Welcome to another week.

Following the launch of The Good Social Worker, a directory featuring the names of social work professionals recommended by families and children, we thought it would be useful to take a look at whether or not service users can actually ask for a specific social worker.

Local authorities have to allocate a social worker to every child protection case they handle, and as such the initial selection is usually always made by them. However, you have the right to ask for a specific social worker, if she or he is working at the council and assists on similar kinds of cases to yours.

While families and children don’t have a right to demand that they are given a specific or different social worker, there are several grounds you can raise, which the council must consider before turning down your request:

  1. The communication between you and your current social worker has broken down
  2. Your social worker is behaving unprofessionally
  3. Your child does not feel he or she can be open with the social worker
  4. There is a social worker at the council that has been recommended to you and you would like to work with him or her
  5. You have made a complaint about your current social worker

In all of these situations, if you are actively engaged with a current social worker, setting out your intention in writing (so that the request is recorded), is a good idea. The letter should be written to the social worker’s manager. In the letter or email, you can set out your reasons for wanting a change (which we would suggest is done diplomatically and as civilly as possible to ensure the most positive response), who you would like to work with, and why you feel this would be better for you and your child.

Where communication has broken down, you should explain why the lack of engagement is problematic. It sounds like an obvious point, but explaining that the breakdown is due to a lack of trust or personal connection and that it is preventing you from working with the council, is an important way of signalling that you are willing to engage with the services on offer, but not with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable.

If your social worker is behaving unprofessionally, gathering evidence of poor conduct is advisable, so that you can show a lack of response to emails, or missed appointments, for example. More serious issues like falsifying records or writing negative assessments without proof of any alleged neglect or abuse should wherever possible, be backed up with evidence and attached to your letter or email. And always keep a record of everything you write, and share.

The most important people here are the kids, so if your child is not connecting with the social worker, or with their own social worker, that should also be mentioned in your letter. Depending on the age of the child involved in the proceedings, we would also recommend finding a child advocate whom you feel confident will amplify your child’s concerns, if you can. Attaching a letter or report from a child advocate where the advocate agrees a change of social worker is needed, will also help to show the social work manager that your request is in your child’s best interests.

If you know that you’re going to engage with your council over a child protection matter, getting your request in right at the start could help to increase the chances of the request being successful. As always, a polite ask combined with a reason (i.e. X social worker has been recommended by Y and I would love to work with him or her), is a good approach.

Making a complaint about your social worker signals clearly that something isn’t right. While we don’t recommend making a complaint for the sake of it, as this can lead to more tensions and the chance of families being penalised in the process, where a social worker is clearly part of the problem and not the solution, a complaint is a compelling way to make the point that a new social worker is needed. It is at that point, (i.e. while the complaint is being made), that you could ask for your preferred social worker.

If your request is not granted, do ask for a written explanation on why your request has been turned down.

The bottom line is, families can’t insist on a social worker and requests don’t have to be granted, but they must be considered, and backing them up with logical, clear and child welfare focused reasons will give your request weight and maximise your chances of success. It also makes the family court aware of issues that can get swept under the carpet.

You have the right to ask, so don’t be shy.

We would like to say a very big thank you to the brilliant Jane Doe, who inspired us to write this post.