In a case which bears all the hallmarks of shoddy child protection practice, a social worker has been criticised and a council fined for abducting a child from school to place her with new carers. 

This case has several aggravating factors.

The first is that the local authority decided to remove the child but never told the parents or the child in question, who had learning difficulties, about their decision.

The social worker in the case then went to the school unannounced, and removed the child. We do not know whether the child willingly left with the social worker or understood what was happening at the time.

The council’s reasons for removing the child without anyone’s knowledge was that one of the child’s carers was uncooperative and aggressive, and another carer failed to attend meetings. The carers in question were the child’s biological aunt and uncle. The child was also being looked after by her grandparents from time to time. The aunt and uncle denied the allegations made by the council.

Then, the social worker failed to tell the new carers about the child’s needs. The child then fled the new carers’ home and went back to her aunt and uncle, where she stayed past her 18th birthday.

The subsequent complaint made by the aunt and uncle was also poorly handled.

However, the most serious aspect to this case has to be that the Ombudsman could not find any evidence to support the council’s view that the original placement could not work. The Ombudsman went on to tell the council that it would have to review every single foster placement they had terminated in the last 12 months to ensure court procedures had been correctly followed.

Whist there are several issues with this case –

  • Removal of a child which could potentially fall under abduction/ kidnapping
  • Breaches of procedure
  • Personal conflicts of interest from professionals in the case and;
  • A lack of evidence to justify child protection decisions

The practice of turning up at children’s schools without warning is the focus of this post, and it is a practice that must stop. Deeply traumatising for children, and with no legitimate policy or law to underpin this conduct, social worker visits during school hours whether to interview or remove a child are not professional, nor are they appropriate. And Ofsted agrees.

Two reviewing bodies have now actively called out social worker visits to schools. Surely it’s ripe for review?

UPDATE: We decided it might be helpful to make a Freedom Of Information request on this practice as well, so we add it below:

FOI SW Schools