Divisive, demeaning and devoid of feeling: how social work jargon causes problems for families

Surviving Safeguarding writes about how social work language can create barriers between children, families and the system

child
Photo: atlanaka/Fotolia (posed by model)

by Surviving Safeguarding

“M was a LAC herself because of CSA/CSE and family breakdown, before she became a parent at 16. Her FC and LA felt the pregnancy destabilised the placement and placed her in a women’s refuge after which her case was closed to the LA. During a later, difficult pregnancy (in which she became known to the perinatal MH team), M needed extra help; the LA held a TAF L1, which (after a MASH meeting) was later escalated to an L3, after which M’s children became subject to S.17, and the CIN process. FGC not offered.”

Understand any of that?

Unless you’re a social worker, I’d hazard a guess that you don’t. Most parents wouldn’t either, unless they have learned to speak the language.  Because, unfortunately, to navigate your way through the child protection system requires a crash course in social work training during the most difficult time of your life as a parent, and the most vulnerable time in your life as a child.

The “chronology” above is, simply put, some of my life in acronyms. No context, no strengths identified and written in gobbledegook. I could have gone on, talking about ISW’s, investigations and PPOs.

However, this is not the only place “jargon” causes problems.

A recent article warned of children in care who are being bullied and singled out as they adopt “social work jargon” into their everyday language. Fiona Duncan, chair of the Independent Review of Scotland’s Care System, backed by Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of the advocacy charity for care experienced young people Who Cares? Scotland, called for an immediate end to social workers talking to children in this way.

“Workers just don’t think”, Dunlop states.

‘Exercise in humiliation’

Sadly, I can recall many “contacts” with my children in the care system as an exercise in humiliation, as we attended “contact centres”, normally situated in buildings which housed council-run childcare, or within the community.

The other parents, who were there to pick up their children after their working day, would often stare. Parents who are attending “contact” with their children stick out like a sore thumb. The contact supervisors, or social workers, wear very conspicuous name badges, or lanyards, quite rightly to identify them as professionals.

However, this makes other people look over and wonder what horrible misdemeanour you have done to warrant not being permitted to see your children unsupervised.

Sometimes, we wouldn’t know the person supervising, and were expected to form a rather quick relationship with them while they watched over us, making notes. If you’re suffering from depression and anxiety in the first place, this hardly helps matters.

Undoubtedly, my children felt uncomfortable too, being picked up from their school by a supervisor or social worker, while their peers were collected by their families. I will never forget the utter glee on my child’s face when I picked him up, alone and unsupervised, after having to fight for the right to do so in court. “No social workers??” he asked.

“No social workers son, just me and you.”

I’m not sure who coined the term “contact”, but its use is divisive, demeaning and devoid of feeling. I don’t have “contact” with my children who remain in the care system; we have “family time”, we have time together, quality time. “Contact” has not “broken down”; we’re just not seeing each other at the moment because that’s what they want.

I’m not here to “promote contact”, my door is always open when they want to see their family again.

Creep

Social work terms creep into every meeting, every report, every encounter you have. There is nothing more isolating as a parent caught up in the child protection system than sitting in a meeting listening to professionals using language or jargon you don’t understand.

You’re already frightened, you’re already acutely aware of the power dynamic; it takes the strongest and most confident of us to speak up in front of professionals and confess you don’t have a clue what they’ve just said.

Because when you’re in the child protection system, it feels like everything has a consequence. If you say you don’t understand, they may think you’re stupid, or ill-educated, or illiterate – more reasons to take your children away.

So, you sit meekly, and listen, and allow the professionals to continue to speak in their own language, hoping you might be able to translate the minutes of the meeting, when they come. I have been that person.

However, I learned to be the person I am now only by strength of character and courage fuelled by love for my children. Now, I will take notes in a meeting. If I don’t understand something, I will request the meeting is stopped and whatever I don’t understand broken down and explained to me in layman’s terms.

