My attempts to help change children services

blueplain
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:07 pm

My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:23 pm

Hello all. I am going to start writting many letters to whoever I can to help reform children services. Here is the first letter I have sent to my local MP.

Dear Mr M

I would like to discuss with you my concerns of the current children services system. I feel that the matter should be brought up in the houses you seat.
Every parent going through this system should at least automatically get a councillor who does not report to children services so that they all can discuss frustrations without fear and seek the reassurance they need. Parents avoid counselling due to fear of the repercussions such action would cause. They fear to being seen mentally unfit or unwell to care for their children and as such actively avoid any health related action. I am positive that in a lot of cases, parents lead up to having their children taken due to the stress and anxiety such intervention imposes. Children services cannot efficiently help any parent if they themselves are causing deterioration in health and confidence.
Furthermore there are cases that continue for years without an option of respite for parents that they can take without fear. I feel all parents should be automatically provided respite with each year they are under investigation. This does not automatically mean a holiday but for a period of time in which investigation and correspondence from children services stops. In its place a trip to the doctor once a week can be put in place with a health check so that the parents can have a time to relive the stress and anxiety the year of intervention has presented.
I strongly feel that the mental health of parents have been seriously overlooked and too much concentration has been placed on evidence collection and swift removal of children. Instead of strong active support for parents outside meetings, they are receiving criticism and discussions in which the parents are being told of their inabilities around a table at the height of intervention of around 20 professionals. The criticism is strong but the information on how to improve is weak. There should be a system in which states, this skill needs improving, and you need to take this exact action by this date, be it a course or receiving extra professionals. Another big strain for the parents is accepting professionals who will deliver more negative evidence towards them. If a case is going badly it is in a parent’s interest not to accept further professionals due to this increasing the negative reports being fed back. Instead parents should receive professionals which will not report back to children services unless there was an extreme risk to the children’s health. How can parents except further judges in their lives? How can they accept further investigation? The only way professional uptake will increase is if the services can be implemented in which the professionals helping the parents do not deliver negative feedback. This breaks the trust and increases the gap in relationship between professional and professional worker. Instead the social worker should make regular visits in which the social worker alone with the input from schools and nursery’s deliver the feedback and not everyone helping the parent. This destroys the parent’s confidence and willingness to allow further professionals into their lives. This exactly points to the lack of staff which is over burdened with caseloads. Without this improving the system I suggest cannot be put in place. It is a bigger burden on the economy but money well spent. England should be a shining example of child and family care.
I am very serious with the points I have brought up and I know a large number of parents who will stand with me on this from the parent forums. I hope to receive a reply from you soon and serious steps taken to the actual discussion of this issue.

blueplain
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:07 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:48 am

That letter was completely ignored, so I wrote to number 10, which I assume shall be ignored also. However I shall keep chipping away until changes are made

I felt the need to write to you in regards to the aspect of children services I know needs changing. I speak on behalf of many parents of which I speak to on a daily basis. I shall get straight to the point. Parents are put through evaluations, meetings, opinions and reports without any attention given to their mental well-being. Some parents have sat in meeting of up to 20 professionals, all of which are their to discuss the faults of the parent/parents. They are left with the emotional fallout of the intervention and do not approach any health professional in fear that they will be seen as unable to cope. This intervention is driving people into depression and high levels of stress, damaging their ability to improve their situation. They care for their children deeply and on allot of occasions miss the skills required or just get bogged down with life. I therefore implore you, for the sake of parents across Britain to implement a mandatory councilor that does not report back.

warthhog123
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:07 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by warthhog123 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:57 am

I am right with you on your plight but unfortunately every one writes to all these people and they have no back bone to get involved. The shambolic system is too great to tackle.
You could write to the man in charge of the court side and he already agrees and has wrote so in the daily mail Sir James Munby he is supposedly sorting it out. As far as i am aware he has or is to lift the gagging order on parents for speaking out which is a small start.

blueplain
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Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:06 pm

I just received a reply form my local MP

Dear Mr N

Apologies for the late reply to your letter dated 13 September regarding the children services system. This is due to my heart surgery over the summer, followed by rest and recuperation, hence the build up of mail.

Thank you for bringing up the issue and for your information on the way the system is working to the detriment of parents. I don`t have any power in this area but I can see the problem and am taking up the issue with both local Social Services and the responsible Minister to complain about national policy. I will, therefore, send you the replies in due course.

