Children’s services shouldn’t ‘add to awfulness’ by unnecessarily removing children, social workers told

Steve Goodman says children's services and social workers shouldn't compound a bad situation for families suffering from austerity by removing children from their care

Steve Goodman. Photo: Frontline

Austerity is not an excuse for more children coming into care, a former deputy director of children’s services in Hackney has said.

Steve Goodman, currently a director of Morning Lane Associates, was speaking at a Frontline Leadership Event when he argued that excessive procedure, policy and guidance “fetters social work practice”.

“What this government is doing to poor families is atrocious. The food banks, the rubbish private housing, the precarious employment position of people is awful. But that does not mean we should add to that awfulness by taking people’s children away when we don’t need to.

“People’s lives are worse, that doesn’t mean that we need to compound that,” Goodman said.

Leaders are responsible

Goodman also stated that children’s service leaders need to take more responsibility for supporting social workers to spend more time with families.

He said the system “binds” social workers and directors and added leaders should be “trying to limit the amount of guidance, procedures and policies that surround social workers”.

“What tends to happen is social workers have caseloads that are far too large and it’s them individually that have to manage themselves along with their cases. Leaders themselves have to take responsibility to make sure their social work staff have enough time to do social work,” Goodman said.

Reflecting on the implementation of the reclaiming social work model of practice in Hackney, he said he and other leaders made the decision to close “half of the cases that were allocated”, which he said led to practitioners spending twice as much time with families.

You can watch Goodman’s full speech on leadership in social work below.

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14 Responses to Children’s services shouldn’t ‘add to awfulness’ by unnecessarily removing children, social workers told

  1. Alan brunwin May 24, 2018 at 10:58 am #

    Its so true Steve Goodman has spoken the real truth and I take my hat off to this gentleman. Alan brunwin children’s author

  2. Lovingmummylost May 24, 2018 at 6:21 pm #

    This is so true. Many loving parents who only crimes are poverty. Ad if u have mental health issues the parent is blamed for not assessing help but it the fact it takes a long time to even get assessed because of funding issues within the nhs. Plus what about parents told they need CBT or other long term therapy and go for a nhs assessment to be told the diagnosis from a court appointed psychologist is incorrect. And then there are parents like myself who get very ill and didn’t know they were gonna be so ill and whose homes are not as clean as should be. But instead if support they are left to try and push themselves and make themselves sicker. Which caused more issues and lose not only there son at 11 months old and they have a great bond. but also there baby girl at 6 days old after bonding. And then in court are accused of fabricating how ill they are.

  3. Jonathan Ritchie May 24, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    If there are adoption targets; there are perverse incentives to take children into care.

    Community Care can delete my comment if they don’t like the truth.

  4. Coventry girl May 24, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    This is so true. Some parents love there children and would never dream of abusing them. I know some do horrible things to there children. But a few parents are losing there babies bit because they hurt them but because of mental health issues. And even then it’s only issues diagnosed by court appointed psychologist. Bevause I was told I needed CBT therapy but have been signed of by mental health and never needed therapy. Or the parents were sick like myself and although there was evidence of ill health. I was still accused of fabricating how ill I was. And also If you are accused of developmental delays if the truth a disability that is not caused by bad parenting comes out to late u can’t get your children home.

  5. Eve white May 25, 2018 at 12:13 am #

    I agree with every thing that Mr Goodman has said. Now is the time to put it into action. Well done Mr Goodman

  6. Sue Nami May 25, 2018 at 3:34 am #

    If practitioners have twice the time to spend with families, does that mean that families want that time spent with them?

    • Eileen May 25, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

      Social Workers need training on how to handle autistic children. All autistic children behave differently. New faces to them causes them to become very anxious. Social Workers cause more problems, by threatening to take the children away or put them on child protection when parents try to protect their child from anxiety by trying to get social workers to meet the child away from the house as a first visit. Parents have to do what is right for tge chikd to stop the anxiety causing selfharming. Most social workers accuse parents of not working with them and being awkward. This then becomes a big fight between social workers and families. Training and common sense would prevent this from happening.