So, social workers, senior social workers, team managers, conference chairs, independent reviewing officers – any and all health and social care professionals, I implore you:

  • Get rid of terms like “contact”, make your supervisors or social workers put their badges away whilst overseeing a parent’s time with their children, or whilst collecting children from school. Unless necessary, notebooks and clipboard should not be used during this precious time together.
  • Call family members by their names. “Siblings” are “brothers and sisters”.
  • Refer to where a child lives as their “home”, not a “placement”, or a “unit”. Avoid labelling a child as LAC, or a carer as an FC. They have names, use them.
  • Think about the language you use while compiling reports or during meetings. Parents and children don’t have years of training and aren’t privy to your acronyms. Don’t make a difficult time even harder. We’re all human beings, treat us with dignity and respect.
  • Create an environment where a parent or a child can tell you if they don’t understand something. This requires trust; earn it by practising humanely. If a parent or a child needs extra help to understand, find creative ways to ensure that happens. Use visuals, employ a translator, or a learning disabilities advocate, or anyone who may be able to bridge the gap between you.
  • At all times, make sure a parent knows their rights and responsibilities, and your rights and responsibilities as a local authority. We do not know what a Section 20 is, or that a Section 17 is voluntary. Make sure everything is explained.

For the most part, we all want what’s best for the children who we parent, or with whom we have a professional relationship. Language is the most powerful tool we have. Let’s use it well.

Surviving Safeguarding is a social work trainer and mother who has gone through care proceedings. She tweets @survivecourt.

53 Responses to Divisive, demeaning and devoid of feeling: how social work jargon causes problems for families

  1. Chan May 11, 2018 at 4:45 am #

    Thank you.

  2. Frustrated social worker May 11, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    It’s not just the family that experience this, as an adult mental health social worker working with families in the child protection system. I have often thought it rather oppressive, not child friendly and damm right near difficult for anyone to be heard but for the ‘lead professionals’. I’ve been sneered at for not knowing terms and considered out of touch because I wanted to promote the family as a whole.

    I get it, ‘paramouncy principle’ children come first and so they should when faced with neglect and abuse. But it’s not that straight forward. I’m not judging all here, but I find that more often than not I walk away from meetings thinking, ‘where did their values go’.

    Maybe it’s the overwhelmed system, maybe I’m too idealistic. All I know is I see the pain and frustration on many adults and children’s faces and more often than not, we are left to pick up the pieces down the line of the trauma it causes. So many young adults leaving care tell us they were traumatised by their expereinces. And of course the adults too, some just don’t see it was their doing. Others never had a chance once they hit the system and live a life of regret, shame and poor mental health as a result. There has to be a better way. I know I’m generalising here, there are always exceptions.

  3. The child's voice May 11, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    Why not go ahead and remove every professional piece of language we use?

    Why not forget about everything we learned at university?

    Why bother going to university at all?

    The most ‘demeaning’ thing about this article is the way it dismisses professional terminology and belittles the invaluable theory that drives the work of child protection social workers.

    • Ryan Wise May 11, 2018 at 3:44 pm #

      Are you actually serious? What a ludicrous response to an excellent article. I would be very concerned if you were working with children and families

      • Ben May 11, 2018 at 7:04 pm #

        Well said Ryan Wise, if the comment is from someone working in social care who isn’t able to reflect on the impact of intervention on families it highlights why there is a problem with the degree program and practice!! Extremely worrying. As a social worker with experience of social workers personally I think it’s a great article

      • Krissy May 11, 2018 at 8:37 pm #

        Why are you being so hostile? This is a valid response to an opinion piece. The columnist’s piece was obviously written from the point of view of a former service user so why shouldn’t the practitioner have a right of reply?. It seems to me that all we do is beat ourselves up, why shouldn’t someone defend the profession and the language used? I think it’s inappropriate to be so insulting to someone who’s merely expressing a viewpoint as the writer has.

        • Istvan May 12, 2018 at 9:32 am #

          The jargon language is used for the convenience of professionals. It is in no way essential. All that precious social work learning can be applied just as well in plain English – it just takes a bit more effort.

