16 thoughts on “Laming and Training

  1. I fully agree with your points cb. Doctors, lawyers, nurse all have one or two years built into their training, after the degree where they work on the job before they can actually gain their full professional registration. Social Work should be the same, and LAs should be legally obliged to offer a number of these ‘training posts’.
    As for specialising after one year, it’s interesting how many of those students choosing the childrens pathway on my course have backgrounds in elderly care, disability, mental health etc, not children. And vice versa. But children’s social workers need to know about the other areas too, because a child protection issue may arise out of a parent with mental health difficulties, for example. How can risk in that situation be assessed adequately without even a basic knowledge of mental health? The generic pre-qualifying training is so important.
    The age issue was a topic of conversation between some of the older students only yesterday at my uni too. There are only 6 of us who are in our 30s or older, out of 50 students. 5 of the students are only 21, the rest are mostly under 25. And there are huge differences between the two groups, in terms of commitment (to attention in lectures, attendance, completing work), assertiveness and confidence (to challenge statements or issues, in their own beliefs, values, judgements and identity, and when on placement) and attitudes and experience (towards service users, social issues, values, of social care, and life in general). Some do have huge potential and will be good social workers immediately- some may not. I know this could equally apply to those older student s too, but I do think age does often give an advantage for this area of work.

    • Unsurprisingly perhaps, I agree! The age thing is a strange one as I don’t think it is the only indication but I do think that some level of experience whether personally or professionally can only help through the process of training and coming out the other end and through practice. I found myself changing during the actual course itself and I know, personally, I would not have fared so well, if at all, at the age of 18.

  2. I think possibly an issue is who pays for the training posts, and how much. An issue, particularly in graduate recruitment, is trying to recruit people into a not-stunningly-well-paid job, and saying that they’ll have to train for x amount of years and even then not be at full salary might have a negative impact? I’m not sure.

    I know that my LA has advertised social work training posts where you work for a 6-12 months as a “social work assistant” (paid), are then supported through the degree by the LA, and then take up a 2 year post within a team in that LA. If that 2 year post were ensured to be suitably well supervised, then this would seem to me like a good plan, particularly for undergraduates.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this though, as recent family experiences have got me interested in going into social work after my (psychology) degree.

    • You know, I hadn’t even thought of that, itm. I’m a bit embarrassed to say! Sometimes I think in idealised terms but my assumption was they would be paid apprenticeships – exactly like the social work training posts you specify. The profession should absolutely not demand a price for education. And good luck with the training plans. If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a line through the ‘contact me’ page.

  3. Social workers in “child protection” are now reviled throughout the land as “childsnatchers” TAKING CHILDREN FROM PARENTS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ACCUSED OR CONVICTED OF ANY CRIME WHATSOEVER ! Instead of “helpers” they are known as bullies who intimidate single mothers and whose main intent is meeting “adoption targets” not keeping families together . For ths image to change vital reforms are needed…….;

    1:-Abolish the family court secrecy that gags parents who wish to complain.
    2:-Abolish “emotional harm” and “risk” as justifications for putting children into care
    3:-Abolish “forced adoption”if a parent opposes an adoption in court
    4:-Abolish decisions by family court judges to take babies and young children into care.(let juries decide)
    5:-Abolish the power of social services to regulate and control contact between parents and children , to censor their conversation or to restrict phone calls.The court must control the frequency of contacts.
    6:-Abolish the restriction preventing a lay advisor from presenting a case for parents refused legal aid
    7:-Abolish hearsay evidence in family courts and require witnesses to stick to facts without “speculation.”
    8:-Abolish the removal of children for non life threatening forms of neglect such as absences from school or insanitary dwellings unless a written warning has been served and the situation has not been remedied.CONCENTRATE on children suspected of suffering physical harm with a health visitor or doctor giving them regular and thorough physical examinations ;

    These reforms would stop most of the present injusticesand finally imptove the deplorable public image of the child protection wing of social azrvices !

    • Ian – I can appreciate you have an agenda – but there is a line to draw at some point.

