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What it feels like

I thought that this was a really excellent piece in Community Care and wanted to share it with my readers  (there’s probably some overlap between people who read this and read Community Care, but not total overlap)

It is something that we try not to think about, but the potential is there with every phone call, every email, every decision you make, the question you ask or forget to ask.

I know that some of my readers think that all social workers are heartless nazi-fascists  –  too certain, coy and hard to please, who need to be lined up and shot come the Revolution *, and I don’t expect to ever change their mind. We will continue to Agree to Disagree.

Nor do I happen to think that social workers are all harp-playing bewinged ministering angels who descend when fear and anguish wring the brow. 

Like any profession, there are good ones and bad ones  (teachers, doctors, lawyers, pop stars). Everyone will have and is entitled to have their own view on what proportion of good and bad makes up the profession.  

 It happens to be a profession where a bad one can cause a lot of misery, but it is also a profession where those within it have to carry a lot of fear and disquiet about making wrong decisions  (either way – the Always/Never myth is, as I and others have discussed, a myth. 

Nobody can get every decision right, every time).  

If we as a society constantly ramp up the pressure and consequences of getting a decision wrong in only one direction (always) we do run the risk of getting too many wrong the other, less criticised way (never) 



*I’m reminded of the phone call I used to get at 9.15am every Monday without fail in an early job, from a man who would tell me that “come the Revolution, you and people like you will be first up against the wall and shot… no offence to you mate”


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

36 responses

  1. Social workers make their living taking children from parents .When they remove children from parents who have committed no crime those social workers should be locked up for a very long time !
    Have you ever heard anyone brought up in care with a good word to say about social workers? It may seem unfair to tar all with the same brush but those who stay in the organisation for more than a year without protest at its iniquities are all blameworthy.After all ,how many nice people belong to the Klu Klux Klan or used to belong to the Gestapo??

  2. The ones who are satisfied probably won’t talk about it.

  3. Now why I wonder does that explanation sound so unconvincing???

  4. Ashamed to be British

    I was a ‘care kid’ social services got it right with me, I loved my social worker, he was absolutely the greatest.
    That was 37 years ago, when a sw was allowed to use their common sense, they had no targets or bonuses, they were in the job because kids’ welfare mattered, they had no line managers or supervsors, they were sw’s and trusted to do the right thing as they were trained to do.
    They did not come away from the Open University, aged 20 years old, childless and walk into the role of a child protection officer, telling parents older than them, how to raise their children, no, they had to train, properly and work their way up, todays child sw’s are managers within a year because the LA cannot hold onto their managers (unsurprisingly)

    When we go back to social care being about … social care … instead of egotistical, power trips, races to climb the career ladder and spiteful, twisted and downright evil pleasure in seeing children and families suffer, then we will have a system that works.

    The hard facts are, sw’s go into the job wanting to make a change, within months, they learn to lie, manipulate and stitch those whose ‘faces don’t fit’ like a kipper, it’s either that or they can kiss their career goodbye

    When social work becomes about the children, it will become social work, all the time it remains about social workers, it will fail, over and over and over



    • You have hit the situation on the nail. One hears people talking about their doctor, physio, therapist , counsellor etc. positively to others. I have never heard of anyone who has been in care saying positive things to others. If someone chaanged your life you certainly would want to tell others about that person- if they made an impact on you.

      The ‘child grooming cases’ recently in the MSM highlight the experiences directly of young girls- hardly positive attitude to social workers from their experiences..

      Suesspicious Minds Comunity Care has many articles in it that very clearly highlight how unskilled social work is with social workers unable to make meaningful decisions – yet often focuses on a few ‘interesting’ schemes that appear to do well. It also shows how few social workers actualy contribute to the comments on articles.

      When I read community care what I see is a publication trying to justify a role for modern social work as a career ladder one. Community Care does not like comments which highlight how poorly skilled social work is and removes them.

