‘It is a fact accepted by social workers – our views are least important’

A child protection social worker reflects on experiences she has had trying to put her point across in court settings

listening
Photo: WoGi/Fotolia

by Sophie Ayers

It may be strange that I consider myself a ‘veteran’ in child protection, given the fact that I have only been working in this field for eight years.

Despite this, I am unusual, I am ‘long in the tooth’. There are not many child protection social workers who remain in this line of work for this length of time.

Within my time as a child protection social worker I have seen so much. I’ve borne witness to injustice, been physically assaulted, chewed my gums bare as decisions were made that led to insomnia and wept as exhaustion eroded my soul.

It is a tough, formidable job that sometimes seems thankless but other days I feel like our profession could really change the world.

Blamed

However, even with our intelligence and clear skill, individual social workers are blamed for systemic failures. From my perspective, it is easier to blame the lowly worker on the frontline rather than examine systemic failures, propped up by government rhetoric that is not supported by our legal system.

The government dictates that care proceedings should be completed within 26 weeks. The reason for this guidance is to prevent delay for children and to help them to obtain permanence at the earliest possible moment. This aspiration is right. It is child focused, and aims to improve the lives of our most vulnerable. However we can only do the assessments we physically have capacity to do.

The status of social workers has been a key theme in recent academic literature and political discourse. There is a clear aspiration to improve social work status yet in in my experience we are often the last to be included within discussions relating to court timescales.

Until the idea of a “safe caseload” based on an arbitrary number (rather than looking at the challenges and complexities of each case) is recognised as being potentially dangerous, the substantial assessments required within care proceedings will be an overwhelming task.

Individual expertise

My observation of social work within the court setting in general is disheartening. Despite our knowledge of the families we work with, we are often ignored, dismissed or sometimes disparaged.

I will always recall a retort from a barrister two years ago – when I did not agree with her suggestion regarding a written agreement – “will somebody do something about this social worker”. This occurred in a canteen full of people. She had no regard for my individual expertise or autonomy in the situation. It was acceptable for her to refer to me in the third person and even my own solicitor did not challenge this blatant public abuse.

Sadly, I believe that as a group of professionals we have become accepting of the derision and a lowly status in court amongst other professionals. It is a fact widely accepted by social workers – our views are the least important. This is despite our knowledge and aptitude to analyse the current level of risk.

We are incapacitated to challenge due to decades of degeneration and a culture which makes social workers know their place. While we are professionals, when we walk into court we know that our voices will be the last to be heard and we will always be the first to blamed in impossible situations.

The problem we face as a profession is that there is often no ‘perfect’ solution; just the ability to balance the least probable evils. Within this analysis, we will always face criticism and no easy solution can be reached.

Intimidated

My view is that even when you are deeply experienced or robust, your views will be subjected to an onslaught of legal arguments, which will intimidate you to change a well thought-out argument, even prior to entering a court room. I often find it much better to make your arguments in front of a judge rather than within the politics and cosiness of the legal consultation rooms.

We should know that there is no right or prefect answer to be found for the children that we work with. This is just the reality of complex situations and despairing lives that we have the delight, and sorrow, to work with.

Sophie Ayers is a child protection social worker

18 Responses to ‘It is a fact accepted by social workers – our views are least important’

  1. LongtimeSW July 20, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    If it helps, as matter of practice for the last 5 years or so I do not enter into any conversations (as I used to) on or off the record with other party legal advisors – what I try to do is remind myself that we instruct lawyers, not the other way round – agree with the point that better to let a judge decide if agreement can’t be reached – rather than enter into a debate about evidence filed with the court (assessments etc) – if it is clear that another party disagrees ask through legal advisor for their instructing party’s views – I believe it is ok and honest to have a different opinion and acknowledge it – I don’t ask anyone necessarily to agree with my opinion, just for it to be considered and given the respect it deserves as part of the evidence

    I hope this is not a cop out but if you have given honest evidence it is the court’s responsibility to make a decision based on the evidence it hears – such decisions are not the social workers and it is the court that should primarily be accountable for the consequences of decisions it makes

