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This critique is based on a role-play of a case conference constructed for the purpose of reviewing a child protection matter. Within this report I will be evaluating the role-play of a multi-agency meeting. The conference was called in relation to a claim made by a teacher stating that Edwin the child, made an inappropriate gesture to put the teachers hand near his genitals. The conference will determine whether the child is in need of a child protection plan and at risk of significant harm. As different agencies attended I will be assessing the roles of the most significant members and making specific reference to inter-professional working. For further research I will also be looking at various legislations, policies and issues for supervision.
Evaluating the role-play on a whole it became clear that overall it was disorganised and unfocused. With positive aspects there also were many weaknesses which were visible within the conference. From the beginning as the Chair managed the conference the confidentiality clause must be read out to ensure that each professional and parent are aware of the “process of the Conference” and “Ensuring that confidentiality is stressed “NYSCB. (2012). It is important for parents to be aware of this although they themselves are not bound by confidentiality. Whilst continuing with the conference it is seen as professional to raise your hand when wanting to contribute to the conference. This allows the Chair to keep order and direction. With this I noticed that the majority of the group failed to do this unfortunately allowing there to be a clear disorganised atmosphere at certain points. Another important aspect of the meeting which was not demonstrated was the hand in of the specific reports from each agency. As the social worker is one of the most important agencies he should have submitted a report to the Chair prior to the conference and allowed time to go through this with the family. Without these reports it became clear that certain information was not distributed between agencies and parents, therefore creating confusion and miscommunication. For example, when the social worker stated that Edwin’s behaviour is due to his father’s drinking and mother’s “mental health”! this was incorrect as the mother has “history” of mental health and has received treatment for this. However, good points were taken from the conference as the social worker decided that the child should not attend the conference. As the child has full legal rights to enter a conference and under the section 22 of the Children’s Act 1989 it is determined that the emotional state and wishes of the child are encountered however, opinions are “divided on how that participation is best effected so that the child’s voice is heard without damaging the child in the process” (Wilson, K 2002). The importance of professionals getting to know the children as an individual and considering how the child feels about the situation is extremely important when safeguarding. It has been highlighted that between 1st April 2007 and 31st March 2008 “the failure of all professionals to see the situation from the child’s perspective and experience” Dfe, (2010) was dreadful.
Within the conference the different agencies all had the opportunity to contribute. A clear example of good practice was how the Chair asks the primary school teacher if “troy, the younger brother has any unusual behaviour”. This was a very good approach as if at the end of the conference it was decided that the conclusion was significant harm under the Children Act 1989 “Being able to live with brothers and sisters where they are also looked after is an important protective factor for many looked after children” Department for Children, Schools and Families. (2010). Another aspect which came to my attention was the lack of professional language used. For example, this was shown when the social worker referred to the father having a ‘drink problem’. This was incorrect as he should have stated that the father was known to demonstrate alcohol abuse. Using the correct language within the conference allows keeping that level of formality and professionalism as well as respect. Another aspect of the conference which demonstrated poor practice was again the lack of professionalism. This was due to the social worker not addressing the father by his name and stating him as “the dad” forcing the Chair to ask the social worker numerous amounts of times to address him by his name. By looking into the practice of social workers it is apparent that they “need to be highly alert to the potential risk of abuse and neglect to children” and “this should be routine practice” DfE (2010).
Throughout the conference different agencies kept referring back to specific problems with the child. These consisted of referral to Edwin’s lack of social skills, eating habits and him being “a loner”. With this information attentions kept being distracted from the overall child’s wellbeing and mainly focused on child protection. Whilst assessing a child that may be in a case of child protection and at risk of significant harm it is crucial to investigate “the complexity of child welfare in humanitarian and development settings, the areas shown should be seen as a range of areas to assess, which should be selected according to the context” McCormick, C. (2011).
