Disadvantaged Children ‘Capped’ By The Legal System

Posted on March 23rd, 2010

The decision to ‘cap’ the hourly rate of pay of Independent Social Workers further demonstrates a lack of respect for the Social Work profession.

This has far reaching financial implications for Independent Social Workers some of whom will see their ‘expert’ witness fees halved by the decision to cap rates at £33 per hour in London and £30 outside London and is likely to drive some Independent Social Workers to seek alternative Social Work roles. The interesting aspect of the ‘capping’ scheme is that it is not applying to Local Authorities that are finding it hard to recruit or have been placed on Special measures.  In fact in such Local Authorities the Government is offering enhanced rates of pay in excess of £40 per hour, often with agency fees and accommodation costs on top to attract experienced Social Workers.

 Avocet is concerned that Independent Social Work expertise is being capped at a rate considerably lower than that of other professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists.  

Avocet Independent Social Workers specialise in working with young parents, lone fathers and asylum seeking families and this requires time to reflect on evidence gathered on visits undertaken often at weekends, during the evening or early in the morning for assessments where the information is complex and decisions are difficult to reach.

Capping the rate of pay of Independent Social Workers is going to create a system that involves children receiving the service of an expert Independent Social Worker dependent on their post code – children living in poor, disadvantaged rural areas may not receive the same level of expertise as a child living in London.  Independent Social Workers will need to undertake more assessments to earn the same money and this in turn may affect the quality of assessments and cause deadlines to be missed due to increased work load.

An Independent Social Worker undertaking an assessment in London with good transport links may be able to complete two assessment visits in a day; however the Independent Social Worker considering undertaking an assessment with a family living in a rural community may find it is no longer financially viable to do so.  The introduction of a ‘capping’ scheme could lead to these children being disadvantaged, denied inclusion in the process and left at greater risk of harm if it is not ‘cost effective’ for an Independent Social Worker with the expertise to undertake the required assessment to travel into such a rural area.

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Local Authorities are offering Innovative Social Worker recruitment

Posted on March 16th, 2010

Recruiting Social Workers has become a real struggle for Local Authorities across the country.  A large amount of bureaucracy, coupled with negative media coverage of the industry has led to a lack of front line Social Workers.  Local Authorities have started to become more and more inventive in ways to aid their recruitment campaigns, with mixed results.

Wiltshire Council faced a shortage of 15 Child Social Workers whilst restructuring their Children and Families Social Care department.  They created an innovative recruitment campaign, called ‘Hidden Gems’.

The campaign involved full colour magazine adverts and a ‘treasure hunt’.  The Council distributed business cards listing the campaign’s web address in public areas, cafes, shopping centres etc, and then gave clues as to their whereabouts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Other Local Authorities have embraced some of the many new initiatives surrounding Social Work.  The ‘Be the Difference’ campaign, as well as the ‘Grow your own toolkit’ and ‘Stepping into Social Work’ have all been used to increase the numbers of front line Social Workers in the UK.

Avocet offers a unique directory of Independent Social Workers.  Our sophisticated vetting process allows us to work with Local Authorities to ensure that we provide the Social Worker with the most appropriate qualifications and experience to meet the required need.

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Independent Social Worker guidance should be trusted in the courts.

Posted on March 9th, 2010

The Local Government Association published findings from research this week regarding the treatment of Social Workers in Courts across the country.  The report, carried out in conjunction with Loughborough University, intended to investigate how best to implement findings from Lord Laming’s report into Child Protection.

The report found that members of the judiciary did not trust the evidence given by Social Workers, and would often ask for second opinions from psychiatrists and other professionals.  Avocet Independent Social Workers share the same concern as many Local Authorities that this lack of trust can put children at risk.

The report stated, “The low status afforded to Social Workers was… perceived to impact upon the court decision-making process.  A number of authorities felt courts were refusing applications that Children’s Social Care felt were necessary to protect children.”

The report focused on the treatment of Social Workers in comparison with other professionals.  It found that Social Workers are often required to wait in court an average of 20 hours before being able to give evidence, whilst other professionals, such as hospital consultants are rarely required to spend an entire day waiting in court.   This waiting time can only extend the backlog of work faced by frontline Social Workers.

The report quoted a ‘senior lawyer in child care proceedings’ as saying that lengthy delays could be avoided if the Social Worker’s assessment was taken at ‘face value’,
“If you have a case of neglect involving a mother of 5, who has been a crack cocaine addict for 10 years, do we really need to commission another psychiatric assessment to tell us that she needs to be free of drugs before she can care for her children, which costs thousands of pounds?”

The report could be construed to be removing the option of a fair hearing for parents, but that is not the intention.  In cases where the parents disagree with the application to remove their child, they can request further assessment, for instance by an Independent Social Worker.  The issue is specifically about the courts’ apparent need to validate a Social Workers statement with an assessment by another professional.

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