      It is interesting that this effort at ‘self justification’ is not matched by the pubications for other professionals e.g. health- where there is no need to promote the professions.

      Community Care is not ‘professionally’ much good- anyone can understand what is in it. That is not the case with most professions.

      • I agree with Edna, that Community Care is a dead loss. I suspect that it will become moribund in the next 2 years. Social Work is not a profession….it is an occupation, when done properly saves children’s lives. Now Social Work has a regulatory body, the HCPC which is just an endorsement factory, endorsing what L.A.s and other employers say about a particular worker… is an absolutely useless and expensive organisation….but it wields a big stick. We have a College of Social Work staffed by failed social workers on big salaries, but this august organisation cannot tell you what is social work and what is not. The definition of social work is an extremely elastic concept in theory and practice, which brings me to theory. Social Work does not possess a body of knowledge that it can call its own. It begs borrows and steals from Psychology, Sociology, Social Policy, Law etc.

        The sooner that Social Work as a profession is exposed to be seen as fur coat and no knickers the better it will be….and I speak as a retired social worker with over 37 years in frontline practice. I have watched the birth and death of social work in my lifetime. Anyone up for a wake… it goes

      • Actually, Community Care is a very good mirror of social work in the UK.

        You visit it, and you see diaries (brief notes) of children’s social workers, which are full of such contempt for their “service users” that I feel happy not to have had these people (social workers) around in my childhood, spent with parents who had all sorts of human flaws and weaknesses. Or you see discussions of different reforms, when “good” social workers (such as Nushra Mansuri) urge “senior leaders to listen to social workers before they make any changes” (which seems fair enough to me) but does not urge them to listen to service users (which is strange). Or you see a summary of the publication’s children’s section: the first item is “One in five adopters who ask for post-adoption support don’t receive any”. Adoptions are the priority concern, apparently…

        It’s very, very revealing.

  5. Harold Shipman murdered many people, yet he worked in a trusted profession. BUT Harold Shipman hit all the newspapers and was sent to jail.
    Social workers ‘murder’ not only children but entire families. But they have been ignored and few face jail. This rot fills most social workers offices and the desire to protect themselves and their employer takes precedence in all cases.
    No major investigation has ever taken place. Social workers continue to fabricate cases against innocent parents. They are in contempt of court daily and will commit perjury daily.
    Is this being professional? Is this protecting children?
    To any balanced mind the answer would be NO.
    Is it protecting the far fewer children that could be murdered by sick parents. NO.
    So the man who phoned early every morning might just be right. And something sinister IS in fact happening. And it has nothing to do with Never/Always.
    If it had anything to do with this, honesty would be paramount.

  6. And it does not compare with the military and the Always/Never. If they worked on the same ‘principle’ as social workers we would ALL be dead.

  7. Dear Sue etc hows about turning your attention to a forensic analysis of the very recent internal research on Children’s Guardian’s produced by Cafcass.

  8. Why does this article (“How it feels when a child on your social work team’s caseload dies”) make me feel uneasy?

    Because it makes me think about ramifications of the event — SW’s becoming doubly alert, triply suspicious, ever more ready to take children into care…

    Shouldn’t society face up to its own limitations and agree that it is impossible to prevent every tragedy in the making? And set up its social service as a helping service for families and children rather than a risk management team?

    • Ashamed to be British

      Social services was set up in order to safeguard and assist families, that is the whole point of the debate, the system has lost sight of it’s own purpose.
      No parent can defend against risk of anything, one cannot prove they won’t do something in the future, fortunately the burden of proof is on the accuser, unfortunately, the LA rarely has to offer that proof, leaving the good old rubber stamping process in full swing.
      Has it ever occurred to you that the children who die, are usually already under social services, who tend to ignore the blatant risks in front of them? Do you ever question why that would be the case?
      I can only think of one reason … the deaths of these children, justify the removal and subsequent adoption of children under the crystal ball prediction that is ‘risk of’

      Child trafficking is still a lucrative business

    • Agree entirely Arhivistka. If all the pressure and fear and dread goes on one side of the see-saw (child rescue, save every child, save them all) then the other side (keep families together if you can, help them to solve their problems and work with them to make things better) gets ignored. What you get with that is not one headline tragedy (though as you can see, even the post Baby P fear culture still doesn’t stop that) but lots of quieter tragedies as families who could have pulled through their difficulties don’t get that opportunity.

