Welcome to another week.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has published a human rights handbook to familiarise social workers with the law.

The BASW decided to produce the handbook to coincide with Human Rights Day on 10th December, and it offers a summary of human rights legislation in the UK, how human rights engage with social work in both adult and child cases, and the impact of Brexit on those rights.

While the handbook makes a valiant effort at explaining how austerity and poverty should never be used as justifications to breach families’ human rights, the guide also glosses over important human rights issues within child protection, and seems to offer ways to bypass those rights rather than protect them.

Part 2 of the practice guide begins with a look at the human rights laws applied in social work and section 6.2 offers advice on which rights apply in children and families cases.

A dedicated ‘case example’ page which highlights forced adoption in the UK, called “Dispensing of Parental Consent to Adoption”, refers to the practice of forced adoption as ‘controversial’, which is astounding.


Forced, or non consensual, adoption, is very rarely used by other countries around the world and is considered to be an inhumane and unnecessary practice. An established body of research also bolsters that view.

Forced adoption is no longer seen as controversial by experienced academics, politicians and campaigners in this field. It is seen as a phenomenon which breaches the human rights of children and families without good reason.

Although the section explains the need to choose non consensual adoption as a method of last resort, and also outlines the conditions in which a child can be removed from their parents, the segments dealing with child removal are sparse and don’t paint an honest picture of the real human rights challenges within the practice.

For example, the guidance does not at any point highlight the human rights concerns with the way in which UK social workers currently justify removal, a process which has been seen as an increasingly important human rights issue, while a growing number of children are being returned to their parents by judges in the family courts.

The open admission by the sector that much of the policies and working guidelines are not evidence-based, meaning that social work practice is to a very large extent not backed up by science or data which suggests that doing something a certain way is in fact the right way, poses enormous human rights questions.

Another gaping omission in the practice guide is the use of covert surveillance on social media platforms, by social workers. A spike in child welfare professionals using platforms like Facebook to spy on families and children has been particularly concerning, after a study carried out by Lancaster University confirmed that social workers were breaking the law by accessing users’ personal information.

And the link offered, which should take readers to the BASW’s (very brief) guide on how social workers should use social media in a professional context doesn’t work – you can find the right link to the document here.

Are we being unfair? Take a look at the handbook and tell us what you think.