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Critically evaluate, the evidence and application of the knowledge and practice skills required in helping children during the enquiry, investigation and assessment phases of childcare and protection work.
The objective of this article is to explore the evidence and knowledge, values and skills that social workers use in child protection investigation and assessment. In the course of this commentary and self-evaluation, we will highlight the responsibilities of professionals in social work and:
a) articulate the professional role and tasks of social workers and demonstrate an appreciation of the role and tasks of other significant professionals in childcare and protection investigation and assessment
b) articulate what social workers understand by interdisciplinary work and their part in this
c) articulate the values which inform the practice of social work during inquiry, investigation and assessment, paying particular attention to practice when conflicts arise
e) demonstrate an example of anti-discriminatory practice during inquiry, investigation and assessment in relation to at least one of the following: race, gender, disability, poverty, sexuality and religion
f) demonstrate effective practice in assessing, planning and evaluating interventions (Moore, 1985)
g) convey a knowledge and understanding of models of investigation, assessment and risk analysis in practice
h) make effective links between the commentary on the practice of social work and the theoretical bases in relevant literature
For our purposes, we would investigate all these aspects of social work blending theory and practice, assessment and investigation and analyze the roles and responsibilities of social workers and their approach towards interdisciplinary collaborative practice. We would also critically evaluate the following case study to show the application and efficacy of knowledge and skills of social workers in childcare and protection work.
14-year-old boy from Ireland, arrived in Scotland after being abducted by a man from Dublin. Past history of the boy is given as follows- he had been sexually abused by a neighbour for many years. The case of abuse went to court, the accused man was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. The boy ended up in children’s home and then on the streets in Dublin. He was persuaded by an older man to come to Scotland for better life. The man passed the boy off as his son (as he had no passport) and brought the boy to the UK. Once in the UK the boy was sexually abused by the man, ran off and went to police station. The social worker became involved as responsible and testified in police interview that the boy had learning difficulties.
Application of Knowledge and Skills in Social work for Childcare and Protection:
Social workers have the objective of improving people’s lives and help people to function in the best possible way within their social environment, helping them to deal with their relationships and solve their personal and family problems. Social workers also deal with issues of domestic and sexual abuse and often provide requisite care in a health related setting. Short-term intervention, community based care and ambulatory services are provided by the social workers and governed by care organizations (Howe, 2005). Child, family and school social workers provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and try to maximize academic achievements of the children and improve family relationships. Social workers help to find foster homes and care services for neglected, abused and abandoned children and address problems of misbehavior, truancy, delinquency and sexual deviation in children and adolescents. Child, family, and school social workers typically work in schools, care settings, individual and family services agencies, or State and local governmental agencies providing social support (Munro, 2002). These social workers that work for children are also known as child welfare social workers, child protective services social workers. Social workers who work with entire families are family services social workers, occupational social workers, or if they work for betterment of aged people they are gerontology social workers.
Child protection services are aimed at preventing and protecting children from being harmed through neglect or abuse at home, at school, in the community or in society at large. The Social work department of the UK government contributes to a multi-agency collaborative approach to care and protection of children who are vulnerable and easily exploited and abused. The collaborative efforts of the Police, Health, Education and Housing departments ensure a coordinated response towards the care and protection of children. This is coordinated and supervised by the Child Protection Committee, which follows the legislation noted in the Children’s Scotland Act, 1995 (Francis, 2000).
The Department of social work has a specific responsibility for the promotion of child protection and welfare. For protection of children from abuse and neglect, the Social Work Services have the following responsibilities:
- Supporting families to maintain children within their own home and community where appropriate.
- Investigating allegations of child abuse.
- Where necessary, providing appropriate care placements for children.
- Referring those children who are believed to require compulsory measures of care to adequately protect them to the Reporter to the Children’s Hearing system.
- Organizing and chairing multi-agency child protection meetings.
- Coordinating multi-agency child protection plans for those children on the child protection register.
One of the most important phases in child protection and care is assessment. In the assessment stage, the needs of children and their families and views of the carers are taken into consideration by the social workers, health professionals, and psychologists who perform the assessment and determine the individual and varied needs and assess how they can be met (Walker, 2003). The social workers, health professionals, housing officers, teachers, the police as well as carers and the children or young people themselves, contribute to a multi-agency assessment of needs. The legislative framework followed for childcare in social work is the Children Scotland Act, 1995 (Francis, 2000), some features of which are discussed later in the context of the case study.