    • Carol July 20, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

      Thank you for this respone, all the way through this article I was muttering “as a Social Worker you instruct your legal team, they do not instruct you”. I have worked as a child protection social worker for more than 20 years and have found that a balanced, fair and sympathetic manner, even in court reports, is the only way to present information; to give truthful credit to even the most incapable parent is a way of showing compassion and understanding of these sad cases. However, during my time with three different local authorities I found that the most damaging thing to child protection teams was recent Governments’ initiatives to “shake up” social work with families, causing long-term and very experienced workers to leave this particular sector of social work, leaving so many teams with inexperienced and newly qualified workers and managers. These initiatives have driven out of local teams social workers who have worked with two and even three generations of the same families; they had extensive knowledge of the families, their networks and of the local challenges in the areas. There is no substitute for first-hand, long-term knowledge and experience and I worked in two boroughs where there was a wealth of this information which was willingly shared with me when I joined the teams. The level of protection of the children was extremely high because of these issues. The third borough I worked for following a “shake-up” in social work was in disarray as those with the local knowledge had left, as I had left my previous borough for similar reasons. Team managers were far less experienced than I and would acknowledge this fact, asking my opinion when they were unsure of their next actions.
      There is no excuse for action for the sake of action, there has to be consultation with those on the front line at all stages of change. I would be delighted to be part of policy making in an effort to provide a safe and humane service for both children, their families and for hard-pressed, over-worked and dedicated social workers. However, I know that this will never happen as to ask the front-line workers would not fit the everlasting and on-going war against services, the main reason for their existance being to cut budgets whilst forcing workers to run faster, do more, achieve more outcomes at the cost of their home lives and their health, both physical and mental.

    • Pat Elliott July 20, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

      Could not agree more with your comments

  2. Susan Pepper July 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    What a refreshing comment at last someone speaks out and says what it is. This is so true Social Worker are often ctitized and verbally abused in court

  3. Jayne Laysan July 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    In complete agreement with these sentiments. I feel we are often unsupported, undervalued yet often blamed for errors made by those given decision making roles. We, as Social Workers build relationships with our clients and care about the quality of their lives, but who cares for us! We are a most valuable resource, yet we can be treated without respect, care or value – leaving the bulk of Social Workers dissatisfied, anxious but most of all a feeling of inadequacy, deskilled and, at the very least, miserable.

  4. Gwen July 20, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Sophie,

    I have been a Child Protection social worker for 12 years now. As an agency social worker I have worked for a few Local Authorities, and throughout the years I have heard similar stories about court work to the one you talk about. I have even worked with social workers who have referred to going to Court to return with the “shopping list” of tasks to complete.

    The most important part of the process is to remain focused on what is best for the child (which I am sure most dedicated social workers do), and never make promises to children and families when it comes to decisions that still have to be made as part of a team.

    I clearly remember in my training that the importance of listening to children and clients were emphasized and many times I have thought – “ok, so I am listening”, but why am I the only one listening when no-one else seems to do so?

    It is a difficult and demanding job, but you/we have to keep going to make things better for the families and children we become involved with.

  5. Kat July 20, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    Surely an article like this does little to challenge the norm and more to reinforce it?

  6. Blair Mcpherson July 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    I started out in residential work, I worked with young children, adolescents and young people with I learning disability and “it’s a fact that ” the views of residential workers were rearly sort and always considered of less importance that that of the social workers. This despite the fact that I had daily contact with the individual whilst their social worker only visited prior to a review, case conference or court hearing.

  7. Ellie July 20, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    I write this from the perspective of somebody who has worked both in an Adults team, and as a Mental Health Social Worker… It is NOT only Children’s Social Workers who are ignored and sidelined. I firmly believe that ALL Social Workers are treated unfairly. ALL are subject to excessive and unmanageable caseloads which are arbitrarily allocated. ALL are subject to excessive and intrusive paperwork and bureaucracy which interferes with time spent usefully with service-users. ALL are subject to serious under-funding and under-resourcing as a direct result of unfair and ill-judged budgetary cuts which have lead to lack of decent office facilities, outdated resources, short staffing and other problems. ALL are treated as “blameworthy”, even in situations where they are anything but to blame.