Yours sincerely

(local MP)

I hope this goes somewhere. I am looking to push it and I am also going to try and get in contact with anyone else who has begun their fight to reform children services as warthhog123 pointed out someone who could be of use to me. If you could all reply to this on your feelings of the service you received then I could build up a resume of the overall feeling about the service.
Last edited by blueplain on Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

frustrated mum
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by frustrated mum » Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:26 pm

the service I have received so far,and they have only been a thorn in my side for a month is bloody awful. social services is based on a bed of lies for their own gain, they work against parents not with them. I take my hat off to you for your dealing with them for so long. Amazing that what was said in the meeting last week never made it to the report. surprise surprise. Need any back up i'm at my laptop ready!

Kati
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:37 pm
Location: County Durham

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by Kati » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:56 am

I had three years with (what I thought) was a NICE sw assistant - with no contact with an actual fully trained sw - who never once criticised me or my family, and tried to help me when my children were being bullied in school and when I wanted to move house. After I move, this person reported me to ss in my new area - saying she had concerns about me (which are untrue, and I am currently trying to prove this).
A sw came out, to do an initial assessment on my children (not on my unborn child though??) and used these false 'facts' from the sw assistant as an excuse to push for a core assessment on my family. Not once have my partner and I been given a chance (so far) to look through the referrals/reports this sw has received about my family, so we have only been told once (when she came out to do the initial assessment) what these concerns are. I have contacted the sw by email, asking her to post me copies of all the paperwork she holds on my family to date (under the freedom of informations act) - and am waiting for a reply as we speak ... but (as I have already asked her twice previously, to no avail) I have no guarantee that this will happen any time soon.
I think that, while there are some really good sw etc... out there, they seem to be few and far between. Maybe it's because they have such big case-loads?? Maybe if there were more sw (so they had less 'clients' each) the service would be better?? Maybe if the process was more clear-cut from the beginning, there would be less criticism/bad press towards Children's Services?? But until this happens, I'm afraid all we are going to see are more and more horror-stories about this service.
Until we, as parents, are given the respect we deserve - and are told what is going to happen (and when/why/how) - I cannot believe that CS will ever have a good reputation. The overworked have a tendency to either miss something important (which could result in a major problem in the long-run) or to push for something that they do not have any evidence for (and families can be torn apart through untruths or half-truths just as easily).We need CS to be as open with us as possible ... to tell us of any concerns they have before they become a problem ... to keep us informed of anything new (so we do not go into meetings/receive reports etc... full of surprises, with no chance to prepare ourselves beforehand). Mistakes have been, and will carry on being, made - children have 'fallen through the cracks' or been failed, families have been separated through lies - but until there is a total transparency in the way CS work (for each family/person involved), I cannot see there being any changes.

I wish you luck with your attempt, and hope something good comes of it!

Kati

blueplain
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:07 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:09 pm

Thank you both. I just got this reply from the government, which is completely off topic and not even related to my request in the slightest.

Thank you for your email of 22 October, addressed to the Prime Minister, about Children's Services. Your letter has been passed to this department as we are responsible for the policy on children in care. On this occasion I have been asked to reply.

I note your concerns and views about Children's Services. Unfortunately, I can only advise that the remedy for anyone dissatisfied with the outcome of their case is to take legal advice and appeal to a superior court, if so advised. This is also the remedy for anyone who has reason to believe that their case was conducted improperly in some way.

If anyone is unhappy with the process that the local authority (LA) has engaged in, they have the right to make a formal complaint under the LA’s complaints procedures. They can do this by writing to either the Director of Children’s Services or the Designated Complaints Officer for the LA. They must then consider the complaint, appointing at least one person independent of the LA to take part in dealing with the issues raised, and provide them with a written response within 28 days.

If anyone is unhappy with the LA’s response, they may request a Panel hearing by writing to the authority within 28 days of the response. The Panel should be chaired by an independent person. If anyone remains dissatisfied with the handling of their complaint under the local procedures and thinks that the LA has treated them unfairly as a result of bad or inefficient management ('maladministration') and that this has caused them injustice (such as loss, injury or upset), they may wish to refer their complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

Once again, thank you for writing and I hope this reply is helpful.

I suggested that they should look at implementing counselling for people going through intervention. What is all this dribble I get in response.

blueplain
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:07 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:25 pm

I just recieved a letter from parliment, which my local MP insitgated. It is a reply to my concerns about how intervention effects the mental health or parents and that parents do not get respite from long term intervention. The letter goes as follows.

