Welcome to Family Rights Group’s parents’ discussion board and thank you for posting. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser.
I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you and your family are experiencing which are clearly very distressing for you.
From what you have said, I think that there are two different (but connected) processes going on. One is that your ex-partner, the children’s father, is applying for a child arrangements order
for the children to remain in his care. As part of this, I think the social worker is completing a section 7 (welfare) report where she will consider the welfare of the children and will make a recommendation to the court about who the children should live with and about the arrangements for the children to see their other parent. You mention that you have a barrister. That is great, as it means that you have access to legal advice/representation about this application. It is important that you work closely with your legal representative to make sure that any of your concerns about the social worker’s report are addressed and to discuss how you wish to proceed from a legal point of view. This includes discussing how to address the social worker’s evidence, if you believe that her report is inaccurate, when it is completed. If you don’t have ongoing legal representation you can find out more about the court process or seek advice from Child Law Advice
, Rights of Women
or Advice Now
The Transparency Project
charity has also produced a guidance note about the family court process where domestic violence is an issue – it also explains very helpfully what to expect when the court is making decisions about children. You can access a copy of the Domestic Abuse Guidance Note
The second process that is happening at the moment, I think, is that children’s services are undertaking an assessment
or a child protection investigation
(you mention that police are involved) because of concerns raised by your daughter and her father about your current husband. You can find out much more about assessments and child protection procedures in these specialist advice sheets on family support
and child protection procedures
The social worker has a key role in both of these processes so it must be very difficult for you that you feel she is not listening to your views at all and that you feel she is biased in favour of your ex-partner. Her role is not to take either parent’s side but to focus on the children’s needs and what is best for them. This should include hearing from you too as the children’s mother and not dismissing your experiences and your concerns. You have understandably tried to raise the issue of the history of domestic violence, your ex-partner’s drinking and offending history and your worries about how this may affect the children. However, I think you should be very cautious not to accuse the social worker of lying; what you can do is point out where you disagree with her professional opinion, highlight any factual errors in her reports and ask that they be amended. You should also put in writing the information that you feel is relevant and that needs to be included in her assessment. You should also make sure that you have a copy of the completed assessment and go through it carefully so that you can see what the social worker’s analysis of the situation is, how she has weighed up the strengths and difficulties that both you and your ex-partner have and what recommendations she is making and why.
You could also have a look at our film
and advice sheet on family group conferences
and if you believe this could be a useful way of involving your mum or other significant family members to help work out a good plan for the children, ask the social worker if she can arrange this.
You should try to find a way of working with the social worker that means you can get your views across but also allows you to understand other perspectives and to focus on the children’s needs and how you can meet them. These tips on working with a social worker
may help. We also have a charter of mutual expectations for parents and local authorities
that sets out good practice principles.
It is always best to try to resolve any problems you are having with the social worker and when necessary to challenge constructively. If this is not possible of course you have the option of making a complaint
– you can find out more about how to do this in this advice sheet on complaints
I hope this is helpful. If you would like to speak to an adviser you can call our Freephone helpline 0808 801 0366 which is open Mon- Fri from 9.30 am to 3 pm, or you can post back with a new query.
With best wishes