    It feels to me as if Social Work is seen as a “nothingness” of a job – derided, sidelined, stigmatized and “scapegoated”. The REALITY is that Social Workers, just the same as any other employee, CAN do a good job if given the right resources, adequate funding, good training, empathic support, competent management and appropriate working conditions. Just like all other workers, individual Social Workers are HUMAN BEINGS who deserve to be treated with the same decency and respect that everyone else expects, and which they are expected to show to their service-users.

    When Social Workers “get it wrong”, although it may sometimes be down to the individual worker, the TRUTH is that matters frequently involve so much more. Not all Social Workers are incompetent. Many are trying to do the very best they can, despite dreadful working conditions that include having to “hotdesk”, being short-staffed, having to work in overcrowded offices, having to use outdated facilities, lacking regular and competent supervision, lacking management support and faced with spiralling caseloads. Sometimes, Social Workers are even blamed for “getting it wrong” when actually THEY DID NOT. Sometimes, they take the blame for other people’s mistakes.

    I remember working in Forensic Mental Health Services, and attending a Mental Health Review Tribunal to report on a service-user’s progress. The Tribunal was to decide whether the individual needed to remain in a mental health facility under a section of the Mental Health Act, or not. The service-user in question was a violent offender, with a history of partner abuse (domestic violence) as well as armed crime, and abuse of court proceedings. This service-user had recently absconded from Hospital after hitting a male Mental Health Nurse over the back of the head, and knocking him out. The absconsion was planned – the offender even had a friend waiting with a car! Despite ALL this evidence, and more (which included evidence of witness-tampering and purjory, that the Judge refused to allow me to admit!) – and despite the fact that my evidence was backed-up to the hilt by similar evidence given by both a Psychiatrist and a Mental Health Nurse – THE JUDGE DECIDED TO RELEASE THE SERVICE-USER BACK INTO THE COMMUNITY. Whereupon he promptly stopped taking his medication, refused to allow home visits from mental health staff, and then absconded again! And WHO gets the blame for releasing a violent offender back into the community?! Seems that everything I had to say – and all the work I had attempted to do with the service-user – was worth NOTHING!

    So… No! I do not think that this problem is just one of Children’s Social Workers alone. It strikes me that ALL Social Workers suffer the same fate. And, I totally agree with the above comment that Jayne Laysan makes – Social Workers are frequently blamed for errors that are NOT their own, but are rather mistakes made by people who have been given decision-making roles (e.g. managers, judges, etc.).

    Strikes me as a bad example of “shoot the messenger”!

  8. TFS July 20, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    I find it refreshing to hear that Social Workers are often ignored.

    Unfortunately, as a full time care worker, looking after clients on a daily basis (albeit working with adults), I find that many Social workers are completely dismissive of the views of carers. We work with clients day after day, and know them much better than case workers who only see them infrequently. We often tell a SW that a particular client does not have capacity, or needs additional assistence, but we are ignored by many, and our views are rubbished.

    There are certain SW’s who are impossible to deal with, as they do not listen to any other point of view other than their own.

    So Sophie – Please remember that you also need to listen to others, who whilst they may not have as many formal qualifications as you do, do sometimes know what they are talking about.

    • Ellie July 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

      Much as this is something that some Social Workers may not want to hear, I am somewhat inclined to agree with you. You have highlighted a problem that appears, to me, to be firmly entrenched within the WHOLE care system.

      The problem, as I see it, is that health and care work is HIERARCHICAL. Both the NHS, and Social Services, are hierarchies. What this basically means is that they are top-down systems of power and control. These organizations are layered, and this layering represents the fact that those at the top have more power – and more say – than those at the bottom. What really ANNOYS me is the absolute falsehood that we are lead to believe – that those at the top have more qualifications, skills and experience than those at the bottom. This is SO NOT TRUE!

