Social workers spend more than 20 hours waiting in courtrooms for every care application made according to new research.
The Local Government Association commissioned Loughborough University to cost the post-Baby P recommendations from Lord Laming. The report found that many authorities feel judges are refusing applications necessary to protect children because of the low status of social workers in the court system.
“It was noted that experts such as hospital consultants are not expected to wait in court all day to give evidence, but that social workers are, meaning they are not able to use the time available more effectively,” states the report, adding: “Workers reported that to obtain a care order they would spend on average 20 hours waiting in court.”
Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “The report shows that social workers are not being treated with the same respect as other professionals.
“I’m not sure why this situation has come about – I think it’s practice that’s become embedded in the legal system over time. But social workers are experts in their own field and we need to ensure they are taken seriously in court.”
Ann Baxter, chair of the Health Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said: “Unfortunately it has sometimes been the case that evidence provided to the court by a local authority social worker has had a reduced impact, not because of the skills of the individual involved, but due to a lack of confidence in the profession as a whole.
Baxter said it is “essential” that the “profile and status” of the profession is raised, so that social workers’ expertise “can contribute to these crucial decisions about the welfare of the most vulnerable children.”