This assignment will explain the role of a Local Authority (LA) Social Worker (SW) when working with ‘children in need’ and their families, and those in need of safeguarding and protection, will also explain the main role of children and families’ sw and reasons why they would be involved. Furthermore it will discuss the importance of multidisciplinary working; identify different forms of abuse, their impact and alleviation. In line with evidence based practice, the Children Act 1989 sections 17 and 47 will be analysed as intervention methods
It’s important as a sw to utilise an understanding of theories of human growth and development to understand the various stages of development that the children are undergoing, before making any decision of safeguarding. Children in need may have faced extraordinary experiences in their early lives that may affect their physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. Safeguarding is defined by (HM Government 2013) as ‘the action we take to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm’. Child protection is defined by RCPCH, (2006) as ‘the process of protecting individual children identified as either suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect’.
Section 17 (10) of the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989) defines a child in need as a child who is ‘unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services by a local authority’ or ‘his/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired without the provision for him/her of such services’ or ‘he/she is disabled’ (H M Government, 1989, section 17) gives LA ‘duties and powers to provide services for children in need and their families Part’ 111 (Sec17 (1)).
When a referral is made, LA is forced to consider initial enquiries within 10 days. This is to find out what is happening to a child and decide which action should be taken to protect the child as set in the CA1989 S47 of Protection of Children (Brammer 2013). This guide draws’ on all professionals to work together to promote children’s welfare and ensures families are provided with much needed resources.
In some historic children cases these processes weren’t upheld and lead to the death of children like Baby P and Victoria Climbie. Lord Laming ((Laming and Office, 2003)) stated that communication has played a major role in successes and failures of the system. He also made recommendations that will ignite working together in terms multi-disciplinary teams working together information sharing’ Connolly and Ward, (2008) suggested ‘It is good practice to consider children’s rights to protection as of paramount duty and at the same time work in partnership with their parents unless doing so would harm them’.
The Framework for Assessment of Children (Figure 1) in Need and their Families (DoH, 2000) emphasises the use of an ecological approach to identify the child within the environment and offers a holistic approach (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). It enables professionals to identify systems affecting a child, the most and the social forces impacting on his lifespan therefore, resulting in interventions being applied where they are needed most. An ecological approach looks at people, families, cultures, communities, policies and identifies and intervenes upon strengths and weaknesses in the transactional processes between these systems (Greene and Greene, 2008).
Figure1 (Department of Health 2000, p.1)
Living conditions may result in disturbed nights, which can lead to strain and tiredness (Hazel, 2002). Similarly, inadequate housing may cause parents anxiety and affect their capacity to care for the children. Therefore, a sw could use their powers to make a referral for families to acquire an adequate accommodation. According to Gill and Jack (2007) the ecological theory is important in the development of holistic approaches to safeguarding children. Its strengths are that it focuses on individuals as part and incorporating other systems, so it integrates social with psychological elements of practice however, it is criticised for assuming that everything fits into a social order (Payne, 2009).
A SW is expected to consider human rights issues when completing any assessment. In the community there’s a whole variety of groups e.g. ethnic minorities, women, disabled people, homosexuals children just to mention a few. Professionals are required to uphold and defend the rights of individuals whilst seeking to meet their needs and this are all governed by The Human Rights Act 1998. Brayne & Shoot, (2010) said ‘the act has also heavily influenced the Disability Discriminations Act, (2005) and Equality Act, (2006 & 2010)’
Welbourne (2012) said ‘SW is a profession that engages with people’s lives at all levels, from the practical to the deeply personal. Lord Laming (2003) said ‘child protection is everyone’s business, and it’s important that SW, police, and health workers take the lead role for the procedures and processes that protect children from harm’.
The CA 1989 sec 47(1) places a duty on LA to investigate when they:
‘are informed that a child who lives or is found in their area
- is the subject of an emergency protection order
- is in police custody’
- ‘have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found in the area is suffering, or is likely to suffer a significant harm’
LA will conduct an initial child protection conference that consists of all professionals including the child, family members. This is a partnership aimed at setting out plans in place for both family and the group members. They will meet within 10 days after the initial conference and at least 8 weeks after that. The plan will be considering day to day details of the care plan and to put it into practice. After the case has been opened, implemented and put into practice, a Review Child Protection Case Conference is called to review and assess the progress of the case. The first review is held within 3 months of the initial conference and at least six months after that. A SW will always aim to achieve results and return the child to their parents.
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006 (Department of Health) has 5 identifiable forms of abuse as neglect, physical, emotional, sexual and domestic abuses, and the latter has been recently added and recognised in its own right. Coleen L (2003) suggested that ‘Negligence can include behaviours that receipt, fraudulently misrepresentation, defamation of character act, violation of human rights, malicious prosecution.
Maureen O’Loughlin and Steve O’Loughlin (2008) suggested that ‘Parents have a central role in their children’s welfare and protection from harm, and should therefore be included in all decisions and actions taken by professionals…’ Parents have their complex needs as well, some abuse drugs and alcohol and generally have low self-esteem. If parents deny sw access to a child and there’s a possibility of a greater risk of life or likelihood of serious harm, LA will apply for the Child Assessment Order sec43 CA 1989 when they considering any kind of contact, LA would have reasons to suspect concerns with development, welfare and health of a child. This order will only last 8 days without extension. Emergency Protection Order (EPO) under S44 of the CA 1989. It can last for 8 days with the option to extend for 7 more days.
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Brayne & Carr, (2010) suggested that ‘It is important that any discussions with children are done in a way that minimises the distress and maximises the likelihood of them providing clear and accurate accounts’ The children may be looked after by the LA with parental agreement (Children Act, 1989, sec. 20. ‘A child may only be kept in police protection however, for 72 hours’ (Brammer 2006). Other order available is Recovery order sec50, will be applied if a child under PPO or EPO is removed from the responsible applicant. Police can recover the child and return them to the place of safety.
SW has ‘an obligation to conduct themselves ethically, engaging in ethical decisionâ€making, including partnership working with service users’ and this was quoted by The Code of Ethics for Social Work (BASW, 2011). Social work is a very privileged profession, they draw up conclusions and judgement on what they observe and hear. Hence it’s necessary to develop an inner skill not to use prejudice in any engagement. Empowerment has been understood as a paradigm within anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice (Lishman, 2007) and can be implemented through partnership working, which is a key social work value (Thompson, 2009).
This assignment has shown how and why a sw would intervene when a child becomes in need. It also discussed the LA’s responsibility for children in need and their families. Aim is to protect and safeguard children from harm by forming partnership working with families; assist in providing alternative services to promote their welfare. The assignment drew up on relevant legislation that ensure welfare of a child remains paramount, also challenges all professionals to collaborate in a systematic manner. Children have been let down in the past and Every Child Matters ensured it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their health and development is secured. This reiterates the importance of SW’s impact into the system, drawn from Code of Ethics sw’s should always challenge any discrimination, recognise diversity, always distribute resources to those in need, challenge unjust policies and practices and work in solidarity. In conclusion a sw would not be aware if a child is in need or requires protection; however, the facts in this essay provide a sensible method of judgement on whether a child is in need or at risk of significant harm.