Independent social workers refute attack on their court role

Independent social workers have been left dismayed by calls from directors of children’s services to end their role in care application proceedings.

Marion Davis, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, made the call at the association’s annual conference in Manchester last week.

She said ISWs were “an expensive part of the landscape” and that their second opinions had a “detrimental effect” on local authority social worker morale.

Davis claimed she could not think of a single, negative impact on court proceedings if independent social workers were removed from the process.

Stephen Cameron, ISW and trainer based in Bristol, said he was “dismayed” at Davis’s stance and that as far as he was concerned ISWs played a crucial role in court proceedings.

“In my experience ISWs usually speed up court proceedings because we’re called in to cut through any difficulties the court has run into,” he said. “Unlike some other expert witnesses, we’re always given extremely tight deadlines because by the time we’re called in it’s usually a more urgent situation.”

Ann Haigh, chair of Nagalro, the body that represents court guardians and independent social workers, refuted Davis’s claims, saying: “These comments do a disservice to the whole social work profession. The sound judgement of one professional is no threat to that of colleagues, and should be welcomed by all as a means to secure the best interests of children.

“It is unfortunate that such a powerful organisation as the ADCS should appear to criticise social work colleagues in this way.”

Phil King of the agency Independent Social Work Associates claimed the comments proved directors were out of touch with those on the frontline.

“The majority of social workers, children’s guardians, lawyers and judges do not share her views but rather welcome the assistance of expert social workers in trying to resolve some of the most complex cases.”

The comments come after ISWs already face a cut in their court fees following the Ministry of Justice’s decision to cap pay at £30 per hour from October 2010.

 This decision was made separately to the current, ongoing consultation to review the fees of expert witnesses in court cases.

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