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Advice sheet (1)

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PAIN ADVICE SHEET

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Advice sheet (1)

  1. 1. UNDERSTANDING CHILD PROTECTION: (and some useful tips on dealing with your situation) This is a basic guide for any members currently caught up in the CP process and attempts to give an objective view of CP and untangle the maze of professional interests. Hopefully it will also help you to understand what you can do to help yourself. What is Child Protection: Until 2004 Child Protection was defined by S.47 of the Children Act, 1984 as the responsibility of any local authority (and their social services department) to investigate where a child was believed: to have been harmed; to be suffering harm; or likely to suffer harm without intervention. Since 2004 there has been countless policies and legislation expanding the scope of child protection to include other professional bodies (such as medical and voluntary agencies). The main ideas are the same – that children who are likely to be harmed, have been harmed, or are being harmed should be protected but the scope of abuse has widened to include emotional and other abuses that are difficult, if not impossible, to prove. Who is the Subject of Child Protection: It is the biggest mistake made to believe that CP processes are about the child – they are NOT! The CP process is about the adults around the child and assessing them for potential risk. Any adult, whether parent or not, has to be viewed as a potential danger. This is an important point because if there is an adult who is a risk to children then parent(s) who do not intervene and who continue to allow that adult access to their children then becomes a risk themselves! 1
  2. 2. What about the Law and Child Protection: Whether or not charges can be brought against an adult the Local Authority has a duty to investigate, not only this but they have a duty to intervene where they think that the risk is real EVEN IF NO PROSECUTION IS LIKELY! This means that the legal system only accounts for PART of the process. The other part of the process is the Local Authority making sure that children who are likely to have been abused, or are likely to be abused are held on a register, formerly the At Risk Register. Where the Local Authority believe that the parent(s)/guardian(s) of a child are incapable, even with support, of keeping a child safe then they have a duty and responsibility to remove the child from danger. This can be temporary via an Interim Care Order, emergency via Emergency Protection Order, long term via a residence or full care order, or in permanent via freeing and adoption orders. At no time are the Local Authority legally obliged to provide services to the family in order to keep the child in the family home – though it is implicit in legislation that the family home is ‘normally’ the best place for the child to be, there is no law requiring that the Local Authority has to ensure that this happens. At the end of the day it is a case of whether the Local Authority believe that it is worthwhile to try this angle. Remember – harm can be: emotional, physical or sexual, there is no need for the Local Authority to prove that harm is happening just that it would be likely to happen! Categories Explained: Emotional Abuse & Emotional Neglect: Abuse under this heading is the deliberate action of an adult to cause emotional distress, trauma or injury. This can include 2
  3. 3. terrorising a child, threats, psychological torture, blackmail, witnessing domestic violence etc. It is any action that is likely to bring about emotional or psychological harm. Neglect, whilst really indistinct from abuse, normally means not helping your child develop emotional bonds and ties to people around them or not showing enough emotional affection and stimulation to the child. Physical Abuse & Physical Neglect: Abuse under this heading refers to any deliberate action of an adult to bring about a physical trauma – this can include (but not limited to) beatings, failure to provide warmth, inappropriate diet, smacking, exposure to illicit drugs, failure to seek medical attention for the child etc. Neglect would tend to be in the realms of poor diet, lack of exercise, poor safety standards in the home to prevent accidents etc. Sexual Abuse: Is self explanatory. Understanding the Professionals: It is vitally important that you understand who the professionals are (or may be) that are involved in the CP process and where they are coming from: Social Worker: This is the ‘front line’ minion of the social services department, they actually have little power themselves but their manager does! Specifically in CP you have to understand that the social worker and their manager will have seen countless HORRENDOUS case of abuse and neglect, they are like troops with battle fatigue or shell shock (PTSD). They have seen 3