In terms of assessment planning each agency should have planned and researched relevant information for the conference. This involves mainly the social worker, Police, Child Psychologist and substance misuse worker. As the child had Global Developmental Delay the child psychologist would have to have one to one sessions with the child. This would be to monitor his behaviour and development. Global Developmental Delay is when a child has not reached two or more milestones are all areas of development such as motor skills or social and emotional skills. By speaking to the child about the child protection conference and making them aware of what might happen. By not speaking to the child “This assessment fulfils the function of confirming the developmental delay…it fails to analyse what that means to (the child) in terms of care, safety and welfare needs (IMRHealth) Brandon,M (2010). Looking at the child’s overall health and well-being a social worker needs to know the most about the child and the family.
As the conference was called under the concern of sexual abuse a social worker would have to investigate this by speaking to both parents and child and all members of the household. Children who have or might have been sexually exploited are sufferers from sexual abuse and are in need of special careful assessment. A child who might be “at risk of being sexually exploited, should always trigger the agreed local procedures to ensure the child’s safety and welfare”. DfE (2010). As the police were also involved within this case conference they mainly attend a conference to “hold a wealth of information concerning conviction history, non-conviction information and incident based intelligence “Leeds Safeguarding Children Board. (2013). In this case of looking at the conference, the police did not have that much involvement within the agenda. As the police were called due to one disturbance of noise it became clear that they did not have that much of a concern in terms of violence or abuse. Also on one occasion the Police did forget the dates in which the disturbance was made which is lack of professionalism and they should have had a clear and precise report in front of them.
Working within a multi-agency framework has its strengths and weaknesses. One aspect which is a positive is that in successful multi-agency case conferences the information would have been distributed among the other agencies allowing there to be a clear structure. The saying two heads are better than one has a huge part to play within a conference as people will be able to hear the other agencies points and see other aspects, which may have not been recognised before. Being among other agencies and working together has also proven that “Multidisciplinary working in children’s services has increased considerably since the Children Act 2004” Unwin, P (2012). It also gives a chance for agencies to build on relationships with each other. By doing this it will allow agencies and families to gain security with each other allowing them to feel safe and in trustworthy hands. However, there are also some negative aspects to having a multi-agency conference. This would be due to sometimes it becoming too complex and an overload of information. This may become confusing for other agencies and force them to dispute the wrong information.
Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards are paramount in ensuring chikdren are safe and not at risk if significant harm. The referral would be due to suspicions of neglect or abuse. Discovering if a child has or is being sexually abused can be due to many observations. One can obviously be if the child says something to someone else but also if the child has “disturbed behaviour- including self-harm, inappropriate sexualised behaviour, sexually abusive behaviour, depression and a loss of self-esteem” DfE (2010). With being sexually abused as a child the emotional effects can unfortunately be taken right through to adulthood. This is why it is important for agencies and professionals to help and secure interventions with these children before they reach adolescence or adulthood. This could help prevent further damage to the chid. Fortunately if I chid has a supportive non- abusive parent or carer who trusts the child’s judgment and believes them then the child’s “ability to cope with the experience of sexual abuse” DfE (2010) will strengthen with their support. With the support by others it will also allow the chid to comprehend the abuse. Also a large percentage of adults who sexually abuse others have also been sexually abused themselves. Nevertheless it would be incorrect to assume that all children and adults who have suffered from sexual abuse will then go on to abuse themselves.
With parental drug and alcohol abuse it is predicted that at least 1% of children are born to women with drug dependency. A number of women do abuse drugs and alcohol whilst being pregnant which can lead to some tragic and unfortunate circumstances. This could range from effects of development as a foetus to miscarriage. After having their babies a lot of women are prone to experience “remorse and sadness over the actual or potential consequences of their substance misuse”. This can then lead on to motivation for stopping their drug habits with the help of professionals and agencies. One unfortunate side effect of parental drug abuse that impacts on a child is with “the lack of structure often means that children are left to take on greater self-reliance” N.A. (2013) forcing them to grow up quicker than they need to.
