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This assignment is going to explain the role of the Social Worker in the Child Protection setting and consider what interventions they can delivery to safeguard a child. It is also going to be making links with anti-discriminatory practice, and show the importance of working in partnerships with service users and other professionals. I am going to focus this assignment on Children at “Risk of Significant Harm”. This is such a broad area, so I am going to particularly focus on children aged 0-3 years. Physical abuse may involve, hitting, shaking, throwing, suffocating, burning or scolding, poisoning, drowning, or causing deliberate illness.
Child Abuse and Neglect cause personal misery for children and parents raise public concern and requires professional attention (Waterhouse, L¸2008)
In all cases the Social Worker has to ensure that the child’s welfare is paramount, the child must be safeguarded. The social worker has a duty to investigate if a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, as delay can be detrimental to the child (Children Act 1989).
The Social Worker will receive a referral and from this information they should check to see if the child or family is already known to Social Services, if they are then the Social Worker can read through recorded case note and learn some background information before making a visit. If they are not known to Social Services then the Social Worker needs to make a visit to the family and investigate the referral. This is where they will need to try and find out some back ground information to build a picture of the family members.
When the Social Worker arrives at the home they may find that the family are reluctant to speak to them or even let them into their home, so it is important that the Social Worker explains to them exactly who they are and that they have received a referral regarding the safety of the children. The visit is likely to be a shock to the caregivers and they may feel scared and intimidated, the Social Worker must assure them that they are here to make sure the children are safe and that the caregivers are ok, and then request that they come in and speak to them and try and make this visit is easy as they can. This will start to build the relationship. The Social Worker must be honest, clear and make sure all involved understand what happens to the information the users and carers give to the Social Worker, how it is recorded, who it will be shared with and how it might be used. (Lester Parrott 2008).
It is important that the Social Worker is always aware of the child, as they are the main service user it is important that they see the child on visits and see that they are in good health with no obvious signs of physical abuse. It is the Social Workers job to advise, assist, and befriend the family, and must not portray themselves as being powerful and somebody that can force the family into doing thing, this kind of attitude can be oppressive and it is less likely that a family will be willing to cooperate with a Social Worker that demand’s the family do things. The family are more likely to work with the Social Worker if they can all work together. However it is the Social Workers duty to investigate who is at risk and see if they can identify what is the cause of the risk.
Other people who have contact with children also have a responsibility to spot signs of abuse, these could be other family members, health visitors, GP, and nursery workers and for children of school age, teachers, school nurses and even dinner staff may be able to spot signs and any other person that has contact with them. Physical abuse causes misery, anxiety, fear, loneliness and many more feelings and when abuse is identified it requires professional attention.
A baby at risk from, or suffering significant harm at this young age in the form of physical abuse will be unable to communicate with words so it is important that the Social Worker is always aware and looks for signs. They may do this at their visit. This can be done in an easy and non intrusive way perhaps by asking parent if they mind if they spend some time with the child and perhaps getting down on the floor with the child, and interacting with them through play, this also allows the Social Worker to see how the react to their presence. If the parent does not allow this then this may be a sign of a problem, however this may be because they have no trust and are not willing to cooperate, it is important for the Social Worker to remain open minded, aware and non-judgemental. There may also be obvious physical signs like bruising, cuts or burns, in this case if the Social Worker would talk with the care givers and if they believe this to be a genuine emergency then they must intervene immediately and can request Police Protection Under Section 46 of Children Act 1989 where the Police have the power to remove or detain the child immediately. No child can be held for more than 72 hours, the Social Worker could also make an application to the Family Proceedings Court Courts for an Emergency Protection Order under section 44 of the Children Act 1989, which is an order providing immediate but temporary removal of the child in a genuine emergency. This is not to be used as a routine response to suspicion of abuse
There is no absolute criteria to rely on when judging what constitutes significant harm. Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child’s health and development, their health or development shall be compared with what could be reasonably expected of children at the same age. If the Social Worker has reasonable belief that a child is at risk of significant harm then Local Authorities have a duty to investigate and if necessary intervene.
