A judge has suggested a local authority change the social worker on a case where a six-year-old child had been “expressing anxiety” about their relationship with the practitioner.
Judge Lazarus said in a judgment that there was concern about how productive a family’s relationship with Kent council’s children’s services would be “when there has been a breakdown in the relationship”.
Lazarus made 12-month supervision orders for two children living with their mother after both parents made “enormous strides”. This followed concerns about alcohol misuse, mental health, the parents’ lack of engagement with the authority and the father’s aggression.
The father still faced significant challenges, Lazarus said, and she ruled the children would need 12-month supervision orders with the local authority to ensure the stability of their living arrangement.
However, in making the orders, she recommended the local authority change the case’s social worker due to the oldest child’s concerns about their relationship with one another.
“I would expect adults to be able to get over such difficulties, but for children it is far more difficult and this is a child who must be at an emotionally fragile stage of her life,” Lazarus said.
“I have no power to require the local authority to change their social worker, but it is clear that if I am granting a 12-month supervision order on the basis that I have set out, that it must be hoped that the local authority will look towards co-working this case for a brief period of time so that a newly allocated social worker can take it up, to provide a fresh start for the supervision order.”
She made no criticism of the social worker, and made no findings “as to how any party or any professional has acted”. However, she said the local authority should consider “very seriously” her recommendations to ensure the supervision orders could be carried out as intended.
The parents challenged the need for supervision orders, and instead argued for a six-month family assistance order.
Lazarus rejected the parents’ submission: “A supervision order grants a wider scope for the local authority to pursue its supervision plan within a child protection context, as opposed to the very specific directions made by the court relating to child assistance orders.”
She said the father still faced “very challenging emotional problems”, which would continue to be a “very challenging task for a good deal longer than a 6-month period”.