Callie Thornton
Courts distrust evidence from social workers Judges delay decisions in urgent cases affecting vulnerable children to hear from other experts, says report


Courts are refusing applications to take children into care because some members of the judiciary hold social workers in such low esteem that they do not trust their evidence, it will be claimed this week in a major study.


Local authorities told researchers that children were being put at risk because social workers were not always recognised as experts.


The findings are part of research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) into the practicalities of implementing the 58 recommendations of Lord Laming's report into child protection , carried out in the wake of the death of Baby Peter. The 17-month-old boy from Haringey, north London, who suffered more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period, died despite being seen repeatedly by social services, police, doctors and health vistors.


The LGA report, carried out by academics at Loughborough University and published this week, concludes: "The low status afforded to social workers was ... perceived to impact upon the court decision-making process. A number of authorities felt courts were refusing applications that children's social care felt were necessary to protect children." Social workers, it says, "are not always recognised as experts in the court arena".


As evidence of their low status, it points out: "Experts such as hospital consultants are not expected to wait in court all day to give evidence, but social workers are, meaning they are not able to use the time available more effectively." The report found that social workers had to wait on average 20 hours in court to get a care order.


Nushra Mansuri, joint manager of the English office of the British Association of Social Workers, said it was appalling that professionals were treated so badly, and said it could be dangerous for children.


"There is good practice, and there are plenty of members of the judiciary who do show due respect," she said , but she had seen a number of examples of the sort of attitude detailed in the report. "I think there is a bit of a snobbery because social work is the soft target. We are the most exposed of all the professions, whereas others are a little more anonymous in the process."


She said judges had....More here
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