      • M May 12, 2018 at 12:21 am #

        Me too

      • Sarah Phillmore May 12, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

        I agree Ryan. What a disturbing and utterly tone deaf comment from ‘The child’s voice’.

        If you cannot explain things in a language that your listener can understand then all your university training has been for nothing.

        I have had to read reports from social workers that say things like ‘audibly witnessed’. The word they were looking for was ‘heard’.

        Such jargon is – in my view – used as a cloak and a shield for those who feel insecure about their knowledge and understanding or those who wish to emphasise their superior learning. Neither quality makes for a useful social worker.

        If people working in this field cannot hear what is being said to them, very clearly, by the people they work with then the social work profession is in more serious trouble than I initially thought.

    • P May 11, 2018 at 7:54 pm #

      Why can’t social workers just use and be taught at university normal languages that families and children understand?

      You was taught it at university but most families/children haven’t been…

    • Caroline Aldridge May 11, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

      I hope the universities are teaching social work students about the theories underpinning anti oppressive practice, the power imbalance inherent in the social worker/service user, and the way that language and jargon hold so much power. ‘Professional terminology’ is not something to aspire to! If we understand something we can explain it in simple language. Academic gobbledygook or bafflegab does not impress. It usually signifies that the student has no idea what the terms mean.

      The most important lesson social workers need to learn is the importance of values. ‘Surviving safeguarding’ writes intelligently and, as an experienced social worker and lecturer, I think she has much to teach the social work profession. She does challenge us as a profession to pause and think about the impact we make.

      May I respectfully suggest that you take the time to read her work where you might learn about compassion, resilience, adversity, assumptions, disadvantage, empathy and more.

      • Penny May 12, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

        Every profession or trade comes with its acronyms and “speak”, and while I fully agree we need to be mindful of that it doesn’t mean that social work terminology is all about underpinning the “power imbalance inherent in social worker/service user”. Indeed, the aim of much social work terminology is the exact opposite of what you are stating, namely to protect the service user from feeling oppressed. And this “May I respectfully suggest” etc sounds incredibly condescending. I have read much of what safeguarding survivor has written and applaud her as I imagine any empathetic person would. I think her piece about her son was one of the most poignant articles I’ve read in a long time. However, if you write something on a public website you have to be prepared for people to have alternative views. It is indicative perhaps of the times we are living in that the person who is brave enough to express a differing opinion is branded as some kind of troll. That’s ridiculous and is not worthy of our profession.

    • Surviving Safeguarding May 11, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

      I haven’t belittled any theory, in fact – I haven’t even mentioned any theory.
      I also haven’t dismissed professional terminology. I’ve pointed out that it has no place whilst working with children and families.
      One hopes you read reports better than articles.
      For one who claims to be “The Child’s Voice”, with respect, you have an awful lot to learn about working with them, and their parents.
      Thank you for your constructive feedback.

      • Penny May 12, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

        I’m sorry but despite your thought provoking article, your choice of words here evidences undermining language towards people who express an alternative viewpoint. “One hopes you read reports better than articles” is a belittling statement and is unworthy of you I believe given that you seem to be an individual who wants to raise people’s self esteem not lower it. To claim “The Child’s Voice” has “an awful lot to learn” sounds condescending to me and as if you are making assumptions. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a platform. Your voice is crucial to the current debate I feel. However, reading comments here, particularly Ryan’s, I’m wondering whether there’s an agenda around social work taught in universities rather than workplace-based routes. I suspect, although I could be completely wrong, that you both favour modern routes into social work like Frontline. The traditional university based model is still the route taken by the majority of students, some of whom, like yourself, have had experience of being a service user, unlike the privileged young graduates from red brick universities courted by fast-track organisations.

