive contribution of support alongside the essential requirement of maintaining children’s rights. This includes protecting children from abuse and harm. Support and protection lie on a continuum. Social work literature, research, and everyday social work practice experience highlight that they cannot be separated out.”

Further information regarding BASW’s stance concerning the Review can be found in both our 10 key priority areas for the Review, as well as the BASW England policy statement on the Review.

The document is complimented by BASW’s A Vision for Social Work: Children and Families, a UK vision, as well as The context, roles and tasks of the child and family social worker.

 A summary of the key points is provided below:

Rights-based profession

Social work is a rights-based profession rooted in the Children’s Act 1989. These rights provide the framework within which children and young people not only survive but thrive across various aspects of their lives.

This section also sets out that the following children’s rights are especially vital for ethical social work practice:

  • A child’s welfare must be paramount
  • Children should, first and foremost, stay in the care of their families if it is safe to do so
  • Children have the right to protection
  • If a child cannot remain in their family environment, they are entitled to protection and assistance provided by the state
  • Children have a right to express their views and have those views taken seriously for matters affecting them
  • Every child has the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and social needs and support their development, as set out by Article 27 of the UNCRC.

Relationship-based practice

Children’s rights and relationship-based practice are not mutually exclusive and “BASW England is unequivocal that relationship-based practice is the cornerstone of social work.”

This section focuses on how relationship-based practice “highlights the need for social workers to engage in emotional labour and ask for a professional relationship rather than a professionalised one”.

There is also reference to BASW England’s 80/20 campaign and why this matters to ensure more time is spent with families, more effective recording, right-based advocacy, supervision, reflective spaces, and more focused family-centred and co-produced assessment writing.

Community-based social work

A community-based approach to social work is also explored within the document. Again, there is an acknowledgement of broader social and economic determinants of needs and harms.

The document sets out:

“BASW England recommends that children’s social workers be closely located within their local communities, socially and physically, to understand children’s experiences better and use social work approaches that recognise community strengths and what matters to them.”

The document also explains why a community-based approach is essential when discussing contextual safeguarding risks.

Early help

This section explores the basic premise behind early help, preventative services, early intervention and family support.

The document sets out how only supporting families when they are at a crisis point is unacceptable given legislation that provides statutory and discretionary powers to support parents, carers and children prior to this. The document also suggests that early help and prevention practice and research needs to be linked to the austerity to be able to understand the full impact on the communities and families social workers engage with.

The document explains:

“BASW England does not promote one form of early intervention, help, support, or prevention over another, but rather understands that all types of support for the family are essential to improve children’s outcomes. All are necessary, including informal support, which indirectly forms community relationships and universal welfare provision. It is also reasonable to assume that some types of early help and prevention will benefit some families and communities more than others.”

Participation and child’s voice

Collaboration, involvement and co-production are the common terms used when discussing the involvement of the general public in developing health and social services.

The scoping document looks, as well, at the points of contention in terms of participation and setting out the BASW England view.

BASW England remains clear that children’s voices must be central to social work policy, legislation, services and practice.

“Voice, space, audience and influence must be addressed through an ongoing dialogue between social workers and family members and between social workers, managers and policymakers. Furthermore, children communicate in many different ways, and there must not be an over-emphasis placed on verbal communication.”

Anti-racist social work

The scoping document is rooted in BASW’s commitment to anti-oppressive, anti-discriminatory, anti-racist practice, all of which are outlined in our recently updated Code of Ethics.

The document also explores why these practices are essential and how black and minoritised social workers are so disproportionately underrepresented. It also promotes BASW’s anti-racist framework.

Anti-poverty social work

The scoping document acknowledges that poverty is connected to health inequalities and impacts social and behavioural development, participation, domestic violence, and parental conflict. The is an acknowledgement of the social gradient where children in the most deprived areas are also ten times more likely to need to come in to care.

The scoping document states a need for an intersectional approach and highlights that social workers cannot tackle child welfare unless poverty is addressed. It reiterates BASWs Anti-Poverty Practice Guide.

BASW England hope you find the scoping document of great interest and encourage you to share it widely.