Another aspect of safeguarding which shows signs of poor professional behaviour is abuse in general. One of the most famous child protection cases that had failed to see any signs of abuse within a child was the story of Baby P. One example of the professionals missing to see any signs of his injuries was when a social worker visited and failed to see the “injuries on Peter’s face and hands after he is deliberately smeared with chocolate to hide them” Doyle, J et al, (27th October 2010) . As the social worker failed to see these horrific signs it then lead to the death of Baby P. Questions are asked, why didn’t the social worker ask for the mother to remove the chocolate? If there was any suspicion of abuse a large interest should be taken within every aspect of the child. Doctors, Lawyers, Police and social workers all had a contribution and record of errors, which later led on to the death of Baby P. Another feature to the case study that was poorly managed was after Baby P was taken into hospital the Paediatrician stated that she was unable to carry out an examination of the child, as he was “miserable” and “cranky” Doyle, J et al, (27th October 2010). With the Paediatrician failing to see his already sustained injuries of his “broken back and fractured ribs” Doyle, J et al, (27th October 2010) this unfortunately added to the death of Baby P that appears could have been preventable. The main reason for the death of Baby P was due to the Mother’s boyfriend who the authorities failed to see was living there and abusing Baby P. With the failure of Baby P’s case this then led to Ofsted to raise safeguarding emphasis and to reinforce more assessments to include direct contact with any child. Looking into the case of Baby P it was highlighted that all the different agencies failed to perform the common assessment framework of preparation for the case, the discussion and delivery.
One thing within safeguarding which is of great importance is the training of staff. As social workers have to work with some very damaged and vulnerable children meaning that they “need to be properly equipped for such challenging tasks” Department of Health (2002). As the name of social workers have been put down over the years by specially training them it will give them the chance to overcome the bad press which they usually receive and alter their status into a positive one. This is however secondary to the need to safeguard all children. For future recommendations of better practice it should be compulsory that all social workers should be tested on how they would “demonstrate their knowledge of human growth and development, particularly Development of children and other vulnerable groups” Department of Health (2002). They should also improve on their communication skills allowing them to engage with the child for effectivity. Another aspect which could perhaps be improved within social workers are their skills and capabilities of “working confidently and effectively with other professionals.” Department of Health (2002). Some of the main aspects of training with social workers are training within case conferences, BID (best interest determination) panels, child protection committee meetings, supervision sessions McCormick, C. (2011).
Supervision within safeguarding is extremely important. It means that the social worker should have guidance and emotional support, someone to sound off at and support them on the whole. This would usually be someone senior and with a lot of experience. The person giving the supervision would have to be “trained in supervision skills and have an up to date knowledge of the legislation, policy and research”. DfE (2010). It is very important that all social workers and counsellors have this as if they are emotionally stable they will be able to help support a child too. It is said that “in the past supervision in social work has been seen as poor quality, patchy and in some extreme cases completely non-existent” Unwin, P (2012). This is a worrying notion as social workers do need a lot of support and if they do not receive it this could lead to depression or an emotional breakdown. By having regular supervision it will allow the social worker to “raise issues of concern and of development in regard to” their “professional career, including skill development, abilities and understanding” Unwin, P (2012). Whilst supervising a social worker and supporting them it will help safeguard children in many ways. For example, it will help to keep a secure attention on the child in need. It will also help to avoid losing track of what is important, drifting from the main subject matter for instance. Another important way in which it will help a social worker by the use of supervision is to “maintain a degree of objectivity and challenge fixed views” DfE (2010).
With looking at different aspects of working with children and child protection I believe I have gained a better insight to child protection on a whole. This is an extremely complex subject with the highest level of responsibility. Safeguarding must be everyone’s responsibility and must be embedded in all service providers to ensure children are protected from the risk of significant harm. Until this is recognised as a collective, we will continue to fail children and uncover disturbing findings through serious case reviews. Findings from inspections of Local Authorities clearly demonstrate the lack of consistency across the country. Safeguarding must safeguard every child and must not be a postcode lottery.
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