A recently published article in Community Care raises the issue of whether or not parents can record meetings with social workers, and serves as a good reminder to those who may not yet know the position.
Whilst local authorities and social work professionals often try to discourage the practice, citing confidentiality, data protection and human rights principles, there is in fact nothing in law or policy preventing families from audio recording child protection meetings they attend.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that most councils do not have proper policies in place to deal with the practice of recording sessions, both overt, and covert.
When we assist parents, our advice is always robust – by all means record the session. Whilst it is good practice to ask for the agreement of all involved in the first instance, if that agreement is not forthcoming, covert recording, (recording done without the other parties’ knowledge or consent) is a method of last resort.
As CAFCASS guidance points out, social workers who remain professional and carry out their duties competently, have nothing to fear.
We are often asked whether recordings of meetings with social workers are allowed, and the reasons for the requests vary. Some families find it hard to grasp all of the information they are given in a meeting and need that recording to be able to process the contents of the meeting at a pace that is right for them. Others have experienced negative or unprofessional behaviour from the team members involved and wish to protect themselves from illegal or unethical practice. And some find that their communications in previous meetings have been so badly transcribed or translated, that recordings are imperative to avoid further error.
Clearly, this is an issue that touches upon standards of social work practice, transparency principles and good customer service. The growing phenomenon that is audio recording of such meetings, serves as a good reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done in the child welfare sector.
An informative blog for parents going through the child protection service, written by a mother going through the process herself called Surviving Safeguarding, explores and explains the realities of the process, and is worth reading.