For parents who have received their first visit, letter or
phone call from a social worker, their immediate reaction is
usually concern, distress and panic. However, a calm and measured
approach in these early stages can often prevent the matter
reaching a Courtroom.
Social services support families and safeguard children who
may be at risk of harm, or have previously suffered
significant harm from family members or others. Often, social
services provide support to families who are in need of additional
help which they cannot receive from schools, GPs or other health
What is the social worker looking for?
Social workers have a duty to investigate whenever there is
suspicion that the welfare of a vulnerable child is at risk. These
suspicions are usually brought about by 'referrals', or in
other words, messages of concern from schools, medical professions,
family members or even neighbours. The involvement of the social
services often makes families feel anxious as they are worried
social workers will remove their children from the family home.
However, this will only happen if there is clear evidence that the
child is at risk of significant harm.
What should I do?
If social services have become involved with your family, your
priority must be your children, and in particular, demonstrating to
the social workers that the children are not suffering or likely to
suffer harm in your care. There is no magic formula to demonstrate
this, but in our experience the most important things you should do
Cooperate with the social workers. Be open, honest and
friendly, even if you are feeling fearful or defensive. Being
honest where you have made mistakes makes you more believable when
you deny other allegations.
If your children end up on a Child in Need or Child Protection
Plan, do what is asked of you. Attend all meetings and complete any
courses you are asked to attend. You must demonstrate that you are
determined to do all it takes to care for your children and make
them your priority.
Keep conflict to a minimum. Not just between you and the
professionals, but between family members. If children are exposed
to arguments or violence between parents, then this itself will be
viewed as a risk of significant harm.
Your first instinct may be to be as defensive and obstructive as
possible, and resist the intrusion into your private and family
life. However, you should resist this in favour of a single-minded
determination to demonstrate to the Local Authority why your
children are safe in your care.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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