Don’t name social workers in court judgements, BASW head warns

Social workers should not be named in published transcripts of family court judgements, which are to become more available under government proposals published this week.

That was the message from David Barnes, acting professional officer for England at the British Association of Social Workers, who warned that naming social workers in judgements could result in them receiving undue attention.

Under plans on increasing the transparency of the family courts this week, the Ministry of Justice said it wanted judges to publish judgements of cases or summaries when there is a public interest, so long as children were not identified.

Justice secretary Lord Falconer said that social workers and other professional witnesses should only be kept anonymous if that would avoid identifying children, though naming them would be up to judges.

However, Barnes said: “Naming social workers could be difficult in terms of ensuring that social workers can do their work with a degree of safety from attention. Also there’s a knock-on effect on children and young people. If you start identifying social workers it makes it easier to start identifying children and families.”

Barnes, a former guardian, admitted there was a need to increase the accountability of the family courts, and suggested that all judgements should be published, not just those deemed to be in the public interest.

The government has ditched plans to open the courts to the media as of right.

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