Have Your Say: The Impact of Children’s Services

The Children’s Society has created a survey to collect people’s experiences of local services supporting children and families and they want to hear from parents and kids.

The charity has been campaigning for more investment into local children’s services, and as we know many of you feel very strongly about these services, we would like to encourage you to offer constructive feedback on what would make this kind of support actually useful.

Rant if you need to, but give this organisation something to work with if you can.

We’ve added the survey in full in the gallery below so you can see the questions beforehand.

The Children’s Society says:

“Children’s services cover a very broad range of services and support, everything from children’s centres to fostering and adoption – and many of you will have an experience to share. It doesn’t matter if it was positive or negative, last week or 5 years ago – we want to hear it all.

Maybe you’ve got some insight into how cuts have impacted services in your area, or just something to say about the local youth club. We’ll use your words to paint a picture of why properly funded, well-delivered children’s services are so vital.”

You can take the survey here. Good luck. 

Please note: Some options in the survey questions are not visible as we could not fit them all into the screenshot. 

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Survey for Parents and Relatives With Experience of the Scottish Care System

A survey has been launched by Scotland’s Independent Care Review, which aims to get in-depth information on the care system from parents and other family members. 

The Scottish government’s review of its care system which began in 2017 is now into its third stage and looking for feedback from parents and relatives of children who are or have been in care.

The survey asks the following questions:

  1. Were you included in decisions being made about your child?

2. Did you receive reports and invitations voluntarily to meetings at least 7 days in advance?

3. Were you given an opportunity to share your views before and during key meetings?

4. Did you feel treated with respect and dignity by social workers and other professionals involved in the child protection case?

5. Did the child protection investigation lead to financial hardship?

6. Has the child protection investigation affected your ability to work or future career options?

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not at all, 10 being completely) how much did you feel you could trust the social worker working with your family?

Any further comments regarding your experiences?

For instance did the child protection investigation affect your feelings of self-worth?
Did the investigation affect your health?
Is there enough support for parents during such investigations?
What could be different?

Removal and Return

  1. Have your children been removed from your care?

2. How long has or was your child in care?

3. Were your children placed with a family member?

4. Have your children been separated from each other?

5. Were you given clear reasons for removal?

6. Please tick any of these official reasons for removal that were given (8 options are listed including abuse, risk of harm, poverty, poor engagement with social workers, medical reasons and violence).

7. Has your child been returned to your care?

8. Was there any support following the removal of your child?

9. Was there any support following the return of your child?

10. Has your child been adopted?

11. If your child was adopted do you have contact and if so what form does this take?

How well are social work services assisting contact between children and their families?

1. Do you have/ did you have contact with your ‘looked after child’?

 2. How frequent is/was this?

 3. Is/was contact meeting the needs of your child?

 4. Are/were contact facilities suitable for you and your child, e.g. premises, catering, travel to and from?

 5. Is/was your contact supervised?

 6. Did your contact change over time? Increase or decrease?

 7. Was contact cancelled regularly by the local authority or regularly disrupted?

8. Do you have ‘indirect contact’, that is not face-to-face? 

9. Does your child have contact with any siblings from whom they are separated?

 Any further comments regarding your experiences of contact? What would you change? What would you keep, or want more of?

Access to support during care proceedings 

1. Have you had legal advice and support?

2. Did you have legal advice and representation pre- removal proceedings (court)?

 3. Did you have legal advice and representation after removal proceedings (court) commenced? 

4. Do you feel you had adequate and effective legal support?

5. Have you had an independent supporter or advocate for you?

 6. Were they helpful?

7. Would you have benefited from such support earlier?

Any further comments regarding your experiences of support during care proceedings, or lack of it?

The next section is an invitation to tell us more if you wish.

Is there anything that we have forgotten or extra that you would like to tell us about your contact with social services?

You can complete the survey here. 


New Research Shows Alarming Number of Children Being Bounced Around the Care System

New research from Cardiff University shows that children in care are being moved around at unprecedented levels, and that acute placement breakdown is damaging already vulnerable children while also placing them at risk of abuse.

The report comes after findings by the Children’s Commissioner last year that three quarters of children in care are ping ponged around the care system.

The Cardiff University report, “Keeping Safe? An analysis of the outcomes of work with sexually exploited young people in Wales”, which was written by Dr Sophie Hallett, used case records of 205 children involved with social services in just one Welsh local authority and concluded that the more moves a child experiences, the greater their chances of becoming victims of sexual exploitation.

In one case, a child was moved 57 times.

Dr Hallett, said: “Although only focusing on one local authority, the systemic issues we have uncovered are representative of the sector throughout the UK. A less predictable home environment can have huge consequences for children. Without a stable home life, feelings of rejection and insecurity are exacerbated. For multiple complex reasons, it leads to them becoming more susceptible to this form of abuse.

“The analysis also highlights a number of other problems which, despite their best efforts, make it extremely difficult for those tasked with caring for these young people to be able to offer the right support.”

She added, “The report presents a troubling account of the entire care system. Young people were angry at the bodily or behavioural attention they received and the seemingly limited concern for them and their happiness.