      For example, in Social Services, the hierarchy goes something like this…

      TOP – Government Minister (who quite likely has NO formal training or background in Social Care whatsoever. No requirement to submit to a registration body, be on a register, or to hold a specific qualification.).

      NEXT – Senior Civil Servants (report to the minister, and probably also have NO formal background or training in Social Care. No requirement to be on a register, or to have a specific qualification.).

      NEXT DOWN – Senior Social Care Managers (who may or may not have Social Care training and experience. However, they are just as likely to have been imported in from big business, as they are to have worked in Social Care. This kind of makes it a bit “pot luck” as to whether they know much about care, or not. Again, not registered.).

      NEXT DOWN – Managers (who have possibly worked their way up in the field of Social Care. However, once again, they could just as easily have come from somewhere that is NOT directly care related, such as working in personnel and HR. In this case, they will know very little about the reality of Social Care. It is likely that at this level, and above, managers are no longer with any registration body, even if they were once Social Workers. There is NO requirement for managers to be registered.).

      NEXT DOWN – Team Leaders (who are often Senior Social Workers, thus do have experience of Social Care, but may not still be undertaking hands-on practice. Most will still be registered Social Workers.).

      NEXT DOWN – Social Workers (who must have a recognized qualification, experience, and registration to do their job. They come frequently into contact with clients, but not in the same way that carers or care workers do, because the remit of their role is different.).

      BOTTOM – Home Care Workers (who hold, or are working towards, recognized qualifications; and who are also being requested to join a registration body. They frequently have contact with clients in terms of hands-on care).

      Now, what REALLY annoys me is that, if you look at the list I give above, the HIGHEST concentration of caring skills and experience that can be used to benefit clients is actually possessed by staff at the LOWEST levels of the hierarchy. Ironically, the higher up you go, the less likely it is that you will have any relevant Social Care skills, qualifications or experience. In my eyes, THIS IS THE PROBLEM. Those higher up just do not understand or appreciate what those below them do, or know. Thus, it is sadly sometimes the case that those at the top do not listen to those below. Frustratingly, this has a knock-on effect, something like…

      Civil Servants refuse to listen to Senior Managers, and instead impose their views on them. This frustrates Senior managers, who take it out on Managers beneath them, by not listening in turn to Managers, and by forcing policy and procedural changes through that Managers have little say in. Managers then take this out on Team Leaders and Social Workers, leaving them feeling powerless, and not listened to. Sometimes, in their frustration, this leads to Team Leaders and Social Workers not listening to Care Workers beneath them. THIS is how we end up with hierarchical organizational cultures in which not listening almost appears to be a firmly-entrenched “management style”!

      Indeed, MY feeling is that staff who work lowest in the hierarchy, and thus have MOST time with clients, probably DO have something valuable to say, and should therefore be listened to. In my eyes, effective working involves good communication between ALL levels of staff – and this should be communication that flows in both directions – upwards and downwards with EVERYONE listening to each-other. After all – we ALL have eyes and ears, and the more our eyes and ears are attuned to the needs and wishes of our CLIENTS, the better. Formal qualifications in care are beneficial, but only so long as you are actually LISTENING first and foremost to the CLIENT’s wishes and responding to their needs.

      Perhaps a greater degree of SOLIDARITY BETWEEN Social Workers and Care Workers; who actually (if they could only realise it) often have the skills, experience and time spent with clients to complement each-other really well; might mean that when Social Workers and Care Workers work together effectively they share experiences and expertise that gives them a stronger combined voice. If these two types of staff, along with Team Leaders – who also have experience and qualifications in Social care work – agreed to work closely and effectively together, listening to, and complementing each-other… then maybe those at the top might listen more? Might HAVE to listen more, because the voice of staff at the bottom (staff who see and know much) might become stronger and more unified?

      Just a thought!