        • Surviving Safeguarding May 12, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

          To be honest Penny, I know who “The Child’s Voice” is, and he has been attacking me for a while. I’m really sorry if I’ve caused any offence to anyone else, but this man has – despite knowing my recent horrific personal losses and traumas – continued to try to bring me down, unsuccessfully. I certainly didn’t mean to lower anyone’s self-esteem, but can you imagine how bad I feel when I am attacked like this? I have a right to defend myself.
          As far as Frontline are concerned, you couldn’t be more wrong. I teach regularly at Universities, I have a good relationship with my local university (Northumbria) and sit on the service user committee. I fully support ALL routes to social work, and I have therefore taught at Frontline too. I do not favour one over the other; all students will end up as social workers and therefore my voice is important in both settings – as are many other service users (for want of a better word!).

    • BorstalBoy May 11, 2018 at 9:26 pm #

      When you say “we” I sincerely hope you are not referring to Social Workers? Your comments read as if you actually wasted your time going to University at all. If you cannot see the irony in your comments you are not fit to hold the title. If you think talking impenetrable shite makes you a professional you really be to go and do something else.

    • Stuart Carlton May 11, 2018 at 9:40 pm #

      Really? From a real social worker? If we want to really work with families, the language we use is really important and can be a barrier to how we work with them. I would also suggest that some reflection on a parents opinion is important and some empathy and understanding are required. I would also be worried that there is any university teaching it’s students that understandable language and engagement with parents isn’t important. I genuinely think it is worrying that this reaction is what came to you after reading the article. It is a balanced, useful piece that reminds us what it can feel like as a parent. I’m still not sure if your comment is a wind up, if it isn’t, find some time for reflection and discussion with someone. Thank you Safeguarding Survivor for you continued bravery in sharing.

    • Adam B May 11, 2018 at 10:03 pm #

      Weirdly, I didn’t learn acronyms at Uni. I learned about experiences of oppression. This article is helpful, not demeaning.

      What is demeaning to the profession is this response – Especially from someone titled the child’s voice.

      I’d suggest re-reading it without feeling personally attacked. It’s sensible.

    • HelenSparkles May 11, 2018 at 11:25 pm #

      If you have any empathy and emotional and actual intelligence you should be able to absorb all of that theory, develop an expertise, and then talk to the people you work with in a way they will understand.

      Losing the jargon doesn’t mean losing your learning. There is always a very straightforward way of saying something complicated. I could give you an example of lots of things that we use as jargon in SW which can be explained very simply.

      It might help you to think about what you would need from a doctor if diagnosed with a serous condition, you wouldn’t want their jargon, you would want to know what the condition meant for you.

      I will always say that it is the best practitioners in any field who don’t use jargon because they don’t need it to mask anything or make them sound like they are clever.

    • M May 12, 2018 at 12:19 am #

      To be a professional is not about terminology. It is about being able to connect with others and making a difference. Who cares if you know what ffs means.

    • Social Worker May 12, 2018 at 7:18 am #

      That is a pretty shameful response. The University education that you want to protect is so clearly wasted.

      Social Workers – servants not masters.

    • Dave May 12, 2018 at 8:01 am #

      1. Professional language has its place, it’s not something to hide behind there is no need to use words or terms that parents or children will not understand. it is oppressive and it needs to change.

      2. University is only the beginning, if you stopped learning at that point then maybe you need to think about that. Social work practice is much more than application of the knowledge and theory you learned at university and it never stops.

      3. Going to university is a starting point, not an end point and this person is not challenging your profession rather that they are openly talking about an experience that many people have. This is the real stuff that we should be learning from and putting into our practice, showing the values that we are meant to espouse.

      I really think that the response you put may be the exact reason this individual felt the need to express their views as they have. You are not the childs voice as you think you suggest.

      The article is not ‘demeaning’ it is a service users response and an opportunity for all of us to learn from, how often do people really get a say on what we do? And yet here you are being rather disrespectful and not befitting to the values of social work practice. I have to agree with Ryan, if you are working with children and families, I would be concerned about your ability to reflect on a powerful piece of writing.

      Well done CC for publishing such a powerful article, and well done to ‘surviving safeguarding’ for the work you do, it’s valuable and needed.

