How to work with Social Services…before it turns legal

For parents who have received their first visit, letter or phone call from a social worker, their immediate reaction is usually concern, distress and panic. However, a calm and measured approach in these early stages can often prevent the matter reaching a Courtroom.

Social services support families and safeguard children who may be at risk of harm, or have previously suffered significant harm from family members or others. Often, social services provide support to families who are in need of additional help which they cannot receive from schools, GPs or other health services.

What is the social worker looking for?

Social workers have a duty to investigate whenever there is suspicion that the welfare of a vulnerable child is at risk. These suspicions are usually brought about by ‘referrals’, or in other words, messages of concern from schools, medical professions, family members or even neighbours. The involvement of the social services often makes families feel anxious as they are worried social workers will remove their children from the family home. However, this will only happen if there is clear evidence that the child is at risk of significant harm.

What should I do?

If social services have become involved with your family, your priority must be your children, and in particular, demonstrating to the social workers that the children are not suffering or likely to suffer harm in your care. There is no magic formula to demonstrate this, but in our experience the most important things you should do are:

  • Cooperate with the social workers. Be open, honest and friendly, even if you are feeling fearful or defensive. Being honest where you have made mistakes makes you more believable when you deny other allegations.
  • If your children end up on a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan, do what is asked of you. Attend all meetings and complete any courses you are asked to attend. You must demonstrate that you are determined to do all it takes to care for your children and make them your priority.
  • Keep conflict to a minimum. Not just between you and the professionals, but between family members. If children are exposed to arguments or violence between parents, then this itself will be viewed as a risk of significant harm.

Your first instinct may be to be as defensive and obstructive as possible, and resist the intrusion into your private and family life. However, you should resist this in favour of a single-minded determination to demonstrate to the Local Authority why your children are safe in your care.

How Blaser Mills can help

Our Child Care team is led by the renowned Denise Herman, one of the most experienced and respected Child Care lawyers in England and Wales. The team specialises in all cases involving social services and private law matters, acting with the utmost discretion and professionalism. Parents and children within care proceedings are eligible for funding through Legal Aid regardless of financial means.

If you wish to discuss matters raised in this article, or any other issues related to Child Care, please contact Denise Herman on 01923 725015 or email deh@blasermills.co.uk