  9. Children's Guardian July 20, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

    I completely agree with this article in principle. However, as a Guardian, what I often find infuriating by social workers’ evidence is that their assessments and arguments are often resource-led and the recommendations do not always reflect what is in a child’s best interests.

    I totally appreciate that this is usually led by higher powers and I empathise with social workers when their recommendations are sometimes dismissed at court after they’ve clearly put in the hard work in the background. Having worked in frontline child protection previously, I’ve experienced this.

    Budgets and lack of resources (amongst other chronic issues preventing social workers from doing their jobs) are obviously a problem nationally and not the fault of the social workers. It’s down to systemic failures, as you point out.

  10. maria July 20, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    I totally agree with the above, however I am of the view that even some judges treat social workers as non experts, especially when a court appointed expert who assesses a family ‘Once’ but is considered to ‘know’ this family better than the social worker who has travelled the children’s journey with them…. Lets face it what do we know, its demoralising and reinforces counsel’s frequently low view of us and our hard work

  11. Lyd July 20, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    My own view is that social workers need to be honest and very well balanced in their assessment, otherwise they make themselves look like fools in the end. There is no point picking out only negatives from parents, or saying half of the story when the other half is positive. I don’t know if this is common practise or lack of resources/training. But all too well known, many parents experience of social workers is very negative, If social workers can gain the trust of parents, maybe they will not have those kind of difficulties you describe above.

  12. Freya Barrington July 21, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    I worked as a foster carer, residential social worker and child protection social worker for almost 20 years and I totally sympathise with the above piece. In 2013 I gave up full time social work and wrote a bestselling book based on my own experiences. Entitled Known to Social Services, the book outlines many of the above issues and debates. The book is now on the reading list for many UK Universities who realise the value of “fiction” based on facts and the need for our students to know what the REAL job of a social worker entails. Well done on the piece

  13. SSM July 21, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    My thoughts…………….

    Within social work, we are increasingly becoming experts within smaller fields i.e. CP, court etc. Child protection social workers are becoming less experienced within the court arena

    Due to the horrendous systems we work within, when issues are raised, new systems are implemented but the lack of strong advocates for the profession result in the old practices remaining in place, and new systems sitting on top of the old systems, placing the overworked social worker at ever increasing pressures.

    With the new timescales, we should be going into court with all assessments completed. In my authority we are very very good at this. However, a large proportion of guardian and the judges have not moved culturally, and still want all assessments to start again etc which results in the family going through further intrusive assessment, social workers repeating work already completed within unrealistic timescales.

    In no other profession would it be normal for a member of staff to work 20+ hours per week for free, but we do this as we want the best for our families and we want to ensure that our practice is safe. The distortion is clearly evident as there are more people employed to make sure that social workers are doing their job properly than there are actually doing front line social worker.

    Society needs to accept that we manage risk, we do not eliminate risk that a parent/family member pose. We need to accept that actually we are really very good at this. Pat yourself on the back all you dedicated social workers.

    I do not see assessments based on finances/resources. However, I have seen many guardians attempt to argue cases that result in SU feeling that they are entitled to financial packages, rather then supporting packages that enable families to address issues and grow. Sadly I have become increasingly disappointed with the role of some guardians within court, often due to their own issues (dislike of a local authority, very strong views against removal/for removal. CAFCASS need to implement case supervision of their guardians to stop such differing views of each individual guardian.

    Back to the subject of court. Within court I instruct my legal. I often have to remind them of what my role is and what their role is. If they do not like this, they will get no further work from me (we use barristers).

    Within court I am the applicant, so if the parents are not in agreement with my recommendations their legals job is to represent their clients…. by trying to make holes in the evidence. It is their job to do this, it is not personal. I am respectful to all people whether they are just about to be arrested for harming a child or whether they are a barrister. However, I tend to stop being respectful to barristers if they are unprofessional about their clients, as I just cannot help reminding them of their role!

    I become concerned when we present a care plan of permanency outside of parents/family care, and the parents do not actively contest this. The parents have a right to contest, and the children have a right to have a parent who will contest.