  4. 4. things totally unimaginable to the ordinary individual and this has an impact on them. Add to this that they are currently facing the biggest service cuts in their history, they are being told to account for every penny spent and whilst most are genuine in their belief that their role is to make family life better they are not and never have been trained as accountants! There is the added pressure that they are forever under the gaze of public scrutiny – via the press and other media. They rank lower than dentists and parking wardens in most people’s minds. This really impacts on them and how they do their job! The social worker will likely have far too many cases on the go at the same time and this can be a ludicrous case load of minor support issues to the horrendous abuse cases and dodging between one and another wears them out. Ultimately, and please don’t forget this, REGARDLESS OF THE SOCIAL WORKER’S OPINION, BELIEFS OR FEELINGS ABOUT YOU OR YOUR FAMILY THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR TAKING OR MAKING DECISIONS – IT WILL BE THEIR MANAGER!!!!!! You need to consider this quite carefully when deciding to have a go at a particular social worker, you may get them changed but the manager will remain the same! Another myth is that social workers understand the law – they actually do not, and if they have a poor manager then this can lead to bad practice. Child Law is the most complex as it deals so much with opinion rather than fact and it is very true that most social workers do not understand this. They have basic rights under law but invariably don’t know about them which is when they make matters worse by pressurising parents to give consent to things that they really don’t need to! At the end of the day the social worker’s role is to treat you (the adult) as guilty, this isn’t how it should be but in practice is the only way that they have found that works – this is 4
  5. 5. directly linked to poor management and leadership. Police: The police have a duty to remain involved in CP cases where there is a likely or realistic chance that charges will be brought – they will follow a very strict guide and only get involved in the lawful execution of their duties to detect and prosecute crime! If these elements are not present then they will leave the CP process. Chairperson: This is supposed to be an independent individual who coordinates the concerns of the professionals and guides the professionals into an agreed plan of action. No one wants this role so it is dumped on social services. There are strict guidelines to these meetings but in practice they are unenforceable because there are no independent observers to such meetings. Solicitors: Your solicitor is engaged by you to follow your instructions – they are legally obliged to give you options and alternatives but are legally restricted from telling you what to do! This means that if you change your mind and tell them to do something different then they have to do this – even if they feel it is not in your best interests! It is not your solicitor’s role to BELIEVE YOU, the whole principle is one where the issue of guilt or innocence is not of consequence, you have to have the best defence. Ultimately if you tell your solicitor that you are guilty of something (this applies more in criminal law) then they cannot ‘defend’ you by saying you are not guilty, they would have to excuse themselves if they know you are going to lie in court. This is why sometimes solicitors seem a bit aloof or distant, something you say may well indicate to them that you are 5
  6. 6. ‘having issues’ and they cannot reasonably argue that you are not in court without telling lies! QC/Barrister: These are appointed individuals who present cases at Crown Court, they have special training and are normally tied to certain solicitor offices. Conclusion: You have to be prepared for the long haul and I cannot stress enough these are the key tips for dealing with the situation: SHUT UP – yes this is the biggest tip, keep your mouth shut, the less you say the less they can accuse you of. DON’T REACT – if you start f’ing and blinding all over the place this makes you look ‘out of control’, it makes their case stronger – they will often try and wind you up, you must remain calm. DO NOT BE ALONE WITH THE SOCIAL WORKER - ALWAYS have a witness to what you and he/she is saying and take a friend or member of your family to all meetings with social workers. Ideally tape record meetings but you have to do this with the permission of the people you are recording. KEEP RECORDS - Start keeping records of everthing -If you've not already started get a diary and start recording every detail no matter how small. COMPLAIN TO SOCIAL SERVICES - start a complaint if you feel you can substantiate it as this can become a record of challenging their behaviour. GET A SOLICITOR - IDEALLY OUTSIDE THE LOCAL AUTHORITY AREA AND ON THE CHILDREN’S PANEL – solicitors are not miracle workers and they only do what you 6
  7. 7. tell them to, so have a good chat with them and... LISTEN – you must listen to all the professionals, each will give you a tip to ending the process: if the doctor says “I don’t think your child is ill” then say thank you very much and leave! If the social worker says “we are worried about contact as your child keeps misbehaving afterwards” say oh dear that’s the last thing I want, how do you think we should handle this. You are either your own best friend or your own worst enemy! WHAT ARE SOCIAL SERVICES LOOKING FOR Many questions relate to the inability of social services to communicate what they are looking for in Parent(s) OR guardian(s) involved in CP processes. This is quite deliberate because if you think about it if they told you: “well do this that and the other” to every client then there would be NO children on the list at all! Not even the ones that should be there. Things that are important in assessments: Physical Environment: This is your home! Whilst no one is expecting a pristine ‘show case’ home social services will be looking for signs that housework is done regularly (no piles of dirty laundry – unless it is a large household; washing up done or at least not huge piles of washing up; bins emptied regularly – no black sacks in the kitchen etc; a reasonable level of cleanliness – bathroom clean even if not spotless; hovered carpets; cleaning equipment present and used). They will also be looking at the fabric of the house – does everyone have a bed, is the place physically safe (no razor blades or knives on the floor etc), is the decoration okay (no holes in walls or bare plaster if not in the process of decoration). They will also look at pets – are they clean, well fed, looking happy and well; are there too many, is there excrement or hair all over the place, does it smell, are the animals toilet trained, are they friendly… 7
