How Will Munro Stop Drift?

Posted on May 27th, 2011

Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations from her review of local authority front line child protection work have been published and one of the recommendations is to scrap timescales for Initial and Core Assessments.  I’m not sure if the timescales are the problem or the fact that there are not enough Social Workers to complete them within the timescales.  I would lean towards the latter view and suggest that removing the time frame for assessments to be completed; neither increases the number of Social Workers nor decreases the work load.  The on-going and forthcoming cuts can only increase the work load, with Social Workers unable to complete even an on-going assessment in a professional manner let alone the current timescales.

What is the impact of no timescale to an assessment for service users and children?   What is the end date to the assessment process? The pressure of not knowing when an assessment is going to be completed could increase stress within families, placing children at risk of significant harm that is not monitored by a Social Worker who is already overloaded by a case load of on-going cases.

If a Social Worker has a case load of on-going cases which they have worked for a period of time and they understand the needs of the children, why would they want to close the case to be given a new case that increases their work load?

If all the Social Workers in the department have on-going assessments, what happens to the new on-going cases?  The usual practice is to hold them in a manager’s name or to overload practitioners. Will these unallocated cases sit and not be worked, exposing children to drift.

The new on-going assessments will mean a new IT system for every Local Authority as the current computer packages are set up for separate assessments.  The current IT systems send messages about assessments that are outside of the required timescales and work on a work flow system that moves in a linear process. The new on-going assessment will mean a revamp of the computer systems as well as working procedures.

The Court processes require a Core Assessment and the child protection procedures also stipulate a Core Assessment must be undertaken, which under Munro’s proposal would not exist.  Maybe a restriction of case loads of individual Social Workers and less cumbersome IT systems would assist with meeting timescales.  The definition of a case would also assist Social Workers to deliver a service.  A complex case whether on-going or set within a timescale takes up more Social Work time and has potential to create a case to drift.

On-going assessments are not the answer without adequate numbers of Social Workers with restricted case loads and ease to use computer programmes.   There is a danger Professor Munro’s recommendations may impact negatively on children drifting within a system of never-ending assessment.

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Injunction Exposure Affects Children

Posted on May 27th, 2011

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming stood up in Parliament to name Ryan Giggs as the professional footballer who obtained a legal Injunction to stop his private life being written about in a newspaper.    Mr Giggs has allegedly had an affair with Imogen Thomas and prior to Mr Hemming’s revelation 75,000 people had already mentioned his name on Twitter.  In response Mr Giggs appears to have indicated that he wished to take legal action against users of Twitter.  Mr Hemming believed Mr Giggs’ last action to be ‘a threat to ordinary people’ and worthy of using his Parliamentary privilege to publicly name Mr Giggs as Ms Thomas’ lover.

If we freeze the whole process and look at the long term casualties of Mr Giggs and Ms Thomas’ liaison it is his two, unknowing children rather the two consenting adults who are in the middle of this media furore.   Ms Thomas appears not to have stopped to consider two children’s feelings when she engaged in a relationship with Mr Giggs.  Likewise Mr Giggs appears not to have thought about his emotional responsibilities to his children when he allegedly began the affair.    Ms Thomas has been vocal about her feelings about being a woman, treated unfairly by the media and the legal process that protected her lover from public exposure.  Ms Thomas has made no comment about the consequence of her actions on the lives of two innocent children.  Neither has their father – Mr Giggs.

At the weekend Mr Giggs was photographed on the football pitch, proudly lifting his children aloft after winning the league title.  Mr Giggs appears to have taken no action at stopping one newspaper using this photograph under the caption ‘ Bed Devil’.  One would assume that Mr Giggs’ children, like most children would not wish their daddy to be known as a ‘Bed Devil’.

What next for Mr Giggs’ son and daughter now the exposure is complete.  His daughter’s friends because of their age will no doubt know about her father’s alleged affair.  This can place pressure on her peer relationships if she is bullied or feels embarrassed. Mr Giggs’ daughter’s educational attainment may suffer because of the emotional impact of her friends and teachers being aware of her father’s affair.  Both children will be sensitive to the inevitable tense atmosphere in the family home, caused by a tearful, angry parent, who is coping with their private feelings surrounding a public affair.  The parents may talk about separating.  We are often made aware of celebrity couples taking a well published holiday to get back to being a family again. If this does not work then the children might have a long drawn out divorce to look forward to which will undoubtedly achieve headline status in the media.

The affair, the injunction, the humiliation, the recriminations and the exposure by Parliamentary privilege has long lasting consequences for two people – ‘the children’.

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Is the Royal Family a reflection of Society?

Posted on May 10th, 2011

There are lots of photographs and film footage of the recent Royal Wedding and commentators have made lots of remarks about the absence of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.  A theme of the wedding discussion was that it reflected modern society, so I ask myself were Tony and Gordon the distance relatives that were not invited to the ceremony?  After all, this is what happens in such family gatherings when numbers are limited.

The pictures of the balcony had William and Kate kissing; the happy couple flanked by his widowed father and divorcee wife; another reflection of the modern step family.  The tragic death of Lady Diana avoided the awkward situation of her having to share the balcony with her ex-husband and Camilla and indeed meant her not being present at the wedding of her eldest son, a complication many step families have to deal with today.

The commentators highlighted that the absence of black and ethnic minorities in the congregation. The balcony scene also contained no black relatives.  Few remarks were made about the ethnicity of the Royal Family, although it was frequently stated that Kate is a ‘commoner’.  This, I note is not a reflection of modern times as it has always been easier for a woman to marry above her social class. We might not have seen a wedding if Kate had been the Royal, wanting to marry below her social class.

Having attended a friend’s wedding the day after the Royal one, I noticed again that there was an absence of black and minority ethnic people in the congregation.  Thus, suggesting that the Royal Wedding might reflect modern society after all.  Then I started to think about the Government’s initiative to allow black children to be adopted by white families and the adoption of black children by famous entertainment figures such as Madonna and Sandra Bullock.

The black child that has been adopted now has a family, but they are visibly different.   We like to use the word ‘diverse’ in modern times to describe the ethnicity of anyone that is not white. The thing I wonder is how you truly support a black child’s identity if they are adopted by white families, particularly middle class ones.  Would the modern Royal family really want to discuss the slave trade or the various countries that were conquered in their name and the indigenous people pushed aside. This is a complex issue that would need to be considered if white modern families such as the Royals are to meet the needs for adoptive black children, who have already experienced the care system and separation from their birth family, which has undoubtedly impacted on an individual’s self-esteem.

Considering the Royal Wedding as representative of modern society is questionable.   Imagine the Royal family adopting a black child, in line with the ‘progressive’ thought of the Government’s transracial adoption plan.  The little bridesmaid who appeared to have special needs was photographed rather a lot by the media.  The photographers would undoubtedly have homed in on William and Kate with their adopted black sibling/relative.  Is this the modern family we want for black children?  Will white adoptive families meet the needs of black children, carrying emotional baggage from their early life experiences?  These families will need specific training and support to manage the new, diverse family dynamics in order to minimise the risk of placement breakdown in a climate where cuts in service provision to provide this support for these truly modern adoptive families are already taking effect.

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