One of the great joys of Social Work is that you can never be right, well at least that’s how it appears or portrayed by the media. And in a blog post by Abe Laurens in the ‘not so big society’ titled ‘Shine a light’ illustrates rather well how the media portrays one image whilst the research points in a different direction.
However, children are the future of our world so it is therefore important to safeguard their well-being; and prevent harm that will affect them for the rest of their lives. And by harm we are talking about significant harm.
But what did catch my eye this week was a Blog posted on the Community Care Children’s service blog post about neglect! and what is good enough parenting? A term so heavily used in Care Proceedings and Child Protection. Action for Children in their recent report found on the blog or here that:
- ” Two-thirds (67%) feel that the law on parenting is confusing.
- Nearly three-quarters (72%) agree that there is no common understanding of what ‘good enough’ parenting is.
- Only 16% agree that the law should not intervene in how people choose to raise their children.
- Most parents (59%) believe that the state has a duty to intervene.
- When asked what would help parents to meet their responsibilities, two-thirds (66%) call for a clear law which can be understood by all.
- Support services were identified as the key way to help parents if things go wrong (73%). Action for Children 2012″
The main reason for this is because
“In April next year the law on neglect will be 80 years old – Action for Children does not want to see that anniversary come and go without government commitment that it will be changed so that more children are protected.”
For those of you who are a parent, or planning to be a parent there is always a worry about whether you are making the right decisions for your children. The worry and guilt if you say ‘No’ and whether your children will forgive you for saying ‘No’. Of course they do! and from this develops their trust and love in you, but at three in the morning when they are crying because they are unwell or missed school due to a lot of sickness you can start to question your own decisions.
However, do I need a law to tell me this? No I probably wouldn’t although I have the luxury of 15 years of training, reading and direct childcare experience and two great children that test me and reward me with their love (I hope).
More to the point does the law need to change? Do parents know what is expected of them? and do parents understand what neglect is? Of course we do and rather than have a new law we do require an understanding of neglect through positive media images of the work that social workers, teachers, health professionals, and volunteers do on a daily basis to prevent families breaking down.
Child development theories have been clear about the stages that babies, toddlers Children and young people move through. This is regularly measured and monitored by health professionals starting with the Midwife, then the Health Visitor and then School Nurse and General Practitioner. Inevitably with the cut backs in Public services the observations made by these professionals will affect the number of families that can be identified at an early stage.
Furthermore the law is clear about Children’s attendance at school and also there is clear law around substance misuse and Domestic Violence.
However, what is lacking in English Law is the consideration for all legislation to include relevant consideration to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child . We do have the Children Act 1989 and also the Children Act 2004, which with all of the guidance and the Working together documents highlights what Child Neglect is.
The real message is that neglect does not just occur in poorer families, and neglect can be identified through knowledge and observations from Professionals and then assessed by Social Workers. The concern is that there will be no law passed by next April, instead the real concern is that Neglect is a priority of the Government that could be lost with the cuts that they are trying to make.
It remains important that the assessments made by Social Workers are respected and checked by their managers as a Safeguard to rogue assessments. That, neglect remains on the agenda of everyone but allowing families to live their lives. The law is already in place to protect children, research is available about neglect and more research is currently being undertaken.
Social Work is not about herding children into care, it is about protection and support and Neglect or good enough parenting will be different from family to family and hard to legislate and enforce.