Chair of Education and Children’s Social Services Inspectorate resigns

Posted on June 28th, 2010

Zenna Atkins resigned as chair of Ofsted last week, amid speculation over the future of the inspectorate.

Zenna Atkins had been the chair of Ofsted since September 2006, and was the organisation’s first ‘chairperson’.  Atkins said in a statement that she had left the organisation to head a ‘global education provider’. She also said that, “Ofsted has achieved much of what I hoped it would achieve.”

Her departure comes in the same week that ministers hinted at their intention to replace Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert. Gilbert has stated that she intends to stay until the end of her contract, which runs until October 2011.

Atkins chaired Ofsted through many changes, including the merger of the Schools Inspectorate with the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2007. She was renowned for being outspoken, and often criticised the Civil Service culture.

Non Executive Board Member John Roberts said “Zenna has helped transform Ofsted in her role as its first Chairman. Working closely with HMCI, she has overseen the development of world-class inspection systems, including doubling the classroom observation time in school inspections and the introduction of unannounced inspections of front-line Children’s Services contact, referral and assessment arrangements, helping to ensure the most vulnerable are better protected.”

Ofsted has been criticised heavily in the last 18 months, most notably over the handling of children’s social care inspections during recrimination over the Baby P case.


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Social Workers Criticised by High Court Judge?

Posted on April 13th, 2010

Lord Justice Wall will be sworn in today as president of the High Court’s Family Division, and The Times heralded his arrival with an interview that criticised and undermined Social Workers across the UK.

The Times’ creative reporting skills showed a quote from Lord Justice Wall with ‘Arrogant Social Workers’ in the headline, somewhat misrepresenting the original sentence. Lord Justice Wall’s statement did indeed criticise the actions of Social Workers, but the comment in question appears to have been taken out of context.

Lord Justice Wall said that Social Workers are ‘Perceived by many as the arrogant and enthusiastic removers of children from their parents into an unsatisfactory care system, and as trampling on the rights of parents and children in the process.’ Taking the sentence as a whole gives a different insight into the personal views of Lord Justice Wall, who it seems, was actually making an observation of public perceptions.

Lord Justice Wall did precede this however with the startling comment, ‘What Social Workers do not appear to understand is that the public perception of their role is not a happy one.’  In our role as Independent Social Workers we come across others in our profession on a regular basis, and have found that Social Workers are acutely aware of the public’s perception of their work.

The comments from Lord Justice Wall, coupled with those by Lord Justice Aikens in recent days, in which Lord Aikens likened Social Workers in Devon to ‘Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China’ can only be of further detriment to those already demoralised Social Work professionals.  Recent months have seen Social Workers criticised and ridiculed for not acting and removing children from their families, and now criticised for doing the opposite. If Lord Justice Wall is to make a difference in his new role then it might be prudent for him to offer some support to Social Workers, rather than providing ammunition for the media to continue their battering of Social Workers in the UK.

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Vatican’s ‘Just Petty Gossip’ statement highlights the problems with investigating child abuse and safe guarding children.

Posted on April 6th, 2010

This is not an attack on the Catholic Church or the Pope, although we do not support the actions of the individuals involved in representing the Church’s interests.

The situation demonstrates that child abuse is not just an issue for British society, as the cases involving Catholic priests abusing children occurred in America and Germany. These incidents of abuse by adult males in a position of power reinforce information found in many pieces of research. The children who suffered these traumatic acts of violence by adults were vulnerable due to their age, their disability and there were in turn isolated from society.

The Church’s acts of ‘covering up’ abuse reflex the behaviour of families and other sections of society, who choose to deny that child abuse takes place. The investigation into child protection allegations by Social Workers can be hampered by a partner who refuses to communicate their concerns to Social Work professionals, due either fear of physical violence or the risk of losing their partner. This leaves Social Workers in the situation were families in a similar manner to the church refuse to report incidents of abuse to Local Authorities.  This allows children to be sexually exploited for years not just by Catholic priests but by other powerful members of society, who destroy the lives of children and affect their adulthood.

These children need the Catholic Church and the Pope not to blame lower ranking officials for the decisions of people with the responsibility to protect them from harm.

Within our own society neighbours refusing to report incidents of domestic violence are colluding with the perpetrator of the violence and should been seen supporting the actions of the aggressors.  There should be a consequence to the lack of actions by the Pope and other adults who fail to protect children from abuse.  Children rely on adults to make them safe and secure.

The Catholic Church acts as a role model to society and its current crisis highlights how difficult it is for Social Workers to investigate incidents of child abuse when met with a wall of silence and lack of co-operation. The abuse of children will continue if adults in power refuse to accept their responsibility to protect children, particularly those who are disadvantaged through poverty or disability. These issues and others keep some children on the edge of society and they become targets for adults, wishing to hurt them for their own gratification and pleasure. Whether it is the Catholic Church, the Pope, a partner or a member of the public that walks past a small child being hit hard by an adult, they are all failing to protect children from harm. The abuse of children can be reduced if adults control their inappropriate actions and people report child protection concerns to the authorities, supporting and  respecting the role of Social Workers whilst they investigate the complex issue of child abuse.


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Children’s Society survey provides an interesting insight for Independent Social Workers.

Posted on February 3rd, 2010

The Children’s Society revealed the results of its ‘Well-being’ survey yesterday, and received widespread media coverage.  Whilst it did not delve deep into some of the problems seen by Independent Social Workers, it did provide some useful findings.

The survey centred on the happiness of children in school years 6, 8 and 10.  The children were asked various questions regarding their happiness, and what affects this.  The children gave their answers on a scale of 1-10.  The survey consisted of 100 questions,

The main findings from the survey were that family conflicts affect children’s happiness more than family structure.  20% of the variation in the children’s happiness could be attributed to family conflicts.  This is compared to 2% being down to family structure.

Whilst it is unlikely to change the way in which child focused Social Workers work, it may aid their understanding of a child’s feelings. Independent Social Workers may have already noticed this pattern, and having this information available could aid Social Workers in the preparation of Core Assessments, and Section 7 and 37 Reports and in chairing Family Group Conferences.

Bob Reitemeier, the Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said of the report; “Family Conflict emerges in this study as a major cause of childhood unhappiness, and so it is vital that families can get the sort of family mediation and counselling The Children’s Society offers to help them resolve and avoid conflicts.”

Avocet Independent Social Workers provide a wide range of Social Work Services to Local Authorities, Solicitors, Courts and other organisations.  Our child focused approach enables us to provide Court Reports, Viability Assessments, Core Assessments and Kinship Assessments to a high standard.


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