  7. SOS-Dorset May 25, 2018 at 12:02 pm #

    There is a missing link within the role of social care, a link that is being picked up voluntarily by parents who have been subject to your service. Mainly parents who have experienced losing their children into care. I was one of those parents. My story is a very long one as is all of your cases on file. Keeping it short, my story is… I have suffered from depression in my life which I have always managed very well. As normal I sought help from my GP where I was prescribed an anti depressant. Unfortunately the medication caused me to be hospitalised where I suffered hallucinations. I spent a month in hospital. My friend was taking care of my child. Whilst I was in hospital I got paper work from your service that I was being taken to family court. When I was discharged from hospital your service wouldn’t return my child to me. It took me 10 months of court and meetings before my child was returned to me. I write you my story because it is important that your service realises that you do not always get it right. My child now suffers from separation anxiety, which was caused by the prolonged separation, caused by your service and family court. I seriously feel a month after I was discharged from hospital would have been sufficient time for you to be sure my child was safe to return home.

    I believe I only had my child returned to me because I took my advocate and care Co ordinator to every meeting I had with your service. I was not alone. I was made to feel like a criminal being dragged to court out of my hospital bed. This is not a complaint, I don’t have the time to make a complaint. After my ordeal of working with your service and family court, I soon began to realise that I was not the only parent who has suffered at the hands of your service. (Children are also suffering) I started a group for those parents called SOS. I run that group voluntarily in a small town. SOS has 15 members. The parents I help who are being threatened of losing their children, I help to be proactive and signpost them to universal services. Your service will quite happily take a parent into a meeting or into court with no support network in place for them. You do not advise for them to get an advocate and neither do you sign post parents to universal services. I know this is as I was never offered that kind of support. I found all my support by myself. Parents who I help before the removal of their children manage to keep their children. The parents who have already lost their children are harder to help. These parents are left isolated and unsupported and nothing they try to do to show they can be good parents is ever looked at again. SOS has parents with learning difficulties, mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse. And all of these if given support and lives changed will never be enough for the return of their children. A crisis that can be turned around is a crisis that will be carried for their whole life because nothing they do to change their lives around will ever change what happened in the past. It is a life sentence. Those parents who cannot change their lives, I always tell them “that when you do turn your life around, you will have hope again” . But this is not true, because your service won’t ever look at them again, you pretty much disqualified them from making changes in their lives. If the parent wants to go back to court, they can’t because they can’t afford to! . Every direction the parent turns is a brick wall. You don’t see the struggles of parents after you have taken their children and walked away. You don’t witness how they have been ostracised from their communities, abandoned with no support. I do! And the stories I hear, do not surprise me as I was once one of those parents. As social care in the community, when you appoint a social worker to the child, then at least see fit enough to appoint a social worker to the parent and signpost them to universal services. Don’t let them go through the ordeal, alone, isolated, ostracised, criticised and demoralised. Parents in crisis should not be reason to remove children except under exceptional circumstances! A crisis needs support. Learning disabilities and mental health is not a crime. Support Over Separation – ?

  8. Tom J May 25, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    Great article. I have seen many neglect cases where due to the procedural nature of child protection work- we are simply an extra thorn in the side of the struggling parents.

    Child protection social workers have limited time, less resources, many targets i.e. fortnightly visits, and are trained to view parents with suspicion in case their case is the next Baby P or Daniel Pelka.

    • Leah May 27, 2018 at 8:17 am #

      I agree.

  9. Sam May 25, 2018 at 1:23 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything said and the cases that are held open drifting and not worked clearly don’t need our intervention if there hasn’t been a crisis in three months! Also social workers need to be able to explore their practice with managers trained in this approach such as Firstline managers as regular managerialistic and procedural led managers use fear and statistics to get ‘results’ which are not sustainable nor best outcome for the children we promise to safeguard. Hackney approach works very well and I’m hopeful it can be rolled out throughout children’s services in the Uk… can but hope…

  10. SA May 25, 2018 at 3:42 pm #

    Preaching to te converted he needs to take this message to Ofsted and government who make and inspect the regulations that bind us so tighly to a a culture of complaince.

  11. Jasmine Thornbury May 25, 2018 at 7:42 pm #

    Yes this is a good but unfortunately it should be eplemented all over the UK including Scotland as this I’m afraid is a little too late in my opinion!!

  12. EJ May 30, 2018 at 9:50 pm #

    The very same question should be posed regarding families with disabilities, considering so many parents are being accused of child abuse because of the lack of understanding of their child’s condition and active disability discrimination.