Thank you for your letter of 6 November, enclosing correspondence from your constituent Mr N of (address) about the effects of social services intervention on parents.

I appreciate mr N has concerns about the impact of child protection investigations on parents. I also note that he has suggested that it would help alleviate this if the parent was automaticly offered a counsellor whilst parents had breaks where children services stopped investigating and corresponding with them.

The children Act 1989 is the legal framework for the care and protection of vulnerable children. A key principle of the Act is that children are best looked after within their families, with their parents playing a fdull part in their lives, unless compulsory intervention in family life is necessary. When children's services are involved with a family about the care and protection of a child. they must involve the parent in making decisions and plans for the child. How they do this depends on why they are involved with the child, the parents situation, and whether they have parental responcerbility for the child.

I understand mr N point that the investigation process can be stressful, as the decisions being made have very seriouse consequences for the child and for other family members. The first concern of the authories engaged with families though, must be the welfare of the children involved. I do not think therfore, it would be possible to offer parents respite from them if there were concerns that the child may be at risk. Social workers should be clear with parents about timescales for assessment and the expectations they have for parents. Assessment and planning for the child, while being very clear about any risks, should also set out realistic and informed appraisal of any strengths and resources within the family.

The statutory guidance in this area is working together to safeguard children 2013. The guidance states that plans should set out clear measurable outcomes for the child and expectations for the parents and should reflect the positive aspects of the family situation as well as the weaknesses. The guidance also says that parents should routinely be given information about advocacy services. and advised that they can bring an advocate, friend or supporter to any child protection conferences, so that parents can have some support through the process. The conference can include a range of professionals, as they may be able to offer important information about the child's needs and circumstances.

Mr N may like to be made aware of the Family Rights Group (FRG). The FRG can talk to parents about the specific circumstances of their case and they can offer advice. The department funds the FRG to provide independent advice, information and advocacy support to families involved with children's services about the care and protection of their children. Their website is: (This website lol)

My reply

Dear (person involved)

I am very grateful that you took the time to consider and reply to my concerns, I appreciate that you are busy and you are taking my concerns seriously. However, I would like to make some points which I feel still need addressing within my concern.

Firstly, I would like to give you an idea of my background so you know why I am trying to make children services a better service for parents. My family had intervention for 4 years. Over different local authorities and with multiple social workers. I have also spoken to many parents on the FRG forums and Netmums e.c.t. Due to this I have had a good deal of knowledge and experience around intervention and procedure. In fact, after my intervention I had made various complaints, which were upheld and I was given various apologies for the poor service I had received. At first I thought that my case might have been in the minority. However, my research, looking into various Ofsted reports, parent testimonials and at my Local citizens advice bureau has lead me to believe that there is widespread failure in regards to the service provided by multiple local authority children services. Now that I have given you an idea of my background, I would like to address the letter I received written by yourself.

I would like to address the point in which you state "social workers should". I completely understand why you would phrase this sentence in such a way. I am sure you would agree with me that there are many occasions in which social workers should have given paperwork, followed time scales and kept parents well informed. However, when looking at statistics and cases in general, The amount of cases where actions should have been taken is alarming to say the least. I know that there are systems in place which parents are able to approach and address these concerns, in regards to making complaints, speaking to managers and so forth. However, at this point the damage has been done. Parents loose trust in the services and negative emotions build up which affect their ability to look after the welfare of their children. The standards of social workers' education vary greatly depending on where they study and parents suffer due to this. In my own case when I attempted to make a complaint, my complaint was well outside of the time scale and the complaint service was very poor. I have now received an apology for this. However, this makes me worry about the reach of parents' complaints and if they receive a high enough standard for the complaint procedure, which compounds the experience further and can really affect a parents moral and mental state.

I would also like to address your statement in which you said

"The first concern of the authority engaged with families, though, must be the welfare of the children involved. I do not think, therefore, it would be possible to offer parents respite from them if there were Concerns that the child may be at risk."

I would like to look at this statement in a different angle and put it to you that it is part of this thought process that is creating the weakness. In not looking after the welfare of the parent you are impeding their ability to look after the welfare of the child. This goes against the policy of attempting to keep the child with their natural parents. If the services paid as much attention to the parents, mental and physical health as they do the children. Then the chances of the parents to be able to take care of the children's welfare would increase dramatically.

