In a radio interview last weekend, Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) manager, Trisha Hall, called for a “robust review of social work practice” in Scotland.
The rallying cry was made during a feature on the 10th anniversary of the tragic Baby P case that was aired on Capital FM, Heart FM and Smooth Radio.
Hall emphasised that it is social work practice – not social work systems – that needs to be addressed.
“It should be informed by social workers, take account of their employment conditions and be informed by people who need and/or are subject to social work,” said Hall.
Hall stresses the review isn’t a criticism of Scottish government, who, she highlights, commissioned a huge review into child protection systems in 2016, nor a comment on social workers.
It is more an attempt to share best practice and to get social work out of the office and back into the field, as Hall believes the Baby P tragedy ushered in a burdensome level of red-tape and bureaucracy that is stifling good social work.
“There is too much emphasis on the systems and responding to things like assessment formats. There is still an issue of too much time spent on paperwork,” said Hall.
“Qualified social workers need time for reflective practice, to see what is really going on with children and parents.”
“You cannot do this without real engagement with families – 15-minute visits aren’t enough – there needs to be more time for real observation, analysis and reflection.”
Hall also says that social workers have grown too dependent on information from other sources due to not having the time for real engagement with families.
“Real relationships with parents and families are essential to potentially prevent escalation into child protection matters.”
A part of the legacy from the Baby P case was the overt and widespread negative coverage and comments by some media towards social workers.
In Scotland, Hall suggests that under-pressure social workers are now so concerned about being blamed for something missed that they are potentially producing too many referrals.
She added: “Services have become so concerned about possibly being liable for something that hasn’t been noticed that there are now too many referrals for a duty system to cope with.”
Within this sphere, Hall laments the loss of community based resources and parenting groups due to funding cuts to charities that organised and facilitated them, believing they provided a vital part of prevention and early intervention.
“We need to be very clear what these activities mean, and that isn’t necessarily engaging from a protection perspective.”