  9. And you are all so right, Social work has no ‘body’.
    It takes twice the same length of time to qualify as a doctor than it does to qualify as a plumber, electrician or social worker. .
    Social workers have only in recent years become regulated as have psychologists.
    It has had many years for them to form its defunct system and for the rot to set in.
    And for social work to meddle and associate themselves with other ‘professions’ just makes them a Jack of all trades but master on none.
    As the basis of ethics. A doctor will attempt to save a life even when the odds are against them. They also work to human rights.
    For a doctor to fail this standard they face prison or being struck off.
    You dont see doctors moaning about their public profile. But they work with life and death situations every day.
    Nor do you see constant demands for public sympathy from the many carers who nurse dying people every day of the week.

  10. Social workers need to shut up moaning and try doing the job of social care. And stop trying to make themselves the ‘angels of child protection’. This they are NOT, they not only fail to stop the child murders, they also murder thousands of families on the back of it. Then have the nerve to manipulate public sympathy.

  11. Black Friday Sales. What has this to do with the debate?
    They are promoting a greed for expecting something better and that nothing but ‘perfect’ will do.
    They are helping to create a material world where care, compassion, community and acceptance are frowned on.
    There are failing to assist people in crisis, ill health, disability or poverty. They remove children on lies. They are self promoting and greedy for promotion.
    They have nothing to do with human rights.
    They are a good example of if you break the law, you can get away with it.
    They are a shining example of only the cunning win.

    Somewhere in all that is an explanation of the Black Friday Sales.

  12. And somewhere in that is an explanation of the life of a social worker.
    That also fits the malicious person who rings the social worker
    Which also fits many foster carers, private childrens homes and many career types who also work for LAs but will happily take money from a distressed and desperate parent on the pretence of making a fair and just assessment.
    Social workers will also use their position, to get first in the queue at theme parks, get all the online bargains, grab all the ‘in’ toys before any parent stands a chance, be flag waving at every Royal event (most after a honour of some kind) Fiddle the expenses, sell off all the goods sent by parents for their children at boot sales, on line or just give them to people they are fearful of.
    They are also the last people who will fight in a front line because most are cowards, they will support anyone that they are fearful of and leave the child to die. They have the highest complaints against people, not their bosses but their vulnable service users. They call honesty abusive and just love policitcal correctness as they can manipulate all outcomes by abusing service users while covering up their crimes with their immuntity.
    And the list goes on.

  13. On the map of complaints against service users, Chichester and surrounding areas of West Sussex has one of the highest number of social worker complaints against service users and members of the public.
    Would anyone else like to break down the reason for this.

  14. To sum up the comments it is now quite clear that social workers in general are the SCUM OF THE EARTH ; the lowest of the low,child snatchers beneath contempt,wretched bullies who should be disbanded as soon as possible so that child cruelty can once again be dealt with by the police and the criminal courts.

    • Ian, I have enormous respect for your absolute commitment in supporting families who are subject to disproportionately punitive social services interventions, which result in forced closed adoptions. It was a privilege to meet with you briefly a year ago.

      However, I am uneasy about your generalisation. I have met many social workers, even in recent times, who are skilled and committed in attempting to help parents with real problems maintain care of, or and influence in, the lives of their children.

      I have often written that a major problem for child protection social work in the UK is that there is no media recognition of positive effective interventions. This is not the fault of the media: local authorities have no PR process for providing case examples where all parties are satisfied. I know that such case exist.