    • Suddenly Mummy May 12, 2018 at 8:49 am #

      Straw man alert!

      Nobody is saying you should ignore your training. Ridiculous statement, and in the context of a parent sharing their perspective of being subject to child protection proceedings, a fantastic demonstration of just the sort of over-bearing, dismissive, patronising attitudes the article is talking about.

      Have you ever sat at your child’s parents’ evening and wondered what the teacher was talking about? Or read a school report and had to Google bits of it? As a teacher myself I understand that every profession has its own jargon and some of it is unavoidable and can be useful shorthand, but when our role involves speaking to those who are not versed in the jargon, continuing to use impenetrable language is at best thoughtless and insensitive and, at worst, divisive and perpetuating of a frightening power imbalance. Anybody who has sat on the other side of the table can see that.

      The first child I fostered was a tiny baby born to a frightened teen. I picked him up from a room at Children’s Social Care. There we were, baby, mum, me, mum’s social worker, baby’s social worker. Baby’s social worker introduced himself with the explanation that “mum is LAC as well”. He pronounced it as a word – ‘lack’. He didn’t use her name. I had no idea what the term meant but when I found out later I cringed at how this distressed teen must have felt hearing herself described like this in front of a stranger who was about to walk away with her baby.

      In conversations in the office where only other social workers are involved, fine, use the jargon. But in paperwork that will later be read by the child, or in meetings with others, have the courtesy to use plain language where possible, and if a technical term is necessary, at least check that everybody in the room understands what is meant.

    • Elaine May 12, 2018 at 1:42 pm #

      Wow. That’s what you get from this useful, thought-provoking article? University seems to have given you a superiority complex, but not the ability to reflect. If you genuinely think professional practice hinges on using incomprehensible jargon, I’m very concerned about your suitability to work with families.

  4. londonboy May 11, 2018 at 9:10 am #

    To be honest it is as if system encourages all professionals who work within it to make a big peg to put on their noses to guard against the ‘stench of the unwashed’. It is so, so demeaning to families who need services and dangerous on so many levels – to professionals themselves, to to children, to families and to society.

  5. Anne May 11, 2018 at 11:04 am #

    Why does every article label social workers as insensitive and useless in community care (notice no capitals), when my colleagues and I visit houses for assessment we take our badges off and put them in our bags (no one tells us to do this we just do) because it is embarrassing for other residents to see a social worker at your door. No matter what the circumstances we are conscious that we are a guest in their home, we tell them so, we are conscious that it is frightening for people and we show respect and curtesy, we know ourselves that we might react with anger and hostility if a social worker turned up at our door. We have to speak to children alone when most parents tell their children not to speak to strangers and we know how difficult and scary it is for all of the family. When Ofsted inspect any Child Protection Service what do they focus on in the headline? Well it is certainly not the positives, it is a difficult and emotionally draining job and social workers are leaving the profession in droves and community care carries on with publishing drivel. I do not expect this to be published by the way

    • Ryan Wise May 11, 2018 at 3:50 pm #

      I don’t think thats fair. How many parents have a voice or platform to share their thoughts and feelings. Great that you practice in a respectful way but there is nothing respectful about your response to a parent putting across their view in this context. Hearing family experiences are crucial to improving the profession, to refer to this as drivel is offensive and far from the ethics and values you think you espouse. Yes social work is a hard job but no way near to what a family experiences. And every point raised is valid in this article. The practice you describe is not the norm. Show a bit more respect please to a parent having their view

      • Krissy May 11, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

        You need to show some respect to social workers I feel. Your hostility is palpable.

        • Sarah Phillmore May 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

          And what is calling a thoughtful argument by a parent ‘drivel’? That is more than simply hostility, given the imbalance of power between parents and social workers which many have commented upon already.

          I suspect that comments such as these are the inevitable consequences of the ‘hero’ motif around social work, encouraged by some who should know better.

          You aren’t ‘heroes’. You are people doing a job – a necessary and difficult job for which you are sometimes unfairly blamed. That must be hard.