    I do think that we need to radically overhaul our profession and our systems. We need a workable case loads. We need to stop holding a social worker as being responsible for issues that are beyond their control, we need strong management and the financial ability to provide a fit for purpose system. We need to hold the government responsible for the 30 years of underfunding…… which is the reason why social workers do not remain working at the front line for long periods of time.

    Be proud of the work you do helping the most vulnerable

  14. Joe Z Mairura July 23, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Dear Sophie,

    Thank you for your heartfelt reflection on our profession and our practice.
    I share your sentiment that our profession can and is sometimes perceived and at times treated as the Cinderella of the other professions; but my reasons are different and they are as follows:

    1 Nobody makes us be anything unless we let them/ choose to let them- if as you say we are a profession and we are then we have the choice to act differently but we choose not to- threonine lies the problem. Is it easy oh god no, it’s scary.
    2. We have allowed ourselves to believe that the challenges facing our profession are somebody else’s- we have constantly looked for solutions outside the profession. That has been our biggest mistake; because this kind of thinking has promoted a sense of “the done to profession” No we are not. We need to chance this fallacious thinking because it’s destroying our sense of identity and value. And because. We have looked outwards for answers to the challenges in our profession- it has become a self fulfilling prophecy- “We have become who we think” The quality of our professional identity and self value can not outgrow the thinking we bring to it. Read that again because it is a vital insight. We are are the epicentre the common denominator of everything that happens to us.
    3. We have as profession ‘learned to ask’ rather than ‘expect’We must get better at being more of the latter….I would have loved it if you had said to the solicitor in the cafe” let’s get one thing straight “I instructed you Ms” or whoever she was
    4. We need to learn to act what we say…. Remember what we were taught all those many years ago now at social work training ? Exercising our authority and make you mistake we do- more that we are prepared to admit
    5. We are experts at what we do. And we are very good at it- how many of us genuinely believe that and live into it in our behaviours’ actions and practice. That also means being very rigourous in how we present ours evidence.
    6. Last but not least we have forgotten we work to a code of professional ethics – so on good incontrovertible evidence ther isn’ t a solicitor, manager, judge etc in their right minds is going to ask/ you to go against your Code of professional Conduct. How many of us really believe that.

    7. We make very profound (and sometimes life and death) decisions that have profound implications for people’s life’s. So we/ you must never, ever allow ourselves/ even contemplate that’s somehow your view/ or evidence is less important than anyone else’s…. But that’s in your gift. What makes the difference is that You genuinely Believe it, Think it , and Act it. Remember what I said above, the sense of identity and quality of our professional practice is commensurate with the quality of thinking we bring to it.

    The most important ought I have made in my 32 years of practice is: The world does not give you WHAT,you want it only gives WHO You are.

    Be genuinely proud of what you do.

    Until next time … Be BRILLIANT.

    Joe.

    P.S. I have given out my email address to Community Care. I’ m happy for anyone to contact me directly if it will help.

  15. Sophie A July 25, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    It is lovely to see that my article prompted so many responses and I am glad that it promoted debate amongst our talented profession.

    I just want to respond to a few comments.

    There appears to be an assumption that it is only bad practice that leads to criticism in court. This is simply not true. The point of the article was to reflect the ongoing diffiulties we face as workers within this arena. I am proud of my practice and have received fantastic praise from Judges and Barristers regarding the quaility of my work. However, no matter how cohesive and robust your work is – there will always be holes in your argument because the risks we are balancing are highly complex.

    Many people have said within their comments that we should be proud of our work. I couldn’t agree more. We produce complicated, analytical and well thought written and oral evidence on a daily basis. We are an intelligent, multi-talented and a diligent group of professionals who have every right to be considered highly qualified professionals.

    I also agree to the points that many have made about parents and children having rights to be represented in court. I absolutely agree with this too. Every person who finds themselves in the harrowing position of appearing in the family court should always have high quality and effective legal advice.

    By agreeing with these points, I do not hide away from the points that I have raised within my article. The points identified sit alongside my views and values.