  8. 8. Emotional Environment: How secure does the child seem in its surroundings and around people – are they over friendly, are they hostile and avoiding… What boundaries (rules) apply at home and what are the punishments if any; this is really important with older children because even if your efforts fail you need to be seen to be trying. How much affection is there in the home? Too much, are the kids too close to adults, is there too little? Things like praising good work, giving and receiving hugs, these all count. How many friends do they have and the friends well behaved and welcome in the home. What sort of extended family is there, are they close and supportive. Do the family communicate (talk), do they have meals together at the table or at least with the TV off, do they play family games (like monopoly). Educational Environment: Are the children encouraged to learn, explore and ask questions – do they have books and do they use these books (quite a simple one is asking yourself if there is a dictionary in your home…)? Are the parents/guardian interested in the child/ren’s school work and achievements? Do the family watch educational programmes? Does the child attend school? If so does he/she attend regularly, do the parent’s attend parent evenings, how involved is the family in supporting the school (fundraising as well as over punishments)? Health Environment: Do the children eat regularly, do they have a breakfast, lunch and supper? Are they aware of healthy foods, do they have vegetables and fruit. How many snack foods or sweets (including fizzy drinks) do they have? Are they over/underweight? How often do the family have meals and how often together, are the meals balanced? Does the child/ren have regular exercise (including sports and hobbies) and are the parents supportive? Do the family go out for walks 8
  9. 9. or swimming or dog walking, rambling whatever, but get exercise? Are there set and appropriate bedtimes? Is there toothpaste and a toothbrush for each member of the family? How often are baths or showers had? Is there shampoo and a brush are the towels clean? How often does the child/ren go to the doctor, too much or too little or just right? How many illnesses or medical injuries have/has the child/ren had? Social Environment: What type of communal, family and individual social opportunities are there for the child/ren? Do the family do things together (like pictures or reading or playing games)? Are other members of the family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins) involved and do they do things together? What is the area like? Is it safe for the child/ren to play outside and do the parents keep an eye on them and know where they are and what they are doing? What are the child/ren’s friends like and do the parents show any interest (approve or disapprove)? How do/does the child/ren react to adults or strangers, children, siblings, parents? CONCLUSION: These are just the basic headings but you can see already that there is a ‘check list’ that is actually quite common sense. Social Workers observe the family and take notes of these things because the government says that they are important – and research supports this saying that children that fail in the areas above are likely to suffer as a result and may be likely to head towards alcohol, drugs, sex and criminality more than others. This is what social services are looking at and it all plays a role in forming their opinions of you, it may be difficult for a parent to keep everything together but social workers accept this, they just want parents to be aware and be trying rather than succeeding at everything. 9
  10. 10. or swimming or dog walking, rambling whatever, but get exercise? Are there set and appropriate bedtimes? Is there toothpaste and a toothbrush for each member of the family? How often are baths or showers had? Is there shampoo and a brush are the towels clean? How often does the child/ren go to the doctor, too much or too little or just right? How many illnesses or medical injuries have/has the child/ren had? Social Environment: What type of communal, family and individual social opportunities are there for the child/ren? Do the family do things together (like pictures or reading or playing games)? Are other members of the family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins) involved and do they do things together? What is the area like? Is it safe for the child/ren to play outside and do the parents keep an eye on them and know where they are and what they are doing? What are the child/ren’s friends like and do the parents show any interest (approve or disapprove)? How do/does the child/ren react to adults or strangers, children, siblings, parents? CONCLUSION: These are just the basic headings but you can see already that there is a ‘check list’ that is actually quite common sense. Social Workers observe the family and take notes of these things because the government says that they are important – and research supports this saying that children that fail in the areas above are likely to suffer as a result and may be likely to head towards alcohol, drugs, sex and criminality more than others. This is what social services are looking at and it all plays a role in forming their opinions of you, it may be difficult for a parent to keep everything together but social workers accept this, they just want parents to be aware and be trying rather than succeeding at everything. 9

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