Parents with learning disabilities feel the most harshly judged by social workers according to a report from the children’s commissioner published today.
The report found that many families involved with safeguarding services felt their views were not being heard by social workers. Areas involving domestic abuse, parental learning disability, poverty, working with men, and refugees were deemed to be the areas where the most disagreement and resistance occurred.
All these groups said they felt harshly judged by social workers. Parents with learning disabilities voiced some of the strongest concern.
“[The social worker] finds it hard to talk to me,” said one mother with learning disabilities. “I think it’s because she thinks I am stupid and don’t understand, but she will not give me a chance.”
The findings, from five focus groups of families and family conference organisers as well as interviews with service users and social workers at the beginning of the year, found that mothers who were the victims of domestic violence felt their social worker blamed them for putting their children in that situation.
Male service users also told the commissioner they felt they were treated differently by social workers because of their gender while many families felt they were being judged because of their poverty.
“It’s nearly always the poor people who have social worker involvement, but the social workers don’t seem to be trained to deal with poverty,” one service user complained.
Another said: “What I didn’t like was the snobbery, sarcasm, superior attitude and putting you down in front of your children.”
Refugees said they felt intimidated by social workers, as if they were undergoing immigration checks all over again.
The report concluded that positive engagement was most likely to result from a demonstration of respect from social workers.
“I had this social worker who came to my house who asked me if there was anything she needed to do to make me feel comfortable, like take her shoes off,” a service user said. “She even asked me if it was convenient for her to come.”