Government study debunks child-snatching social workers myth

A Ministry of Justice study has countered claims that social workers are unnecessarily taking children into care.

Researchers found no evidence in court files that guardians or the courts thought councils had brought applications for care or supervision orders unnecessarily. Only one case was withdrawn and in only one other did the court find the threshold for intervention had not been proved. Care orders were granted in 59.4% of cases, supervision orders in 31% of cases and no order at all in just 2.5% of cases.

Significant levels of need

Mothers of children who were the subject of applications had more than seven indicators of concern. Indicators included inconsistent parenting or emotional abuse (59% of mothers), neglect, lack of hygiene or repeat accidents (58%) and drug abuse (39%).

Lack of co-operation with agencies was also a huge problem. In 271 of the 386 cases, mothers did not co-operate with drugs, health or social services.

While 350 families (91%) were already known to social services, in 36 of these cases the care application was the result of a “crisis intervention”, with half of these cases involving newborn babies.

Child protection scrutiny

The study comes at a time when child protection social workers are under intense scrutiny given controversial claims from Liberal Demorat MP John Hemming and media commentators that professionals are wrongly taking children into care to meet adoption targets.

This was illustrated by the reporting of a recent case in Nottingham, in which the council admitted it had acted unlawfully by removing a baby from this 18-year-old monther at birth – though the child was subsequently made subject to an interim care order and placed with foster parents.

General Social Care Council chief executive Mike Wardle (pictured) said: “We welcome this study, which demonstrates the complex and difficult circumstances social workers face when dealing with child protection issues.

“Social workers are unfairly perceived as being too quick to take children into care. This report shows that taking children into care is a carefully considered option, which follows a period of debate and assessment. The task of social workers facing such cases is a difficult one and requires our support.”

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