          But harder still is it for the parents who are at the sharp end of this unbalanced relationship. For their views to be dismissed as ‘drivel’ actually made me flinch and I consider myself pretty immune from shock at most internet stupidity nowadays.

        • Surviving Safeguarding May 12, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

          Read my website Krissy. Read about my training. I teach social workers. If I was hostile, no one would listen and no one would employ me. Most of my friends are social workers.
          I’m sorry to be blunt but out of an article meant to help people understand how it feels from a parents point of view, I’m stunned you could even think there was hostility there.

    • Surviving Safeguarding May 11, 2018 at 8:41 pm #

      Thank you Anne. That “drivel” was written 11 months after my son’s death and actually took a great deal of thought and courage to write. I was actually asked by CC to write it and that “drivel” was my heart and soul. It is a fair and balanced piece – as all of my writing is, and indeed my website. I have not attacked anyone, I have simply spoken from experience. In fact, if you take the time to look at my website you will see how well I am received by the vast majority of the profession. I stand by my article, I am proud of it. It will be a very sad day when experts by experience like me no longer feel able to speak out in order to help the profession in case they are made subject of unkind comments such as yours. Fortuitously, I am made of stronger stuff and put myself in the firing line knowing I am an easy target.
      On another note, I must say that I was impressed by your thoughtful practice and your insight. It’s just a shame you chose to be unkind.

    • Caroline Aldridge May 11, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

      I have respect for the points in this well written and thought provoking article (what you call drivel’). I have utmost respect for the ‘drivel writer’ in question )safeguarding survivor) who sadly captures some common issues in social work. If you check out her blog you will see that she is balanced about social workers.

      I think it is vital that we take notice of the good work social workers do every day (often in difficult working conditions). I honour them. However poor practice needs challenging. Poor practice includes social workers who lack insight into their oppressive attitudes and actions.

    • BorstalBoy May 11, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

      Oh and another thing

      You think the theory you don’t say it out loud. The stuff you say out loud is what’s left after you think the theory

      Hope that helps?

    • BorstalBoy May 11, 2018 at 10:27 pm #

      You’ve kind of confirmed the authors point.

    • HelenSparkles May 11, 2018 at 11:20 pm #

      It is always a shame when responses to the people we work with are defensive and about us as social workers.

      We may never get a positive message about social work out there, the positives are never our stories to tell, and that is just a thing.

      I do what you do, which is all about ameliorating the power balance, breaking down barriers where we can through empathy etc., & empowerment.

      We can never hear enough from ‘services users’ (hate that term but can’t think of another i like either).

      It helps us get it right.

      For them.

      And that is our actual job.

      • Nikki May 12, 2018 at 9:38 am #

        How about people we support instead of service users?

        • Surviving Safeguarding May 12, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

          Yes – I like that very much. I’m guilty of using “service user” because there’s no better term that fits all.

  6. Planet Autism May 11, 2018 at 4:38 pm #

    Ironic how a 16yo child becomes the ‘enemy’ instantly she has her own child they want to focus on.

    It’s not only the terminology, it’s the culture … it’s also when the terminology is wrongly applied!

  7. Liz Timms May 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    Seems there’s a responsibility on social work educators to prepare students to communicate with others in ordinary clear English rather than demonstrate their grasp of academic terms and professional jargon. Complicated language may indicate grasp of theory (not necessarily); Short-cut labels may make you seem like a social worker (hopefully not); but that’s not much use to anyone you meet – children, parents, colleagues in social work or any other professions – if they don’t get your meaning.

  8. Anne May 11, 2018 at 8:27 pm #

    Ryan respect is a two way thing that is earned, when you are told to f off at every turn it does not earn respect, please remember parents are not spending time in a supervised venue with their children for nothing

    • MM May 12, 2018 at 9:57 am #

      Anne, it is astoundingly shocking that you make that response. Clearly I don’t know much other than your comments here. As a manager I would be concerned about your capability to be a critical practitioner. Either you are purposely being antagonistic or you just dont get it.