“Foster carers said there was no support to address the abuse or rejection children had experienced and were concerned that the safeguarding measures they were having to put in place were sending messages to young people that they were the ones at fault.”

While there is no doubt that the social care sector has been hit hard by budget cuts and that those cuts have affected levels of service, the truth is less about money and much more about training, outlook and culture.

The system hosts far too many contradictions which do not place the best interests of children at the forefront of the care process.

For example, the idea that adoptions and long term foster placements are irrevocable in most cases sits completely at odds with the reality that a large number of children are removed from these homes, often more than a few times during their childhood.

That the sector ignores this contradiction cannot be in the best interests of children, who need stable, solid homes that last a lifetime.

On the other hand, keeping children with their biological/ original parents wherever possible, while offering tailored support at every stage of a child’s life offers the balance and dynamism the sector – and children – so desperately need.

Crucially, this method of care could also help to heal any feelings of rejection and anxiety stemming from early experiences while allowing parents the chance to give their children what they need. (Please see our piece over at Apolitical for more on a pioneering new social care model).

Social services can’t ever hope to provide proper care and support without being able to have every option available, but that also requires a much higher level of training and a much more sophisticated child welfare system.

Not surprisingly, the report noted that tools typically used for responses to CSE, like healthy relationships education, had no positive impact for most young people who received this support, and were in some case associated with negative outcomes.

Equally unsurprising was the finding that having a supportive adult in their lives was the most important factor in producing positive outcomes for children. Simple things like spending time with children, engaging with them and nurturing their confidence and self esteem were cited as the most powerful ways to help children. The research also confirmed that these behaviours reduced substance misuse later on in life.

Further reading:


Carer Claiming to be a Social Worker calls Tweeter a “Sick F*ck”

A man, or woman, on social media who claimed to be a social worker called a tweeter a “sick fuck” after a heated exchange over an incident in which a six year old boy was pushed off a balcony at the Tate Modern by a 17 year old boy. The teenager blamed social services for his actions.

Carer Raavi Gupta (Raavi can be a man or a woman’s name) also said that he/she did not have the necessary qualifications to practice as a social worker but had been acting in the capacity of a social worker for over a decade.

Gupta engaged with the tweeter after he posted an article about the incident,  initially telling the tweeter to stop blaming social services for the crime.

IM article share

RG response to article

Social media users were quick to join the conversation around whether or not social services had been partly responsible for the teenager’s violent behaviour.

One tweeter said, “He can blame whoever he likes but we all know he is to blame. However if he was a dangerous schizophrenic or mentally ill he should not have been on a trip to the Tate. Safety of majority comes first. Eye witnesses report his behaviour was odd for some time.”

Another tweeter added, “Apparently he was with ‘carers’. Your point re his odd behaviour is important, as you would have thought that ‘professional’ eagle eyed security staff would have noted that and questioned it…. Regardless of witnesses, nobody really knows the historical content….”

The exchange between Gupta and other tweeters became more aggressive after one social media user accused Gupta of having treated vulnerable families poorly and incorrectly suggested that social services were not experiencing budget cuts:

“Your victims are out there recording everything, you are quite right to be extremely concerned, I wasn’t aware of any cuts? The last I heard there was more money being pumped in.”

Gupta replied, “My victims? I’ve spent my life helping people you sick fuck.”

Sick Fuck

The unprofessional outburst was noticed by several tweeters.

Gupta went on to call another man “a racist right-wing nut job,” after a tweeter said social workers were dangerous people.

Nut job

During the outburst, Mr Gupta admitted that he/she did not have the appropriate qualifications to act as a social worker. Gupta also tweeted that he/she was making decisions “way above my pay grade” and then told social media users that if they were “vaguely decent” they should campaign for more investment into social services.

Another tweeter went on to the social work register to try to find Raavi Gupta but was unable to see the name on the list, further implying that he/she was not a qualified social worker. Raavi Gupta may not be the carer’s real name.

Researching Reform reached out to Raavi to ask which council they worked for. We did not receive a reply.

Under current law and policy, people can practice as social workers without registering with Social Work England, the regulatory body which oversees social work practice, as long as they use informal titles which are not protected.

This loophole allows unqualified individuals to care for some of the most vulnerable people in England, and makes it extremely difficult to identify and prevent potentially life-threatening conduct.

Many thanks to Eugene for alerting us to this development.

Further reading:

Not a SW

Report Finds Kinship Care Offers Children More Stability Than Adoption

A new report published by the Nuffield Foundation says that placing children with appropriate family members when parents can’t look after them offers children greater stability than alternatives like adoption and fostering.

The report also says there is an urgent need for  research on how best to ensure safe and positive contact with birth parents and a child’s wider family.

The Foundation is calling on the government to reform Special Guardianship, which allows for children to be placed with relatives or individuals with whom the child already has a good relationship.

In their report, the Foundation calls for more research into outcomes for children placed with Special Guardians, and says children and young people’s views must be explored when developing this form of care.

