Category Archives: Social Work

Independent Social Workers – an endangered species? blog by Chris McWatters

It’s good to see the efforts made by Ann Haigh and others in their letter to Children’s Minister Tim Loughton today, making the case for preventing the dissapearance of the independent social worker from care cases. But I fear it will fall on deaf ears. Only a few weeks ago, Tim Loughton was quoted as saying “Judges need to be able to trust the advice of social workers and act more quickly”. This was in response the Norgrove report setting a six month time limit on care cases, and clearly he had in mind the in- house local authority social worker as opposed to an independent social worker who is often brought in as a possible challenge to the local authority’s recommendation for a care order. In the government’s mind, the ISW is seen as costly and cause for further delay. But time and time again, as any care practitioner knows, the ISW has the wisdom of experience to find a way of working with parents and finding a solution whereby a child can remain in the care of the extended family. As tempting as it is for the government to say right, threshold is crossed, let’s hurl them into adoption without further delay, is it not worth at least having a stab at preserving the Article 8 rights of parents and children alike ? Children who have been through the care system may well end up with a few more GCSE’s and brighter prospects of a professional life if adopted. But then why the enthusiasm by adoptess to search for birth families if there wasn’t a profound sense of belonging to that birth family ?  The case for a care order needs to be properly scrutinised, and the best evidence in that process of scrutiny freqeuntly comes from the independent social worker as opposed to the in-house one. Perhaps one way to ensure that the best quality evidence is made available that is considered fair to all parties is if the ISW is made a joint instruction at the CMC, and that they effectively take over the case. That is of course if they are willing to work for the £36 per hour that the Legal Services Commission are trying to restrict them to.


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