      I have written that there are essentially 4 dynamics that ochre between families and local authorities with regard to child protection interventions:

      1. Reasonable family + Reasonable CP system
      2. Unreasonable family + Reasonable CP system
      3. Reasonable family + Unreasonable CP system
      4. Unreasonable family + Unreasonable CP system

      Throughout my career I have had experience of all of these dynamics. My strong impression is that over time, sadly, category 1 has declined, and that category 3 has increased (fuelled by the evidence-absent political drive for forced closed adoption).

      In the absence of a literature base of good practice relating to category 1, far too many social workers today have no knowledge of what can be achieved by the acquisition and utilisation of humanistic skills (and patience) to support families under pressure.

      Promoting forced adoption is a dissociated way of resolving stresses that involve social workers interacting predominantly with templates on their computers, rather than engaging face-to-face in providing constructive support for distressed (and not necessarily friendly or grateful) natural families.

      • Peter,
        I of course agree with most of what you say.The emotive language of my last comment was a vain attempt to provoke a social workers to enter the debate as they rarely do.I will only add that parents who are delighted by social workers could easily tell us via blogs or newpapers etc but they never do ………..

      • I would also add Peter that to your 4 dynamics I would substitute the word criminal for the word reasonable in describing the types of family; My whole purpose in campaigning has been to eliminate “punishment without crime” .Parents who commit crimes against the children usually deserve to lose them but other sane parents do not;

      • Although Ian may be somewhat over colourful in his ‘ enbloc’ description of social workers the danger to society is that the modern social worker is not well educated or life experienced and rarely able to stand up to management which is self serving.

        Very very few would have ethics, morals or values (which is absolutely necessary in a non knowledge based profession) to put thir own necks seriously on the line when they know that a parent/ family is unfairly- wrongly targetted for removal of a child/ baby. Adoption targets only fuel such behaviour

        Christopher Booker and John Hemmings are not making stories up- I certainly know they are not from my own experience of deceitful social workers and their unscrupulous bosses on the career ladder merry go round. The ones of earlier times like Boxerdog were rather different, only the senior ones were unscrupulous then. When people really have values of honesty and care they try to unravel the truth- not make up fiction using statements taken out of context during a ‘meeting or completely fabricating evidence.

        There are people unfit to be parents, there are peole fit to parent who do not meet society’s norms, there are parents who are held up as good in society (think of some of the recent press articles) who are later found wanting- but whose children have not been removed. There are the few really well adjusted couples whio really have love for each other and their children, (few because in a society where divorce, breakups and mutiple partners abound you have unstable families). Social workers home in only on those they can ‘abuse’ readily without being caught. These people loose their children even when they do something as trivial as the prime minister leaving his daughter behind in the pub by accident.

        Suesspiciousminds is not aware of these things because he has not yet personally experienced them- but others like him have. I do not think many social workers cry or mourn for long when a child dies in their care- it is just a client to them. They care about what it might mean to the local authority and for their jobs- but they are as able to make up a story as any parent manipulating them or the public.

  15. Peter Dale it seems that always when someone talks of social work they remain utterly on the side of 1/ The dynamics are slightly out 2/ There is good and bad social workers 3/ Govenment adoptions 4/ Lack of resources to work with families 5/ High case loads 6/ Stress of job 7/ Management problems 8/ Meeting targets 9/ Management expectations 10/ Newly qualified social worker etc etc.

    BUT no-one accepts that social workers can be deceitful, corrupt, lie against parents, child snatch, child traffick, abuse children, abuse families, betray trust, be in contempt of court, commit perjury etc etc.
    If they do it is assumed that is was 1 bad case or 1 bad social worker in an otherwise fully working and caring social care system.
    Let alone accept that an entire office or LA works to any code of ethics or honesty.
    Yet the people who remain on the side of social care do not investigate cases, meet the parents or the children.If you read ANY case of any social worker it would give a good reason for the removal of children and even adoption. But the sad fact is that in too many cases it is actually untrue.