The Foundation also suggests that the sector needs to change the way it works:

“We conclude that special guardianship continues to be an important permanence option ‘for the right child and the right family’. But for this to be so, the system as a whole must operate in a coherent, timely, evidence-informed way and this requires changes in mindset, regulations and protocols.”

The study also revealed that children who are being cared for by Special Guardians have better educational outcomes at key stages 2 and 4 than looked-after children.

The Nuffield Foundation’s report offers a set of recommendations to enable Special Guardianship orders where appropriate, which include the following suggestions:

  • Strengthen and resource the pre-proceedings phase of the Public Law Outline to identify and work with family members who might become long-term carers for the child.
  • Ensure that prospective special guardians complete preparation and training to an agreed statutory minimum.
  • Assessments should not be concluded until sufficient preparation has been completed.
  • Develop the skills and knowledge of children’s social workers in family placement as a priority.
  • Ensure that the local authority agrees a plan with the prospective special guardian about the assessment process.
  • Establish a robust protocol that ensures that the prospective special guardian has – or develops – a significant relationship with the child, including day-to-day care of the child, and that this forms the evidence base for the making of the Order.
  • Ensure that prospective special guardians receive full information about the meaning, significance and responsibilities of the relevant legal Order in both the immediate and long term.
  • Ensure that the timetable for concluding care proceedings within 26 weeks is complied with or that an evidenced-based timetable for an extension is agreed.
  • Ensure that a support plan is based on a comprehensive evidence-based assessment of need.
  • Ensure that support services are available locally that comply with the Special Guardianship Support Regulations 2005.

Further reading:



Barristers’ Child Protection Project takes An Unprofessional Nosedive

Barristers in the south of England running a child protection project have added Researching Reform to a list of ‘undesirables’ within the child welfare sector.

The list also includes the Ministry of Justice.

In a post by Child Protection Resource entitled “Information about the Family Justice System: Who can you trust?” The project alleges that the Ministry of Justice:

“Easily make the cut following their bizarre decision to launch an Inquiry over 3 months into how issues of violence are dealt with in the family courts… and that law and policy are best discussed in the context of a raft of subjective and unchecked submissions from the pubic.” (We think the authoress means public).

Although the authoress says in the post that the observations are based in fact, we found very little evidence to support that claim.

Also on the blacklist is former MP John Hemming, who campaigned for family court reform and was in part responsible for making the public aware of issues inside the system through the national media. The authoress claims the following:

“I have no doubt [John] caused a lot of damage while a serving MP as his position gave him credibility. However his influence appears to have diminished since he lost his seat in 2015.”

No details about the kind of damage he is alleged to have done have been given. On another note, the careless comment could also open up the site and its managers to a defamation law suit.

As for Researching Reform, the site alleges the following:

” [Natasha] Runs the Researching Reform Website. Has connections with Hemming and at one point made Sabine McNeil her ‘star commentator’. As the comments on her web posts shows, she continues to interact largely with those who are identified ‘players’ on the conspiracy scene.”

Sabine was never earmarked or set apart from the many thousand commentators who have left thoughts on the site, and was never given star status. We consider all of our posters equal in discussion, and because we believe in freedom of expression we allow everyone to have their say.

While we haven’t engaged with John Hemming for quite some time, we did create, organise and execute all of his APPG meetings on family law. You can take a look at a summary of one of the meetings over on Family Law Week.

As for ‘players on the conspiracy scene’, once again, we allow all points of view on the site. That, of course, does not mean that we automatically condone them.

Researching Reform engages with every voice inside the system, from members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, who we have briefed for over a decade on child welfare issues, to families, charities and perpetrators of abuse, including offending paedophiles.

It is part of our remit to engage with as many voices as we can, and of fundamental importance in trying to understand the dynamics inside the child welfare sector.

The blog is at best garbled gibberish, and it’s a shame that the collective behind Child Protection Resource approved the post.

Despite the silliness of this effort, we will continue to signpost people to the project’s website, as it offers often, interesting and informative content about the child welfare sector.

Many thanks to Legal Action for Women for alerting us to this post.


Child Abuse Protest To Be Held Outside Houses of Parliament

A protest outside the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness about child abuse in the UK is taking place this Wednesday.

The demonstration has been organised by whistleblower and former Scotland Yard detective Jon Wedger, and survivors of child abuse at Beecholme childrens home and Quarriers Children’s Village.

The event marks the first of its kind for the group, which is hoping to hold the protests on the first Wednesday of every month.

The demonstrations are part of a growing number of child welfare-focused protest movements which meet monthly to expose the gaps within the UK’s child protection system.

Legal Action for Women (LAW) has been holding monthly protests outside the London Family Court under their campaign Support Not Separation to highlight issues around wrongful removal of children and discrimination faced by parents experiencing poverty and hardship. The protests are also held on the first Wednesday of every month.

The Facebook page for the protest outside Parliament confirms at least 27 people are attending the protest, with 44 people interested in attending so far.

The protest will be held this month on 7 August, from noon-2pm.

Many thanks to Raul for alerting us to this development.

Abuse Protest.jpeg