      Im not sure which is worse. Maybe it’s time to seek out new pastures as it’s the shortsighted and clearly jaded view you have that leads to oppressive practice. I would fully expect that you are told to F off when you are intervening and being authoritative in your role at critical moments in children and families lives, especially if your role is safeguarding. You interpretation of that being lack of respect towards you, I have no words other than poor practice.

      • Penny May 12, 2018 at 6:11 pm #

        Maybe as a manager MM, rather than being “astounded” and “shocked” it would be good if people in your role would support children’s social workers on the receiving end of non stop “flak” (and that is a euphemism) . I would hazard a guess there are a couple of us in this thread with 10 years or more experience of working in child protection and who, crucially, are still there on the frontline doing our best to support families and that the rest of these comments come from managers, lecturers and privileged fast track-trained “leaders”. Hands up anyone? I am a child protection social worker who has been in the field for 15 years. And I for one am aghast that people in their Ivory towers or cosy offices should tell me and others like me that we should try doing something else because we aren’t sufficiently mindful of language as ordained by you. No one else wants to do the job MM, except as a stepping stone to something grander in management like yourself. The system is in meltdown, being propped up by committed individuals like me. So what if I slip up from time to time by calling a contact centre a contact centre rather than a family centre?. I’m more interested in the big picture, which for me is being out there, day in day out trying to help vulnerable families, mostly without thanks, but always with commitment. I would suggest MM that you return to frontline child protection social work if indeed you were ever there as your lack of insight into the life of the child protection social worker is both “astounding” and “shocking”.

    • Sarah Phillmore May 12, 2018 at 12:57 pm #

      So your response to this is to consider the parents not worthy of consideration, compassion or kindness?

      These being the parents who are still having contact with their children, no matter their crimes, because this is considered FOR THE BENEFIT of the children. Who almost certainly still love their parents and want them in their lives in some way.

      It’s this kind of judgment and ‘othering’ by some social workers that causes a huge amount of problems that I then have to try and unpick by the time the matter gets to court.

      In 20 years I have met only a handful of parents I considered ‘bad’. The vast majority were struggling, confused, afraid or doing the best they could with often some very limited tools at their disposal. They are being asked to deal with intrusion into their family lives AND to decode the pompous academic jargon that some professionals cling to in mistaken belief it adds gravitas to their views.

      If you are confident in the job you are doing, you can express yourself perfectly well in short words and sentences.

    • HelenSparkles May 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

      It really isn’t, either a two way thing, or earned.
      You need to re read your values & ethics, anything on anti oppressive practice you can find, and perhaps reflect on why people are telling you to f off.
      You are working with people often at a time of crisis, who might be scared, and in pain.
      We all behave badly in that emotional state.
      I think if I thought I had to earn your respect I’d tell you to F off too & I think I would be able to tell what your expectations are.

    • Penny May 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

      I’m glad you said this Anne. Our role is not to judge but to support families but let’s get real here, we don’t become involved without reason. Surviving safeguarding’s story, as I have read on her blog, is not the norm. She is the exception. We only seek to remove children from their birth families for very good reasons.

      • Sarah Phillimore May 12, 2018 at 5:44 pm #

        Penny. Would you accept that because a significant minority of parents and commentators don’t agree that children are routinely removed for ‘very good reason’ that part of the disconnect between what you understand as your good practice and how it is seen by others, might be to do with the failure of many social workers to communicate exactly what those ‘good reasons’ are?

        I am a lawyer and well aware that we are just as bad. I make a real effort now to say to clients – did you understand what I just said. Can you repeat it back to me – because far too often clients are too embarrassed or polite to say ‘I haven’t got a clue what you just said’ . And these are the people who know I am on ‘their side’. It must be much more difficult when trying to understand a social worker when you suspect that social worker is just looking for evidence to take your children.

        Of course there are children who need to be urgently removed from parents who can’t keep them safe, for whatever reason. But I have never understood why that urgent task of child protection requires at the same time what often looks like quite deliberate cruelty towards and alienation of the parents.

