Commenting on new research from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) that claims that local authorities are acting more quickly to process care applications, Sue Kent, professional officer, British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said:
“It is welcome that Guardians feel local authorities are making more timely and appropriate interventions, and the fact that more serious neglect cases are being picked up is clearly vitally important for improving the life chances of vulnerable children. The rise in neglect cases reaching court perhaps could be seen as the impact of the ever worsening economic climate on many families who are struggling to cope.
“However, increasing demand must be matched by resources on the ground, to protect the integrity and professionalism of all children’s social workers, regardless of the field they work in. Although the child’s main professional relationship is with their local authority social worker, BASW members within Cafcass have previously reported that as children’s guardians, the restricted timescale, coupled with ever increasing workloads, often compromises their ability to practice ethically, as they have less time to develop relationships with children to represent their best interests in court cases, and ensure the local authority care plan is the right one for them.
“It is notable that the Cafcass report emphasises that family court work ‘does not detract from the importance of family support services to parents, aimed at preventing, as far as is possible, family breakdown and neglect’, since this area of work – offering a genuine alternative to care proceedings is currently stretched beyond what is acceptable.
“This has to be a concern for the future, how are these families going be supported, and how will social workers cope with this ever increasing rise in their work while cuts to resources continue.”