The intervention of Social Work can help families to achieve goals and allow them to better themselves and positively move forward with the help of professionals. When working to protect a child from significant harm it is important to work with the care givers as well as the child. It is important to learn the history of the child and the history of the caregivers. This can build a picture of background and any possible previous problems and can help towards working to reduce the risk of harm to the child. Also good communication between Social Worker and caregiver is important, as this will help identify possible causes of problems and also may help towards creating solutions. It is also important for the social worker to remember that their main service user is the child and they need to be aware that working with a child of such a young age it may become easy to over look the child and become more involved with the caregiver. When assessing a child and family the Social Worker must be confident in gathering information and may at times have to ask questions that may be uncomfortable for themselves or the service user, but it is important that these questions are asked as this can start to build a picture and also may help to identify problems and causes of problems. This can also help towards the start of putting together a plan for the family as to how to help to eliminate the causes and the problems. For example if the child is at risk of harm after the caregivers have been drinking then the cause is alcohol and the Social Worker would need make contact with services (such as) that are able to help with this issue, and advise the caregivers that in working with this service they can help to eliminate the problem and reduce the risk to the child, so this would go into the plan for the caregivers and the child. If the caregivers refuse this help then it is the Social Workers job to negotiate with the caregiver and encourage that these steps need to be taken if they are to overcome and move forward from their problems, they would advise that if the caregiver is not going to cooperate then they may have to start Child Protection proceedings which could lead to the child being put on the Child Protection Register.
When in practice Social Workers needs to be aware of discrimination, it is important to see every service users as an individual in there own social context. It is important to be aware of the individual relating to their culture, sex, age, class and disabilities. The Social worker needs to be aware of these factors and take them into consideration when making an assessment. A Social Worker needs to go to every individual visit with an open mind and be sure to be non-judgemental. It is important at all times that the worker follows anti oppressive practice. The perception of the service user may be that you have power that you may use against him/her. It is important to be non judgemental and listen to those involved and work towards resolution with the client as opposed to condemning them and making decisions without consultation as this makes the service user feel disempowered and without a voice. Obviously if the risk to the child is great then intervention of an oppressive nature may be justified.
True partnership working with service users and other professional can create empowerment. Social Workers can help to advices services users and signpost them to other service that they are entitle to. Social Workers can find themselves working with a number of different professionals such as police officers, doctors, school teacher, school nurses, nursery staff, connexions, Housing. These are just a few out of a long list of possible partnerships. It is important to work together for the Service User, different professionals may have different aims and resources and values, which can create partnership conflict. Good communication and understanding of one another’s jobs and services can help to ensure a positive partnership and create a valuable service for the Service user. It is important for all professional to be made aware of any information they need to be aware of, and for all involved in the partnership to be committed to Service Users and their needs.
With good communication between Social Worker, the child the caregiver and other professionals involved can create a positive relationship in which they can work together to reduce risk and safeguard the child, it can also work towards helping the family move forward and create positive change. Working together can help empower the service users and help them forward with their lives and work towards keeping the child in the family home. This is the ideal option for the Local Authority as they want children to remain at the family home provided that they are safe. The child’s safety is paramount.
A good example of good Social Work Practice would be an assessment of a family being completed, and from the assessment the Social Worker and the family can discuss together different option available to the family and going through them and seeing what option is most appropriate and relevant for the family. The can set up any services the family made need for example Parenting Classes, and then set goals for the family to achieve. And the Social Worker would make regular visits to see that the goals set are being achieved and of they are not to find out why and help focus on achieving them. The ideal ending would be that the family needs a little help and after achieving their goals, no longer needs the input of a Social Worker. However there are many families that need more than a little help and often end up having the input of a Social Worker for a long time and in extreme case children get removed from the family home for their safety.
Children Act 1989 Section 44
Children Act Section 46
Waterhouse, L(2008) The Blackwell Companion To Social Work. Third Edition. Blackwell Publishing;
Parrott, L (2008) Values and Ethics in Social Work Practice. Learning Matters
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