Considering the case study of the 14-year-old boy discussed above we evaluate the knowledge and skills of social workers in the investigative, inquiry and assessment phases of child protection work.
According to the Children’s Scotland Act, 1995, the following legislative framework was provided if a person is not a natural parent or do not have parental responsibilities.
Care or control of child by person without parental responsibilities or parental rights.
5.—(1)Subject to subsection (2) below, it shall be the responsibility of a person who has attained the age of sixteen years and who has care or control of a child under that age, but in relation to him either has no parental responsibilities or parental rights or does not have the parental responsibility mentioned in section 1(1)(a) of this Act, to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances to safeguard the child’s health, development and welfare; and in fulfilling his responsibility under this section the person may in particular, even though he does not have the parental right mentioned in section 2(1)(d) of this Act, give consent to any surgical, medical or dental treatment or procedure where—
(a)the child is not able to give such consent on his own behalf; and
(b)it is not within the knowledge of the person that a parent of the child would refuse to give the consent in question.
(2)Nothing in this section shall apply to a person in so far as he has care or control of a child in a school (“school” having the meaning given by section 135(1) of the [1980 c.44.] Education (Scotland) Act 1980).
Views of children.
6.—(1)A person shall, in reaching any major decision which involves—
(a)his fulfilling a parental responsibility or the responsibility mentioned in section 5(1) of this Act; or
(b)his exercising a parental right or giving consent by virtue of that section,
have regard so far as practicable to the views (if he wishes to express them) of the child concerned, taking account of the child’s age and maturity, and to those of any other person who has parental responsibilities or parental rights in relation to the child (and wishes to express those views); and without prejudice to the generality of this subsection a child twelve years of age or more shall be presumed to be of sufficient age and maturity to form a view. (2)A transaction entered into in good faith by a third party and a person acting as legal representative of a child shall not be challengeable on the ground only that the child, or a person with parental responsibilities or parental rights in relation to the child, was not consulted or that due regard was not given to his views before the transaction was entered into.
Section 6 especially highlights the views of the children in parental rights and responsibilities, so our case study here in which the 14-year-old boy was deliberately brought to Scotland and was forced to live with a man who abused him repeatedly is definitely illegal. Section 6(2) specifically mentions that a person can claim parental responsibility only when there is complete consent by the child. This has again not been the case here.
The legislative care procedures for children at risk of harm is as follows:
Short-term refuges for children at risk of harm.
38.—(1)Where a child appears—
(a)to a local authority to be at risk of harm, they may at the child’s request—
(i)provide him with refuge in a residential establishment both controlled or managed by them and designated by them for the purposes of this paragraph; or
(ii)arrange for a person whose household is approved by virtue of section 5(3)(b) of the [1968 c.49.] Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 (provision for securing that persons are not placed in any household unless the household has prescribed approval) and is designated by them for the purposes of this paragraph, to provide him with refuge in that household,
for a period which does not exceed the relevant period;
(b)to a person who carries on a residential establishment in respect of which the person is for the time being registered (as mentioned in section 61(2) of that Act), or to any person for the time being employed in the management of that establishment, to be at risk of harm, the person to whom the child so appears may at the child’s request provide him with refuge, for a period which does not exceed the relevant period, in the establishment but shall do so only if and to the extent that the local authority within whose area the establishment is situated have given their approval to the use of the establishment (or a part of the establishment) for the purposes of this paragraph.
Usually when a child, as understood by a young person below the age of 16 is in any risk of harm as in this case study, it is legally required to provide him with shelter and protection at a residential establishment managed by local governmental authorities and social care services. In cases of neglect, abuse or torture this protection is mandatory. Thus the knowledge and skills of social workers to protect any child under 16 is also related to her understanding of legal implications and framework. The initial stage is assessment of the child’s needs followed by inquiry and investigation through background checks and psychological tests in which problems of the child and his background and social environment are analyzed. In this case study, the 14 year old boy is assessed with the help of past history, police records, psychological and medical tests and it was revealed from these procedures that we was not only tortured and abused by the person who took him away from Dublin, but was also suffering from learning disabilities. Thus along with the conditions of neglect and abuse, the child can also be considered disabled and separate legislative procedures have to be considered in this case.
