Confused and in need of help

KautoStar13
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:10 pm

Confused and in need of help

Postby KautoStar13 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:17 pm

Hi there, I recently joined your boards to hopefully get advice on behalf of my sister.

My niece (my sisters daughter) has had social workers from birth due to learning difficulties and diebetes. Last Tuesday the social worker had a meeting with my sister to inform her they wanted to implement a section 20 voluntary agreeement for my niece to enter foster care temporarily. However, yesterday they contacted my sister to inform her they no longer wanted a section 20 but were going to take out an interim court order and that they would be taking my sister to court. When asked why there had been a change in this descision they cited that they don't like children to be on a section 20 for lengthy periods of time.

Is it usual for a sudden change like this?? Nothing were signed so technically my niece hasn't even been under a Section 20, and there has been no sudden change to the care that my niece receives.

Thank you in advance for any replies.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 432
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Confused and in need of help

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:03 pm

Dear KautoStar13

Welcome to the Board.

I am sorry to hear that social workers have told your sister that they will be applying for a court order in respect of her daughter.

It is unusual for social workers to become increasingly concerned about a child without sharing their concerns with the parents. If the parents have been informed they should also have been ‘supported’ to make the necessary changes to improve the child’s life. You say that nothing has changed in the child’s life, do ask you sister to tell you about any recent conversations she has had with the social worker.

Regarding the local authority’s involvement, can you say whether your niece has been subject to a child protection plan during the course of Children’s Services involvement? If she has been subject to a plan have there been any recent changes in your sister’s life that may have raised the level of concern the social worker has regarding your niece, if there are concerns then they may have caused the social worker to suggest that your niece become accommodated.

When Children’s Services suggest that they want to apply for a court order parents should be told what the reasons are – not wanting to keep a child accommodated for a long period of time cannot be the only reason to apply for a court order. Our advice sheet about care proceedings will be useful to you at this time, please take a moment to read it. If you have further questions or would like to discuss the situation with us, please call our confidential helpline on 0808 801 0366, lines are open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3pm.

Best wishes

Suzie

KautoStar13
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:10 pm

Re: Confused and in need of help

Postby KautoStar13 » Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:34 am

Hi Suzie, thank you so much for your reply. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, as you can imagine things have been very much in the air recently.

My niece is subject to a child protection plan, and during the first meeting regarding a section 20 order social services did mention four concerns they had about my nieces care. Two of these concerns were raised prior to the meeting for a section 20, and from what we were told by social services were not an issue. I would be happy to share these concerns with you via a private message if that would be ok? Since these four concerns and a step up from a section 20 order to an interim care order only a week later there have definitely been no changes in my sisters lifestyle, the care provided or any new concerns raised.

After much ringing i did manage to find a solicitor to represent us, however following a meeting with social services yesterday morning we have been informed that they are no longer pursuing an interim court order as my nieces case did not meet the threshold. When asked why there had been a sudden jump from a section 20 no mention were made of the interim court order. Instead we were told about a section 47 that were in place running alongside the section 20. Which we are highly confused about as we had been given an information booklet about the procedure for an interim court order. Adding to the confusion is the insistence on a number of occasions from the social worker that we will be going to court regardless.

We are also confused about their attitude towards my youngest niece, who does not suffer from any health problems or special needs and up until yesterday did not have a social worker. Throughout this year they have jumped from including her in the wider family picture and offering support for her, to on a number of occasions when we have voiced concerns about how decisions they have made will affect telling us it is not about her and they are here for my eldest niece only. We did voice some concerns about errors in their judgement during yesterdays meeting and were told that my youngest niece will now been assigned a social worker, who arrived very promptly yesterday afternoon without warning. Even though my youngest niece is a happy outgoing little girl with 100% attendance at school and has never been reported to social services for anything, we were told that they now had concerns about her care and she would be subject to an assessment. These concerns include the social worker seeing her around five months ago playing in the mud in the front garden unsupervised, even though she is nine years of age, does not walk to or return from school alone and does not go to the shops alone. Upon seeing my niece over five months ago we are confused as to why this "concern" would not have been addressed sooner had there been any issue. They also said she looked grubby and they were concerned that she did not always do what my sister asked.

Social services did inform us that after an interim care order had been placed on one sibling the other sibling would be investigated as procedure, is it usual for that investigation to continue after the care order has been dropped?

Also we did make in known during our meeting yesterday that we would like to have enough notice of visits and meetings in order to arrange an advocate or family member to be present as my sister is a vulnerable person and most of these meetings and visits occur when she is alone, however yesterday no notice were given of the visit from the new social worker. Would this be best included in a letter?

Although we are happy that the interim care order has been dropped and we are more than willing to work with social services we are concerned about the lack of trust and transparency. We understand that we will not be able to apply for legal aid and can not afford a solicitor, but we feel that we are in desperate need of support from what we feel is now verging on harassment.

We have started writing a letter about our concerns but do feel there will be repercussions from making our worries and concerns known.

Sorry for the long message, there are many more concerns we have but it would take me half a day to put them in writing. Thank you again for any advice or support you can offer.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 432
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Confused and in need of help

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Nov 02, 2017 1:59 pm

Dear Kautostar,

Thank you for posting back on the forum.

I think it would be helpful if you could Pm me the concerns you mention, so that I can have a better understanding of the situation.
I can certainly see why you are confused and want to question the local authority’s decision making. It sounds like a mistake was made regarding going to court for an interim care order, in respect of your older niece, because the threshold of harm had not been met. However, I am worried that things may still be on the edge of proceedings-could that be the case? In your letter, you could ask that question and also ask that the social worker, set out in writing what mum needs to do to avoid later court proceedings.
The case has been stepped down to a child protection investigation.

See here for what to expect when there is an investigation. Your older niece also remains on a child protection plan. However, she is still accommodated -so is seen to be protected.
Here is a information about accommodation

Legal representation.
Has mum got a solicitor? Given children services were about to take care proceedings, they should have advised her to get a solicitor. She would have been entitled to legal aid. Usually, unless it is an emergency situation, there is a pre- proceedings process that takes place (to try and prevent things actually going to court. Mum would then have the support a legal aid solicitor. See here.

The s47 assessment and child protection plan
You ask about mum being given notice before a social worker visits.
When there is a child protection plan, it is normal for there to be both announced and unannounced visits. This is so the social worker can get a fair picture about a family’s circumstances. A child protection plan means that children services suspect your older niece has suffered and or is at risk of suffering significant harm so will want to carry out checks to ensure she is safe. Because of this, children services are unlikely to agree that notice is always given.
Here are FAQ’s about child protection.
Advocacy
I agree, mum may benefit from having an advocate. Although she does not have a right to an advocate, it is good practice to offer a parent an advocate in these circumstances.
You could ask the social worker about advocates in your area or look on your local authority website. Here is information about advocates.


In respect your youngest niece, it is usual for her to be included in any assessment process. If she is not on the child protection plan, is she considered to be a child in need? Ask the social worker this.
Have a look at here for information about assessments.

Finally, has there been any family group conference to look for support in your family. Have a look at our advice sheet.


I hope this advice helps. I look forward to receiving your PM so that I can advise you further or you could call our advice line on 0808 801 0366

Best wishes,

Suzie


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