For example, a parent is overweight and has low self esteem, even more since they are now going through intervention and their skills as a parent are in question. Would it be part of your procedure to help the parent attain a healthy diet, a good fitness plan and therapy for their low self esteem? Do you have any procedure in place for painfully shy parents, who appear to be withdrawn but just find social situation difficult? What about depression caused by the intervention?

The procedure at the moment seems to concentrate on the child's health except at the point in which the parents need help with alcohol and drug abuse. There is a wider range of medical issues other than drugs and alcohol and procedure needs to be in place to help these parents. The parents are too scared to approach medical expects in fear that this would negatively impact the investigation.

I would also like to touch upon the advocacy you mentioned. I know of parents who are too embarrassed or overwhelmed to ask a friend, family member or professional to sit with them as an advocate. Perhaps they could have counseling to help them accept advocacy and help with their intervention?

So in summary, I put this to you, What is being done to support the physical and mental health of parents? What procedures are in place to improve a parent mental and physical health so that they can support their child's welfare? Forget my suggestion of respite and councils and think what could be done to implement solutions for the concerns I have raised.

I thank you for reading my reply and I hope my words can help parents across the country

Kind Regards

N

ange301126
Posts: 537
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Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by ange301126 » Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:47 am

AT LAST- A BREAKTHROUGH!
Dear Blueplain, Your ground-breaking letters are written in a way which stirs a fabulous response. When I wrote to my MP, he contacted the Local Authority who wrote a short letter back and he accepted their word, without demur. It is a miracle you got such replies. God works in strange ways. With the right help from professional advocates, this ought to be a turning point to the future.
I am particularly interested in the letter from Parliament. Once again, I am astonished. As warthhog correctly says, many people, even MP’S, lack the backbone to get involved. She will be surprised too. How do you do it? You appear to have real influence. The Parliamentary spokesman states clearly the key point that children are best kept within their families. He also indicates that Parliament expects the Local Authorities to follow legal guidance. This confirms my own view that there is little wrong fundamentally with the Children’s Act. The only problems arise from the L.A’s illegitimate aims and contravention of legal guidelines.
I know you think that the responses missed the point you were trying to make. However, it is explained how the Government expects child-protection investigations to proceed according to set guidelines within the framework of the Children’s Act. He also lists some of the procedures which the CS should follow , parents to take a full part; to be clear about timescales; REASONABLE AND INFORMED APPRAISALS; parents to be given information about advocacy services; clear ,measurable outcomes for children and expectations for parents etc. etc. All these procedures are already written into the statute book to alleviate the mental stresses you talk about and to ensure correct decisions. We all know that, in many cases, social workers rarely do any of those things.
Crucially, one of the letters advises what the Government regards as a family’s remedy if it has reason to believe a case is conducted wrongly in any way. It should appeal to a court. Individual parents are best-placed to know whether procedures have been followed and they should be heard. If a Local Authority ignores procedures in out-of- court child protection and one isn't happy, then the remedy is for one to instigate litigation in the family proceedings court to protect one's family. It says you can consult with the FRG who will advise you what your rights are and provide advocacy support. This would save much mental stress and harm to children and parents. Of course, it would also forestall any CS plans to take action in court against you using unlawful evidence.
I think it is quite an exclusive that you have managed to get such measured, influential, legal advice direct from the (Crown) Government. It is the very latest official position. Access to advice from the temples of justice is normally beyond ordinary parents. I am sure i don’t need to point out to you and other parents that it totally overrides all the advice which is habitually given to us by others in the system, so-called professional or not. Not one social worker, advisor, Citizens Advice bureau, legal centre, solicitor or barrister has given such clear advice in all the years I have been involved. They always advise that whatever the situation, it is in your interests to cooperate with the CS. They appear not to accept any possibility that such advice is against the paramount interests of your children. It is as if they just can’t hear parents. We now have contrary advice from on high. The Government recognises that cooperating with a social work department which will not do its job correctly is illogical. Despite all the OFSTED reports and serious case reviews which find against the CS and against all the anecdotal evidence of parents, solicitors, in particular, still advise you to trust them. They contradict scientific reason. In reality, to do so is like jumping off the Eiffel Tower in the belief that you can fly! At last we have some good advice from those who understand the Law fully, the actual lawmakers.
Parents should be absolutely clear on this point.
We should also note that it is IMMEDIATE COURT ACTION which L.A. lawyers advise social workers to take against parents who don’t go along with legal procedures. In the paramount interests of their children, neither should parents give social workers excessive timescales or leeway in which to change.
The Government cannot be argued with and demonstrates its good intentions and fairness when the spokesman says that it funds the FRG to provide independent advice, information and advocacy support to families. Advocacy means active intervention. Support means backing. The Government funds the group to provide it to parents. As the FRG experts will know, by dictionary definition, advocacy means active intervention in backing a parent’s cause. Advocacy also means judicial pleading. Thus, according to the Government, who I presume to be the group’s primary source of funds, active support of a parent’s cause in court when family rights are contravened is part of the FRG’s brief. This may mean by the group’s own advocacy i.e. active intervention or by supporting our own advocates. This is a dark area. Perhaps Suzie will clarify the FRG’s position. It seems clear, however, that whichever is the case, the FRG wouldn’t be exceeding its remit if it gave its written professional opinion to support a family’s individual cause when a Local Authority exceeds its powers and neglects family rights to fair procedure in any way. In Magistrates or County Courts, this would have the potential to swing a case decisively and rescue a family from a cruel fate. It would be difficult to argue with the considered professional opinion of an independent, Government-sponsored body.