      1. My understanding is that family courts are to be opened up.

      2. Emotional harm is valid. It happens. It exists. Denying its existence does a great disservice.

      3. I don’t know enough about adoption issues and laws to comment
      4. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly (note case of mother in Nottingham who was charged with child cruelty and threw her baby at a social worker
      http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/homenews/Mother-threw-baby-social-worker/article-698105-detail/article.html ).

      5. Well, I’m not going to win that one because it’s clear you have a line on social services. Like it or not though, these decisions are not arbitrary – although it may seem to be. They are regulated.

      6. Again, I don’t know about the details but I agree everyone should have a right to representation.

      7. Yep, that seems fair enough.

      8. No, I can’t go with this. I haven’t worked in child protection but I’ve worked in adult protection and there is no doubt in my mind that harm can exist outside the physical dimension. The line for removal is drawn high – too high according to many critics of the system.

      There is a system and it has to work but I can imagine that you aren’t able to ally yourself with that view as you clearly have a vested interest in presenting social workers as incompetent.

      Things are far from perfect but there has to be a realistic presentation and if anything, cases like Baby P and the demonisation of social workers, if anything, works against campaigns such as yours because fewer are able to work more creatively with parents or work in different ways when papers like ‘The Sun’ are calling them out for not removing children.

      Of course, I appreciate your willingness to share your viewpoint here as it is my right to present a different view! I have a tingly sensation that makes me doubt either one of us will be able to find much more common ground.

  4. I think that this is a very interesting interchange: Ian you used BLOCK CAPITALS at the beginning to emphasise your point.

    It felt LIKE SHOUTING and maybe that’s the problem: that the kind of discussion about society and social work really needs to take into consideration that we all share different experiences of the same things: when we talk about our experiences of school, friendship, work, racism, sexism, that the media view springs from a very fixed view of ‘what we are’ rather than ‘what we do’. (This is a comment from a review by Lynsey Hanley of a book called ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett). Lynsey Hanley expresses the privileged view that a reader can choose which view of society to have whether it’s to go along with the empassioned plea in the book for real opportunities for the inner cities to engage or to choose to think that people are born like it and they pass on their gormlees ineptitude and incapacity to their offspring.

    I think Ian, that you are making a point based on a real feeling of injustice and powelessness in the face of power that you feel is hidden and unaccountable. That’s a scary thing and something that makes everyone’s heart race and the adrenalin pump. The impact of intervention in people’s lives is picked up by a different kind of intervention in the media but it’s just as effective in raising the blood pressure but it’s just as unaccountable and much more careless of the purposes of social work.
    Social worker and teachers historically come from the white middle class and I think that when the social equality and mobility projects were jettisoned by successive labour and conservative government there was noone there to document and witness the increasing inequality and dumping of problem after problem on the communities least able to absorb those problems.
    Social workers, like teachers and probation officers couldn’t be political or they’d lose ground or their jobs. Even the most right on of social workers came to accept that it was the owner managers of their local nurseries, governor class, careers service or nursing home that really wielded the power in this new Brave World of ‘individual’ not collective ‘responsibilty’ .

    It’s so much easier not to have to fight for everything and when the social template of ‘the way things are locally’ is already predefined for you, you no longer rely on your own eyes and intuition as that is seen as subjective, unprofessional or even rash.

    The problem is though, that many people now working in the system recognises now that the work they do may be based on the wrong premises.Too much of the worng information at the worng time in the wrong places.

    That for any child protection service to work there has to be a shared community and social space for rehabilitation and regeneration that is allowed to come out of people’s lived experience of justice and injustice.

    The right to rehabilitation and social justice for whole communities means that the finely tuned yet always underresourced systems that work to protect children are really not working with a wider process of reintegration of communities and individuals over a lifetime.

    This can’t be controlled by white middle and professional classes! We have to have as many experiences of life in our new view of social work as a way of living and doing that is willing to challenge authority and the underpinnings of how social work must be connected to economic and community ideals of justice and social inclusion rather than something that’s used as a weapon and partially seen by the media as a system of smash and grab.

