As part of the continuing desire to standardise everything, and a belief that any problem can be solved if only there is enough written guidance, practice directions, policy frameworks and standard documents, there is a proposed model for the initial social work statement.
I am not sure why it is that there is a belief that one can collapse the diversity and detail of families into one standardised little-boxes pro-forma, as though all parents and children were Lego figures rather than individuals with hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments, struggles and triumphs. If you have read any of the cases in my blog over the last two years, you will see that the Family Courts deal with surprising and intricate things, that people can end up in situations or predicaments that no person could anticpate and cater for in a standard document. Structure, yes, guidance to avoid jargon and verbosity and sloppy attention to the difference between evidence and assertion – all good things. But don’t try to make a pro-forma that fits every case. It just isn’t do-able.
[I'm not entirely neutral on this point, I have to confess]
This one has been put together by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
I don’t want to be unkind. (I should just end the blog there to be honest). Apologies if you, or your friend, or your cousin was one of those people. I’m afraid that I don’t like it. Others may differ from my opinion – I may just be one loud-mouthed jerk, after all. Don’t take it to heart. Honestly, stop reading right now. There is a really nice you-tube thing of ducklings on a waterslide – go and find that, it will cheer your heart.
In a Solution-Focused-Therapy style, let’s try to say something nice “What were you pleased with?”
Well, people have clearly worked very hard on it.
Not necessarily the right people, but people have obviously worked very hard on it.
This version is actually worse than the first version of it, which takes some doing. It is also worse than the standardised model laid out in the revised PLO. A sentence I never thought that I’d type – I prefer the version in the new PLO document.
It is packed full of everything that is worse about design by committee – it is little boxes galore, it is reductionist, it assumes that everyone who will be writing the document is a moron incapable of independent thought without being led by the nose to the next little box to complete. The process of reading it is offensive to your eyes. It doesn’t include a Welfare Checklist. (I mean, the Act gives everyone a specific tool for analysis, is it too much to ask that this tool would be a centrepiece of the evidence produced?) It makes the Core Assessment look gorgeous and inspirational (this is some feat)
My actual reaction to this, when I opened it up and read it was…. well, do you remember the bit at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the nazi’s open the ark and one of the chief bad guys has his face melt off whilst screaming? Sort of that.
It’s the sort of thing that when you read it, you wonder who it is supposed to help? The workers writing it? Clearly not. The parents reading it? No way. The Judges? I’d be amazed if any Judge would prefer this cumbersome little-box form (that at one point tries to encapsulate all of the issues and thought processes around contact into a six column table) to a considered narrative document. So, other than the designers of whatever computer programme will standardise this onto every social work computer in England, who is it FOR?
I think, comparing it to Lucy Reed’s suggested pro-forma for social work assessment, which was intended to be a nasty satire – I think Lucy’s is more rigorous as a document.
This document, however, it at the moment still just a consultation (which means that it is inevitable unless people who will be writing them, reading them, trying to explain them to parents speak out and say how ghastly and unfit for purpose it is – OR of course if you disagree with me, you should tell them that too)
Consultation ends 26th March.
If you can’t manage a long and detailed response, just send them this link.