Blueplain, major changes and shockwaves are needed to change the CS. Will you join me ( perhaps others will aswell) and appeal to the FRG, in the first instance, to adapt policies and and re-consider its advice to parents in line with the letter you have received? The Governments ambitions for the group are detailed. Suzie, please come back to us on this thread.
Correct procedures are definitely not followed in many cases. Particularly, at the early stages when the CS neglects them, this leads to UNREASONABLE AND MISINFORMED APPRAISALS of risk to be made. Family Rights are contravened. The message from the inner sanctum of power (and the haunts of the Lords Chief Justices themselves) is clear that the Government expects them to be, indeed the Law commands it. It advises parents to take court action in cases where they aren’t.
The letters also explain the governments intended remedy for people like me who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their court case because it was conducted improperly in some way. Appeal to a superior court. Our solicitor turned a blind eye to all the improprieties, advised us to accept the judgment, make a complaint under the L.A. complaints procedure if we were unhappy and to cooperate with the care-order. Stupidly, against my judgment, we followed the advice. I wonder how many hundreds have fallen into the same trap.
In my personal case, we have already lost our children. This applies to countless others. As the letter from Parliament confirms, the remedy is to appeal to a higher court. The Courts will not grant leave to appeal except in exceptional circumstances. The legal funding commission will not grant funding unless we have a reasonable chance of success. A proactive letter of support from the FRG would certainly help us; if we showed it our MP, he might also give us more support and a letter from him, added to that of the FRG would support our advocates (barristers) in making applications. The two letters together with other fresh evidence may well amount to the exceptional reasons required. Of course, I may be wrong. Suzie, could you advise what you think a Court is likely to consider as exceptional circumstances? Clearly the Crown spokesman advises that I should appeal if hearings have been conducted wrongly in some way.
In my case, the L.A. also ignored court orders and we have evidence to support us. The lesson, in warthhog’s case, was that active intervention by an influential professional was all it needed to get rapid justice and this applies to us all. The FRG, thanks to its advice on the forums that parents write to their MP, has helped Blueplain to turn the tide. The forums have proved invaluable.
I can only but suggest humbly that the group should immediately plan to arrange for two test cases on the BEHALF OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. One, where rights are contravened in out-of-court proceedings and another when court proceedings have been abused. I predict there will be many volunteers to take part in test cases. I, for one put my family forward.

Whether the FRG chooses to support parents in the way I have suggested (I hope it replies to this message) is important. Should it address what PARENTS and Parliament regard as the nitty-gritty or should it continue as it has done?
Whatever, the immediate remedy is now clear as is the advice of Parliament. Parents must be strong, act decisively themselves and instruct solicitors accordingly. EUREKA!

blueplain
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:07 pm

Re: My attempts to help change children services

Post by blueplain » Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:54 pm

Thank you ange! I put a lot of passion and thought into my letters and I feel I have fallen upon a stride that stirs well thought out responces. I feel my case and how I was treated has shocked my MP which in turn has caused him to want to push these issues with me. I am a well spoken confident person and I feel I have what it takes to push out a message and I will spend every ounce of energy I have in spreading awareness, even amongst the power that be themselves and trying my utmost to changen policy and procedure. Will you be joining the FRG parent panel Ange? If we was united together within the panel I think we could move mountains. I wish you had a different out come and I have everyone's back here. Vi va la resistance!

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