    • Some excellent and fascinating points there, Paula. Interestingly, I was just reading about The Spirit Level this morning and was thinking that the premise sounded like something I felt I needed to explore more.
      I do think there needs to be more common ground found and the systems are very far from perfect but the people within the systems are not all working to the same agendas.

  5. Thank you ch you are the first critic to actually consider my 8 proposals instead of simply reproaching me for daring to suggest them !
    My measured reply to your views is as follows :-
    1:-Jack Straw said he intends to let a few journalists into the courts(how many have time to go unless informed in advance that the case is important ?) but will still gag and imprison parents who dare to publicize their own names after losing their children or who reveal names of witnesses;(Unlike rape victims who can shed anonymity if they wish)He says the government will even legislate to reverse the Appeal Court decision in Clayton v Clayton to stop the present right of parents to identify themselves after all proceedings have finished! One step forward and two steps back !
    2:-Of course emotional harm exists but in my opinion a forecast by a “professional” that one day a child might suffer emotional harm is not a good reason to take newborn babies or young children for adoption by complete strangers ! According to Sundayy Telegraph figures more children are taken for undefined emotional harm than any other reason,and that is very bad news !
    3:-Forced adoption (against opposition from a parent in court)is wicked and not practiced in the rest of W.Europe as it deprives children (usually permanently) of all contact with grandparents ,cousins and very often brothers and sisters as well !
    4;-I agree that sometimes decisions to remove a child need to be made quickly.That is why we have emergency protection orders and police protection orders which are not care orders and with which I agree! The threat of pemanent removal into fostercare or adoption should allow parents to ask for a jury ;A burglar facing a possible 6 months in prison can demand a jury but a mother threatened with the permanent loss of her baby (a life sentence !) cannot .A jury is “non establishment” and parents would be far more willing to accept their decisions than those of an “establishment judge” suspected of rubberstamping social service demands.
    Most of the protests allegeging injustices would never happen if this simple reform was introduced;
    5:-At present most parents have to sign an undertaking not to discuss court proceedings with children at contact or even to say “I love you and miss you ” If they do let slip that they are trying to get their children back and that they do love them and really have not abandoned them then contact is usually stopped;This should be the decision of the court not social workers and whether the decisions are arbitrary or not the parents would not feel so aggrieved if the court fixed the frequency of contact and only the court could vary such frequency.
    6:-Very simple ;if parents who earn too much (but not enough too pay thousands of pounds to lawyers) are refused legal aid they have to represent themselves.
    Some of thes parents are not well educated and should be entitled to ask a better equipped friend to represent them.Iam glad you seem to agree in principle.
    7:-Hearsay evidence in family courts at present condemns parents in effect for crimes when the police and the criminal courts have found them innocent and no charges have ever been brought!!
    All witnesses on both sides should be subject to questioning,and I am glad you agree;
    8:-It is all a question of PRIORITIES (sorry about the capitals but this point really does need to be emphasised), Baby P,and Victoria Climbé would still be alive today if regular and thorough physical checks had been carried out on them and on all children at risk of physical harm.Emotional harm,cluttered dwellings,and absences from school are of course in themselves undesirable but they do not kill.Physical harm (given priority in every other W.European country) does kill and many lives would be saved if resources were mainly used to pay for regular examination of children at risk to detect significat physical harm such as bronen back or limbs,or multiple bruising or burning, but not “one insignificant bruise or mark as is the case nowadays when parents are hostile and do not cooperate with professionals who want to remove their children.
    Thank you ch for at least cosidering the reforms instead of “slagging me off” like so many do!

    • Ian – I am happy to accept comments with different views as long as they keep within the comment policy (namely, they aren’t abusive – which you aren’t) and are relevant to the posting – which they are.
      As for the individual points, honestly, I can see where you are coming from and I’m grateful to you for elaborating on them. I will have to consider that at a later point though as I need to do other things today!