For Children with disabilities, the legal implications are as follows:
Children affected by disability.
23.—(1)Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of section 22 of this Act, services provided by a local authority under that subsection shall be designed—
(a)to minimise the effect on any—
(i)disabled child who is within the authority’s area, of his disability; and
(ii)child who is within that area and is affected adversely by the disability of any other person in his family, of that other person’s disability; and
(b)to give those children the opportunity to lead lives which are as normal as possible.
(2)For the purposes of this Chapter of this Part a person is disabled if he is chronically sick or disabled or suffers from mental disorder (within the meaning of the [1984 c.36.] Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984). (3)Where requested to do so by a child’s parent or guardian a local authority shall, for the purpose of facilitating the discharge of such duties as the authority may have under section 22(1) of this Act (whether or not by virtue of subsection (1) above) as respects the child, carry out an assessment of the child, or of any other person in the child’s family, to determine the needs of the child in so far as attributable to his disability or to that of the other person.
Assessment of ability of carers to provide care for disabled children.
24.—(1)Subject to subsection (2) below, in any case where—
(a)a local authority carry out under section 23(3) of this Act an assessment to determine the needs of a disabled child, and
(b)a person (in this section referred to as the “carer” ) provides or intends to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for that child,
the carer may request the local authority, before they make a decision as to the discharge of any duty they may have under section 2(1) of the [1970 c.44.] Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 or under section 22(1) of this Act as respects the child, to carry out an assessment of the carer’s ability to continue to provide, or as the case may be to provide, care for that child; and if the carer makes such a request, the local authority shall carry out such an assessment and shall have regard to the results of it in making any such decision.
A child is considered to have a disability if he is chronically sick or suffers from some form of mental disorder that stops him from actively participating in normal daily activities. As we have already indicated the three stages of inquiry, investigation and assessment are important in child protection and childcare. In the inquiry and investigation phases, the police and the social workers obtain the history and background of the child. In the assessment phase, health workers, doctors, social workers, carers, and psychologists work together to assess the problem of the child, instances of abuse and the legal implications of the child’s conditions. Assessment of disability, if any, the child’s mental, physical and social problems and the general abilities and health of the child is important (Walker, 2003). Knowledge of legal implications and skills of social work practice and theories on mental health and disabilities are not only useful but also necessary in childcare and protection work. The ethical consideration and values are also considered here by the social worker as anti-discriminatory measures for disability, poverty, race or gender are also taken into consideration (Banks, 2001). A disabled person is entitled to his human rights to be treated equally and any discrimination would come under oppressive or discriminatory practice. It is the responsibility of the social workers to see to it that this is avoided. As we have already indicated a recognition of models and theories of practice, values and ethics of social services and an ability and appreciation of working in a collaborative effort with other professionals in varied fields are the most important characteristics in social work and child protection.
In this case study, a 14-year-old boy abused and abducted was brought to UK where he sought the help of police, who according to legal requirements provided him with residential care. The boy was looked after by carers and social workers in the residential care arrangement where his condition was investigated further by the police and his mental and physical conditions were also assessed by social and health workers. In this article we discussed the importance of knowledge and practice skills of social workers relating the values, dilemmas and ethical considerations of childcare and highlighted the importance of legal implications using the relevant clauses in the Children’s Scotland Act, 1995.
Banks, Sarah. 2001. Ethics and values in social work /Sarah Banks. 2nd ed. Basingstoke :Palgrave.
Francis, Joe. 2000. Child protection and social work practice :exploring the impact of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. University of Edinburgh, Department of Social Work.
Howe, David, 2005. Child abuse and neglect :attachment, development and intervention /David Howe. Basingstoke :Palgrave Macmillan.
Moore, Jean G. 1985. The ABC of child abuse work /Jean G. Moore. Aldershot :Gower.
Munro, Eileen. 2002. Effective child protection /Eileen Munro. London :SAGE.
Scourfield, Jonathan. 2002. Gender and child protection /Jonathan Scourfield ; consultant editor, Jo Campling. New York :Palgrave
Walker, Steven. 2003. Social work assessment and intervention /by Steven Walker and Chris Beckett. Lyme Regis :Russell House Publishing.
Scottish Local Government Information Unit. Children (Scotland) Act 1995:a guide. Scottish Local Government Information Unit,1995.
Children Scotland Act, 1995
Child Protection – Social work services
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