Submitted by the British Association of Social Workers (CA 133)
The British Association of Social Workers is the largest professional association of social workers in the UK with members in frontline, management, educational and research positions in all social care settings.
We welcome this inquiry into what is undoubtedly a complex and sensitive matter.
As an organisation we have a difficult balance to strike. Our primary concern is ensuring that vulnerable users of social work services are protected from abuse and that where such abuse has occurred those responsible are identified and brought to justice.
We are however concerned by representations we have received from individuals who maintain that they have been falsely accused and whose representatives tell us that they have grave reservations about the "trawling" methodology used, which is in sharp contrast to the methods used in all other forms of Police investigation. It has been suggested that in some instances complainants are motivated by the lure of possible compensation and it is extremely difficult for persons accused of abuse many years ago to obtain evidence to refute allegations against them. Additionally, the thresholds being applied by the Crown Prosecution Service in such cases are said to be different in that the volume of allegations are taken into account, rather than the strength of evidence in each allegation.
An attempt to open a dialogue with the Police Federation proved fruitless as the line that was taken was that there was nothing to discuss as all enquiries conform to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. We recognise that the Police have such a very challenging role in these matters.
We have considered whether there should be a time limit after which such enquiries cannot be pursued but concluded that this would be inappropriate.