Neglect, sexual harm and abuse - suffolkscb.org.uk
Working with neglect in the context of austerity and deprivation Susannah Bowyer Assistant Director, Research in Practice 1 Building poverty aware practice The daily practice of social workers and others affects the lives of families living in poverty, for better or for worse. Need to reflect on: the impact of poverty on the families ability to meet their childrens needs, including experience of discrimination and
stigma, the way that practitioner interactions with families can reenforce or relieve some of that feeling of blame and disempowerment. the types of help and support that social workers and others can offer 2 Rising child and family poverty (IFS 2017) 3 Austerity and local authority services Nearly a quarter of all poor children live in just the 10% most deprived local authorities LAs with the highest levels of deprivation have both higher numbers of children
involved with statutory social care services and have experienced bigger funding cuts We find that although some kinds of childrens and young peoples services expenditure have been largely maintained during this period, preventive family support and early intervention services have seen substantial reductions in expenditure, in contrast to the dominant narrative that childrens services have been protected (Webb and Bywaters, 2018) Areas of multiple deprivation. Concentrations of people living on low incomes perpetuate isolation and segregation from the rest of society, availability of work, green space and access to other facilities and services that can alleviate the impact of poverty (Department of Health NI, 2018). Families living on low incomes in more affluent areas face a different set of challenges
4 Poverty, child abuse and neglect (CAN) Socio-economic circumstances can be both a direct and/ or indirect contributory causal factor of CAN -greater the hardship greater the likelihood and severity (Bywaters et al 2016) Poverty is neither a necessary nor sufficient factor but is perhaps the most pervasive factor Insufficient direct attention is paid to poverty - the Department for Education collects no data on the socioeconomic circumstances of families that are subject to child protection or care processes reinforcing the
invisibility of the links. 5 The care crisis The investigative turn Rising numbers of referrals and S47 investigations. Increase is not about finding more children who have been physically or sexually abused. The number of these children has changed little since 2010. It relates to neglect and emotional abuse which are more likely to be associated with the increasing inequality and growing poverty in society ( http://bilson.org.uk/child-protection/investigative-turn/) Between 1991 and 2014 referrals to CSC increased by 311% and assessments by 302%. Over the same period, detected child abuse as a proportion of referrals fell from 24% to 7% (Devine and Parker 2015)
The current policy of Early Help which aims to prevent harm needs to be explored within an understanding of the widening definitions of risk of significant harm that underpin the investigative turn. It is possible that it is contributing to the widening of the child protection net as agencies increasingly frame children in need of help as families needing to be investigated The concept of significant harm in the Children Act 1989 was intended to regulate state intervention and protect families from excessive intervention. However, the current interpretation of risk of significant harm within an investigative turn would appear to be leading to a system that is increasingly intrusive and out of control (Bilson, Featherstone and Morris 2017) 6 I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly and that too many children are allowed to stay too long with parents whose behaviour is unacceptable In all too many cases when we decide to leave children in need with their biological parents we are leaving them to endure a life of soiled nappies and scummy baths, chaos and hunger, hopelessness and despair. These children need to be rescued, just as much as the victims of any other natural disaster (Gove in the Telegraph 2012) Society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting,
including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent these are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the state to spare children all the consequences of defective parenting. In any event, it simply could not be done. Hedly J, re L 2007 7 (Dept of Health NI 2018) 8 I feel attacked when I open a newspaper, watch TV or listen to the radio. I love looking after my family and Im needed to do it. But I hate the stigma, shame, insecurity and instability that come with living on benefits. I shouldnt have to feel ashamed. Bea Poverty is a social experience of negative interactions with society. Social work can either confront or re-enforce these feelings of stigma , through language and ways of working used by practitioners (Gupta, 2017)
The effects of poverty are cumulative. Family experiences of living in poverty and with the associated risks and disadvantages, may have led to trauma, fractured social networks and untreated physical and mental health concerns. Practitioners working in areas of deprivation need to be trauma aware. 9 Experience of the child protection process (Morris et al 2018) Impact of poverty and housing often not recognised. Problems not addressed. Feeling shamed and blamed
Fear and blame feeling judged increases stress and undermines parenting Harms are located as acts of omission/commission by parents, not situated in context of poverty, debt, poor housing Practical support and emotional encouragement can make a positive difference Tackling poverty and inequality is not core business for child protection workers or policy makers; the assessment of risk and parenting capacity is (social worker in Morris et al 2018)
10 Poverty aware practice (Dept of Health NI 2018) Poverty aware practice belongs across the whole social work practice continuum from prevention to care and control. Anti-poverty practice should be embedded in routine processes such as assessment, planning and review. All assessments should include consideration of socio-economic circumstance, the impact on the individuals concerned, on household functioning and on peoples capacity to change. Both the short-term impact and the long term impacts also need to be tackled.
Do we unthinkingly make demands of service users, perhaps in child protection plans or risk management plans that create financial pressure? Do we demand such high standards of personal behaviour and self or household management that anyone would struggle? Do we give up on people who havent turned up for appointments or havent engaged without considering or tackled the underlying factors that might have caused this such as poverty? 11 Social work is a relationships based profession and social workers should form respectful relationships with service users who experience poverty which promote their dignity, self-belief and self-esteem (Dept
of Health NI 2018) Social workers are perhaps one of the most intimate relationships we have with the state and its someone who has a lot of power over us. If that person is not treating us with recognition and respect, whats it doing to our self-esteem, our sense of ourselves... Whereas if actually youve got at least one person in authority that you feel is on your side and who does recognise you, that actually can be a turning point (Family quoted in Gupta 2017a) 12 Social work and parental advocacy Involving parents with CP experience in design and delivery of services https://twitter.com/ParentAdvocNet
https://www.newbeginningsgm.com/ Social workers might do this by: challenging a landlord about their duties to make repairs. accompanying a service user to a benefits appeal hearing. negotiating better repayment terms with a loans company. 13 Final points Developing a poverty lens seeing systemic causes and relationships
To protect children and promote their welfare we need to re-focus attention on the contexts in which they live with their families (without losing sight of children at risk of serious abuse and neglect) (Gupta https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoRaezmPo7I) Social work responses to poverty must be co-produced with service users. Social workers should be very careful not to impose any particular narrative of poverty on others but should recognise that those who have experienced poverty understand it best and they should listen to and learn from that experience. (Dept of Health NI 2018) 14 Collective action https://therolesweplay.co.uk/
https://atd-uk.org/about-us/atd-fourth-world-uk/ https://www.basw.co.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-resea rch/anti-poverty-practice http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/idmap.html 15 Some related RiP resources Forthcoming Frontline briefing
Neglect mapping tool Emotional abuse and neglect Frontline briefing Child development Frontline briefing 16
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