Social workers praised for commitment to child with complex needs

Judge praises council social workers who ‘simply got back into the ring’ but criticises lack of secure accommodation provision

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A judge has praised the commitment of “bloodied and bruised” social workers to a girl whose early trauma had caused her to act in “an extremely aggressive” manner.

In a court judgment published last month, Justice Hayden “paid tribute to” Wigan council social workers who had experienced assaults at the hand of a 15-year-old girl with complex needs.

Hayden said: “Notwithstanding a catalogue of assaults, some of them involving significant bruising, social workers have simply returned to work and resumed their commitment to care for [the child]. Bloodied and bruised they have simply got back into the ring.”

Hayden also criticised the “wholly inadequate” secure unit provision in England, as despite granting the council’s secure accommodation order, the council could not find a unit prepared to accommodate her.

The council had applied for a secure accommodation order for the girl, who grew up in “bleak and desperate” conditions where she experienced “profound physical and emotional harm” and had likely suffered sexual abuse.

It had tried many foster care and residential care placements over seven years, but each had broken down due to her violent behaviour and the placements’ inability to manage it.

‘Humbled’ by commitment

Despite the child being known to social services for her whole life, there was still a “limited appreciation” of what her needs were. She had never been diagnosed with a psychotic illness, and there was no suggestion she had experienced psychotic episodes.

Lawyers working on behalf of the local authority and the child said she and her siblings were “the most complex [children] this local authority has ever had to care for”.

Hayden praised both care workers and social workers who had worked with the child, saying he was “humbled” by their commitment. “Social workers often attract criticism and public disapproval; here the balance must be redressed. The professionalism and dedication that I have read about in this case shown by care workers on modest salaries and with limited support, requires to be acknowledged and paid tribute to.”


On the lack of suitable accommodation for the girl, Hayden said it was “profoundly depressing” the local authority was unable to find a suitable placement, and directed the case be sent to the education secretary, Justine Greening.

He granted the local authority’s application for a secure accommodation order, limited to a period of three months, but added: “I find myself, once again, in a position of considering the needs of a vulnerable young person in the care of the State where the State itself is unable to meet the needs of a child which they themselves purport to parent.”

“I propose to put this judgment into the public domain because I regard it as a matter of public interest. Once again, a young and vulnerable person finds herself in a parlous situation where there is wholly inadequate provision… It is impossible not to confront the depressing reality that current secure accommodation resources in England and Wales are inadequate.”

Hayden said the case would be listed before him in the seven days following his judgment, which would have been before the end of November, to review the girls’ situation.

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7 Responses to Social workers praised for commitment to child with complex needs

  1. LongtimeSW December 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    Thanks you Judge Hayden

    Shame on you Central Govt.

  2. TJ December 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

    Good to see recognition of hardworking social workers. Good to see this issue being raised – again. Children are sent from the south of England to Scotland for a secure placement. Wholly inadequate is absolutely the case. The same is true for civil secure and criminal secure. Dire. Same depressing state trying to find non-secure specialist placements. ‘At a distance’ is not the answer.

  3. Faye December 7, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    Thankfully social workers are not being blamed for the lack of buildings to place children in. So sad to hear such a common story.

  4. Deb Barnett December 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Some great commitment shown by the Wigan Social Workers. Perhaps psychology and psychiatry could support the girl and the Social Workers considering potential trauma in her life and looking at treatment responses to trauma symptoms.

  5. AB December 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    These are some of the issues the media should highlight and publish instead of the witch hunting against social workers in their articles or bulletin news. The public and government should hear about the huge challenges workers face to provide services for some of the most vulnerable children and young people with limited resources in the face of all hostility and negativity portrayed in the media around the profession.

  6. janet December 8, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

    I’m not happy to see this praise for bloodied and bruised social workers.
    I felt uncomfortable.
    Once i would have thought” umm recogniton ”but now?
    As both a foster carer and social worker I have been attacked so many times. I just accepted this. However when my husband was attacked and nearly lost his life 5 years ago I began to reconsider and question myself
    He lives daily with the trauma from that.So do we his family We have nearly lost our marrage our children futures. So the impact has been longstanding.He now has services for his needs?
    .I dont have an answer but i do feel moderately paid social workers and their families dont need to endure this.
    It feels wrong to me to glorify it.
    It needs to be addressed.
    I feel sorry for the child and past workers.
    It should not have gone on so long and so many people challenged.
    I do however want to thank the final workers for getting the child help.
    I sincerely hope they are emotionally and physically well. I am very proud of them, but want them safe .

  7. Anonymous December 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    Well done colleagues and Judge.