    SSM makes so many valid and well argued points within their contribution and I have to say I find myself agreeing with every point they make.

    Joe Z Mairura – your response compelled me to respond to other comments and I would like to respond in turn to each point you make:

    1. I spend every day of my social work career challenging and unsettling preconceived ideas about social workers. I choose to be proud of my profession and sometimes ‘unsettle the apple cart’ by choosing not to be seen by the traditional negative perception of social workers. This can have a significant cost to both working relationships and energy levels but I will continue to do this.

    2. To a certain degree I think that your second point echos my concern. However, we are coming from a different philosophical viewpoint. I do believe that we have learned to accept our position. However, I strive to challenge at every juncture. I am more than aware that social workers who attend court on a frequent basis understand the hierarchical structure that the English legal system is based upon.

    There is only so far that you can go in this context without being held in ‘contempt of court’. I am clear about my professional capacity and try to promote this every time I attend court. It is my view that it is simplistic to argue that the solution can be found within our profession when so many factors affect the contribution that we can make. I strongly believe that transformation will happen when we start a discourse that trully reflets the factors affecting our professional success.

    There is certainly no ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ within my practice. Just because I recognise an ongoing difficult situation does no mean that I do no promote our profession and our expertise every day.

    3. I am always clear with the people who are acting for the local authority about my instructions. If I am concerned about the arguments that they are putting forward – they will be challenged. I know that there is some autonomy within the court structure, but my arguments relects other decision makers such as Guardians and the timeframes that we must adhere to.

    I did challenge the Barrister who publicly embarassed me in the canteen. She was not representing the local authoirty and therefore I did not instruct her. She was providing advocay for the mother and she has every right to question my views. I raise this issue to demonstrate that unprofessional behaviour is tolerated and accepted by others. I will never have an issue about being challenged about my views. I only ask for professionalism and curtesy. We face enough aggression wihtout professionals joining the social work ‘battering train’.

    Whilst I challenged – there was an emotional impact for me going through feelings of fear, embasrrasment, humilliation and anger. We must reconigse that social workers face emotionally turbulent situations frequently and this is a reality of our practice. To minimise the impact of this largely accepted behaviour is naive. We are not ‘social work robots’: emotions and dignity accompany us to work.

    4. I am a competent witness and have provided oral evidence in court on many occasions. I know that I am an expert in my field. There must always be some doubt in the evidence that you are providing because we are not working within an exact science. I make concessions in my evidence when required and listen to the advocates if there is a clear argument to change my viewpoint. There will always be a time when a social worker reflects on the arguments presented and may change their opinion. This is ok and this is purpose of evidence being before court. However, my criticism reflects other diffiuclt behvaviour outside and in the court room.

    5. I agree we are experts and I don’t believe that my article indicated anything contradicting this statement.

    6. I don’t think I mentioned anything about our HCPC code of conduct. I was merely presenting that the decisions we face are complicated and it is not an exact science. Emotional turmoil accompanies decision making when there are many layers to the possible outcome. I did not suggest that I have ever compromised my code of ethics in the face of challenge. I will only change my viewpoint if there is clear that the evidence dictates a change in thinking.

    7. I am so proud of my profession and the compentece within this field. I have the pleasure to work with astonishingly clever; emotional robust and creative indiviudals who work tirelessly day in and day out. I do not believe that my voice is not worthy to be listened to. However, I do believe that the antiquated court room etiquette and long standing derision of soical workers impacts upon our status in court. I am aware of the life and death situations that soical workers deal with as I am faced with these dilemmas every day.

    Your argument appears to be founded on the premise that soical workers are in charge of their destiny: soicial workers need to find the solution for the current crisis within their profession. I prodoundly disagree. The current political climate means that we have become labelled as the inaffectual professional; the failures and a scapegoat for underfunding and a lack of undertstanding of the day to day nuances of our work.

    I am frightened by you argument because it forgives the chatostrophic failures in the infrastructure that tethers our profession.

    Joe – I would like to know when you last presented evidence in care proceedings?