Hard truths in social care

31st August 2012 at 01:00

I congratulate Don Ledingham on saying aloud what so many people have been saying quietly ("Removing a child from a toxic family is never easy", 17 August). Most social care workers enter the profession because they believe people can change for the better. It is a hard lesson to accept that this is not the case for some families, particularly when substance misuse has overtaken their lives.

Social workers will often say at the point that a child is accommodated: "This child won't be going home." They know from their work with the family and the assessment they have made that the parents are probably incapable of putting the child's needs before their own. Yet somehow that assessment is lost once the child is accommodated and there seems to be an over-optimistic determination to reunite the family.

It is also our experience that all too often the issue of resource plays a significant part in the decision-making process. Removal from the family home into residential or foster care is often seen as the most expensive option. But Mr Ledingham rightly highlights the long-term damage that can be done to a child left with the birth family for too long. This can lead to much greater long-term costs through extra demands on health, welfare and criminal justice systems.

However, we at Barnardo's Scotland have noticed the beginnings of a cultural shift: planning is starting to take place earlier and many more children are starting to be placed earlier for adoption. This is the right way forward and must be embraced by all. We need to support Children's Panel members to make difficult decisions about reducing contact where it is clearly not beneficial to children and only serves to further damage their emotional attachments.

There are currently inconsistencies right across Scotland, regarding when the decision to remove a child is made. We would like to see the introduction of a national system of assessment and guidance centred on the child's rights and with an onus on early intervention. However difficult the situation, we need to make sure the child is always the central concern in our decision-making.

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland.

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