  16. Reminds me a bit about the head of British Adoption and Fostering. When questioned on her media line how many court hearings had she attended and what was the extent of her knowledge about the circumstances of the children that were up for adoption. She could only admit that she had never attended a family court hearing, nor had any knowledge of the previous circumstances of the children up for adoption. Nor for that reason could she state that every child was removed from parents for good reason. A week later she resigned.
    After all if you was head of a food chain, you would expect to have some knowledge of the products.
    So in all I have to agree with Boxerdog.
    And I bet that anyone singing the praises of social care would NOT offer to look into the cases I have that proves every single thing I have stated.
    But then if the govenment gets its way, then honest campaigners like me will get arrested for being a nuisance.
    After all in this area social workers already call honesty being abusive

  17. Peter, one other comment I would like to make is thus.
    Did you actually MEET the families that the social workers were so committed to, and did those families really NEED the intervention of social services.

    • Ashamedtobebritish

      In fairness, Peter has done a lot of good work towards trying to put paid to corrupt cases, he is more than well aware of what goes on – as an expert witness he has presented several reports to the court for many of my parents, one of which it looks like will be keeping her newborn after the removal of 4 others. We both know this person so I’m sure you will work out who I mean – yes she has worked really hard and well with the LA but she also needed to pass several criteria, which is where Mr Dale played a small part.
      Anyway this is not a debate on Peter Dale so I’ll leave it there. 😉

  18. And as for media attention for social workers. Just add social worker in your google list and it will send down to your email hundreds of articles singing the praises of social workers, not to mention within community care, BASW, British Adoption and Fostering, persons nominated for awards, Banardos, etc etc. ALL get media coverage and globally.
    Then search for crimes by social workers, I have listed hundreds within the UK for everything from fraud to child molestation and paedophilla.
    Then google and visit YouTube for children snatched, barbarically removed, angry and distraught parents etc
    Visit the HCPC site for social worker complaints.
    Then attend family courts and speak with some parents.
    Then research papers, assessments and allegations by social workers. And I mean research, not just read the papers but investigate the contents.
    Then come back to me and say that social care is ok and professional.

  19. Peter,
    I agree with most of what you say . I employed emotive language in my last comment in the vain hope that it might provoke a social worker to join the discussion but perhaps you already guessed my purpose !

    • I can’t say that I am massively surprised that social workers aren’t queuing up to join this debate. I thought Peter’s categorisation of the four types of interaction was a very interesting way of looking at it. Our current system doesn’t deal very well with unreasonable parents and the outcomes for them are very poor. I think that what a lot of the regular contributors to these comments would say is that that has bled into the reasonable parents as well and that we now have a system that deals very unfairly with reasonable parents, who could have had better outcomes if the system were improved. That seems to me to be a very valuable debate and an important area to get some proper information about.

      • Ashamed to be British

        Come on Ray, you know better than that … and i expect more of you.

        L J Hughes:

        15. Mother’s hostility to social workers raises a problem which is all too familiar in the family courts. A parent whose capacity to care for his or her children is put in question is likely to resent it. Social services on the other hand have a duty to inquire and in some circumstances to take action. Often there will be an important question whether with a measure of support the parent or parents can achieve good enough parenting. If the parent has become resentful of the social workers, whether for good cause or for bad, it will for that reason be that much more difficult to provide support. This very often leads to the parent being criticised for lack of cooperation with the social workers, and, in turn, to the parent’s resentment of the social workers’ intrusion growing rather than diminishing. It becomes a vicious circle. It can sometimes then be easy for social workers to think that an uncooperative parent is for that reason also an inadequate parent, but the one does not follow from the other. The judge was accordingly right to say that a refusal to do the social workers’ bidding or even to be polite to them, whilst it may be regrettable, is not by itself any justification for the making of the care order. It may of course contribute in some cases to the unhappy conclusion that there is no scenario in which the parent can be supported to the extent that he or she needs. In other cases it may contribute to the yet more unhappy conclusion that the anger displayed towards the social workers is simply an example of generalised angry violence to which the children are likely to be subject as well. But neither of those conclusions are necessary ones. It all depends on the facts of the case. It is not uncommon for hostility and lack of cooperation to be confined to those who are perceived, however unfairly perceived, to be wrongly interfering in the family; and if that is the case it is quite often possible to find other agencies who can establish a working relationship with the parent and provide the necessary support. To try to do that is part of the job of the social worker.

