Children & Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Jon Blend (CSWB 24)

 

I am a former social worker who has worked for over thirty years in the profession. Sadly during my career I have seen many children suffering major trauma and experiencing grievous psychological pain as their lives are ruined by a minority of abusive and/ or neglectful parents. Many of these parents suffer from severe and enduring problems with mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, aggression and impulse control. Domestic violence often forms part of the picture. An all-too- common occurrence following family break up moreover is that children become caught in the exchanges between warring parents: these children run the gauntlet between the protagonists and may frequently be treated as pawns or chattels by an angry spouse seeking to wreak revenge on their partner. Sometimes issues over contact/ access to the children are fought out in the courts; however if one partner (usually male) offers violence or threatens reprisals it can be hard for the other spouse to effectively safeguard the welfare of their children who stay caught in the crossfire. Such aggressive parents lamentably fail to provide the necessary safe and loving environments for their offspring to learn and grow in.

Taking children into local authority care is rightly regarded as a means of last resort when all attempts to help families manage their lives have failed No social worker wants to remove a child from their family if this can possibly be avoided. The decision to place a child in local authority care is invariably a heart rending, soul searching decision, usually reached after a long, considered and complex process.

Whilst growing up in care is not without problems either many such youngsters go on to lead meaningful, functional lives afterwards. At a time of ever more budgetary cuts to services what is needed is realistic financial support for the maintenance of Looked after children - not the scrapping of such resources.

These statutory duties imposed on local authorities in my view form the necessary safety net for young people when all attempts to achieve this informally have consistently failed. As a nation we bear a responsibility to treating vulnerable members of our society well and with dignity. This includes treating troubled children fairly and appropriately whilst also protecting the rights of mothers and others who have suffered at the hands of abusive male partners. The law as it stands remains a crucial bulwark: without its protection many children and young people will find themselves abandoned, destitute and at risk of further abuse. Such children will almost certainly be unable to function fully in society on reaching adulthood, should individual councils be allowed to opt out their duties.

I strongly urge the Committee therefore to not allow the exemption clauses to be reinstated.



(Child Psychotherapist and former NHS CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) Social Worker) 

December 2016

 

Prepared 5th January 2017