      • Ian
        1. Honestly, I don’t know the details about opening up the family courts. I don’t work in children’s services and am prepared to accept that you know more about the details than me.
        2. emotional abuse is known to cause harm. Of course it is a matter of degree and having to make the call between what cause long term damage is a part of the decisions that need to be made. I accept that decisions aren’t always right but that doesn’t mean they are always wrong either.

        3. Again, I don’t know much about forced adoption except that legally it is a last action possible to take in accordance with the Children Act. It is not a decision easily taken and of course should be avoided if possible.

        4. I think there are reasons that trial by jury is not appropriate in some circumstances. Again, I can understand your argument but I am not sure that it a jury is always the best way of making these decisions.

        5. The courts’ business and expertise is the law.

        8. Priorities – again, it makes sense but I don’t think that physical harm should be the only criteria.

        I’m not trying to be unreasonable and accept that when I talk about law in relation to children, I’m going back to my original training which a) may be out of date and b) may have been misted up through the annals of time.
        I ultimately want for the best service to be delivered for children and accept that you have some valid points there.

  6. Thank you Soapsoane for at least repying though you seem to think my use of capital letters in only one sentence out of many more important than answering any of the 8 suggestions I make for reform !
    Try answering the points made instead of trying to blind us with a mass of esoteric jargon!

    (I have edited this comment due to the comment policy – hopefully the idea is still intact – cb)

  7. ch I do not want to labour the points but Baby P,Victoria Climbé,Maria Colwell,and many other children would be alive today if all children at risk of physical harm were thorughly examined physically at least once a month;This would be cheaper than interminable psychological reports and parenting assessments as well as saving pathetic little lives that have now alas been cut short;
    We have in the UK lost our sense of priorities in many ways due to the “target culture”.Police concentating more on petty motoring offences rather than violent crime,Doctors dealing with headaches and colds to the detriment of cancer patients,and now social workers looking not even for actual emotional abuse but for “risk of emotional abuse” instead of concentrating on babies and young children whose lives are in danger through violent but undetected physical abuse !
    Rghtly or wrongly parents appearing in family courts are mostly convinced that the judges are biased towards believing the social worker’s version of events rather than their own. regardless of the evidence and if parents risking the PERMANENT loss of their children could have the same right as a burglar to choose a jury of 12 people instead of one all powerful judge person to give the final verdict most of the complaints ;would no longer exist !
    Lastly ,a fresh thought to mull over.The parents of baby P, Victoria Climbé? and others similar would never have gone to court after court to try and retrieve the children as courts are inevitably given a wide berth by such cruel and wicked people.The sort of parents who submit to a series of gruelling court appearances in dzsperate attempts to retrieve their children must love them and should surely usually succeed.Alas they nearly always lose because on balance judges will always give the benfit of any doubt to social services rather thah to the parents;I asked the editor of the “law review” if there was any known case where parents had succeeded in court in regaining their children against opposition from social services and had subsequently ill treated their children or even killed one of them and to his knowledge none existed.This goes to prove my point that parents going to court must love their children and should usually win (as they would do with juries) but at present they nearly always lose !

    • I still think it is simplistic to differentiate between physical and emotional harm so emphatically but I don’t expect we will wholly agree on that.
      Perhaps the perception of some about looking for risk is different with others. I know in my job I have to work a lot with risk management scenarios and it is not as ethereal as you suggest – although it is in a different service area.
      I’m not sure about the truism that parents who go to court must love their children else they wouldn’t appeal. It seems like a pretty convoluted straw-man type argument but you’ve had room to share your opinions and given food for thought and for that, I thank you.

  8. The differenc between emotional harm and physical harm is indeed very simple ! Physical harm can kill and very frequenty does but emotional harm does not.
    Priority should therefore be give to preventing deaths and severe injuries from physical harm !(as in all other W European countries)
    Maybe I should say MOST parents who fight their way trough countless gruelling court sessions to try and stop their babie or toddlers being adopted love their children otherwise why would they do it?
    More should win and would indeed win if was up to juries not judges to decide their children’s fate.

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