  20. Well I am a retired social worker, and I was forced into retirement by a social work organisation employing coercive and oppressive practices on its own workforce in order to bully them into coping with too much work coming in the front door without the resources to engage meaningfully with service users and undertake the work responsibly and competently. By resources I mean the number and quality of social workers needed to properly undertaking the work before them. Instead direct involvement in casework was limited in most cases to basic enquiries, and then further limited by managers when the social workers did engage in casework.

    If any individual social worker challenged the new orthodoxy they were got rid of by managers sometimes by false and spurious disciplinary charges. The trades unions involved allowed these things to happen and sometimes actively colluded with the organisation by not representing their members robustly when attacked by managers and the executive.

    In the last 4 years this organisation has lost nearly 50% of its practitioner workforce due to resignations and dismissals. Their replacements are for the most part younger and much less experienced in social work. They are also much more malleable than their predecessors and respond more compliantly to bullying and intimidation from their managers and executive.

    There are comments above about social workers lacking the knowledge, skills and expertise to work with “difficult”, or “unreasonable” service users and I can only concur that there is some truth in this. Universities don’t teach this, as most of their lecturers have fled the frontline for the safety of academia and lack the knowledge themselves to impart it to others. I qualified in social work in 1986 and these deficiencies were apparent then. They have now spiralled out of all proportion. There are very few Professors of Social Work who are fit to own their job titles…you know who they are….they get on the telly and in the press when the media wants a rent-a-quote about some aspect of social work, generally some tragedy when they trot out the same litany of regret, so much so that it has become clichéd. In this way the voices of authentic social workers are stifled again.

    Their employers silence them from telling the truth about the levels of dysfunction in modern social work and the media ignores them if they try. Add to that mix preventable tragedies and media frenzy for scapegoats and the circle of dysfunction and deceit is complete. Is it any wonder that social workers do not defend themselves under these circumstances…..a good big ‘un always beats a good little ‘un, and organisations have big resources when it comes to a scrap.

    The organisation that forced me into retirement, and is dishonest, deceitful and incompetent at executive and managerial levels, that I worked for, is called CAFCASS….and it is broken beyond repair.

    CAFCASS has recently put out some P.R. stuff masquerading as research about the direct work that Children’s Guardians undertake in public law work to try and say that it is doing what it says on the tin, and I have invited Suesspiciousminds to undertake an independent forensic analysis of CAFCASS’s claims. I await his observations.

  21. How many times do we hear “we only know one side of the story” or “we do not know the facts? Well if you ask Essex or any other Council for the facts they hide behind “we never comment on individual cases” when actually they can as long as they say nothing that might lead to identifying the children ;just in fact like the rest of us !If a journalist asks anything there is an immediate rush to court for a very wide gagging order as was requested but not granted to Essex in the case we are discussing .
    What they could try and explain is WHY an Italian mother and her Italian baby could not be allowed to return to Italy for Italian social services to deal with.Father in Italy,grandmother in Italy ,and sister in law in New York all offered themselves separately as alternative carers but the judge decided forced adoption cutting off the baby permanently from these family members and also two half sisters would be in the babie’s best interests prbably because Essex social services were anxious to “save face” and so pressed hard in their application to have this unfortunate Italian baby forcibly adopted by complete strangers ! UK social workers always pursue British children to the ends of the earth in foreign countries and foreign children who happen to be born in the uk;Never trust foregn social workers seems to be their mantra and the children suffer accordingly .

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