  9. Charlotte May 11, 2018 at 9:01 pm #

    I am a practicing social worker, not in child protection. I have recently sat on the other side on the table as a family member when my brothers children were on a child protection plan and I witnessed first hand the confusion he faced from not understanding the terminology or processes to being in “trouble” when he did something he shouldn’t even though he wasn’t told he couldn’t! It was assumed he knew the expectations of him while his children were on the plan, it was assumed he knew the processes and terminology. He was fortunate that he had some guidance from me, most parents wouldn’t! but it was a massive learning curve for me to sit on the other side of that table and feel the massive power imbalance I could go on and on with what I witnessed none of it positive unfortunately.

  10. Sw111 May 11, 2018 at 11:02 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. It is common knowledge that the jargons are used by social work profession that is demeaning; it projects the parents in a negative light. It is not fair on the families – workers are being judgemental because that is the nature of the job – to establish parents ability to protect the children. At least show some respect and value their perespective and accordingly bring changes for effective and positive outcome. Then there is another word “danger” that is also loaded and emotive. Parents get offended when word danger is linked with them.
    Social care need to be participatory, involving parents and children but not in a tokenisation manner and hurdles through the language has to be addressed.

  11. Sarah May 11, 2018 at 11:14 pm #

    So incomprehensible jargon designed to create barriers to communication is somehow good practice ? More important to use acquired terminology then learn how to communicate respectively? A parents views are drivel because they make considered balance suggestions on how to improve the practice?

    Its an extremely tough job but you are making it tougher for families, for the children you are employed to look out for and for the profession when you make comments like the ones’ above. Like it or not you are public servants and accountability goes with the terrain. Unclear whether you are claiming it doesn’t matter the terminology used or whether you don’t like being called out for using it as a power play. It is possible to be a university educated professional and not see the need to keep people ‘in their place; with the use of jargon. Suggest some reflection is needed.

  12. julian spurr May 12, 2018 at 12:08 am #

    Jargon bad clear language good. That is all.

  13. Antony May 12, 2018 at 12:56 am #

    I love everything about this article. Surviving Safeguarding is the collective voice of many and is someone who simplifies corporate speak. We don’t all have qualifications in the legal systems of the land. We’re just normal people trying to get through life the best we can. Sometimes it requires patience, friendliness and familiarity and not a language unknown. Well done SS. Brilliant article.

  14. Jean May 12, 2018 at 8:11 am #

    I work for a charity and have for the last 3 years provided expectant parents and parents with child protection cases or child in need with parenting education . I also have been an advocate to many families all diagnosed with learning difficulties. Many of the families were victims due to lack of education being delivered st a level they could understand but once they were given this knowledge this empowered them to change and demonstrate they had capacity to parent , not all as some just didn’t have the ability. But all professionals noted a difference in their confidence in meetings as I always asked for professionals to be aware of the jargon used and this also applied in court and due to this the service users developed a voice and started to be part of the meeting and many developed a confidence to stop professionals when they got it wrong . The result being out of 16 families who were to have their children removed 12 kept them under a supervision order and today 8 of them cases have been closed . Understanding , terminology ,empathy and differentiation was all it took . I understand as a professional we use terminology other may not grasp and we work hard for our accreditation for our profession but don’t forget those we work with it can make a difference between a positive and negative outcome .

  15. Jay Pee May 12, 2018 at 10:59 am #

    I believe every profession has its bank of terminology, just like any group has their common language. There is a time and place to use, and if it’s not the place break it down for the benefit of those who may not be privileged to know but have every right to because it affects their lives. In my family we often use the word “masabuni” while preparing meals, literally translated to mean soap but what we mean is ingredients. An outsider will be saying what in heaven, the using soap to prepare food! The same applies to professional jargon. Contact to a rugger is different from social work contact. By no means use the jargon in your supervision and professional conferences but when talking with families it helps your case to use phrases that everyone understands. It doesn’t remove the intention.