Child Neglect and Protection

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    • 00:01

      [MUSIC PLAYING]I'm Ray Jones.I'm a social worker, and I've beena social worker for 50 years.Amongst my other roles, I was a social services directorfor 14 years.I've been the chair of the British Associationof Social Workers, the chief executive of the Social Care

    • 00:23

      Institute for Excellence.And most recently, I've been a professor of social workat Kingston University and St. Georges University of London,the medical school at Tooting.Neglect and emotional abuse--and often they're conflated in terms of how different

    • 00:44

      local authorities use those terminologies--have major impacts on children in terms of their development,their welfare, their experience of living today,but also their future.So it's important that we identify itand that we tackle it when we do identify it.

    • 01:06

      Well, if we go back 40 years to the early 1970s,that's the time when an integratedprofession of social work was developed in the UnitedKingdom.There was a major news story about the deathof a little child, seven-year-old Maria Colwellwhile in East Sussex who died as a consequence of abuseand neglect.And that led to the first big public inquiry.

    • 01:27

      And since that time in 1973 and 1974,there have been a number of other major storieswhich have hit the media about the deaths of children,probably most recently with the greatest impact, PeterConnelly's death in 2007, reported in 2008 whenthree adults were found guilty of causing INAUDIBLE his death.And that led to a major spur in terms of child protection

    • 01:52

      activity.It started in the '70s, but it's escalated since 2008.And if we look at the trends over the last nine years,for example, there's been major increases,as you can see from the tables, in termsof the number of so-called section 47 investigations,those child protection investigations,the number of child protection case conferences,

    • 02:13

      the number of child protection plans,and even significantly, the number of care proceedingsbeing initiated in the courts by local authorities.That's gone up by 130% in the last nine years.That's a heck of a lot of additional activityfor social workers, health visitors, doctors,schoolteachers, police officers.But it's a trend which is continuing.

    • 02:35

      And if we also look at how that trend rolls out, much of itis about increased identificationof neglect and emotional abuse.The public at large probably thinkchild protection is about physical abuse and dealingwith sexual abuse.Actually, if you look at the figures,well over 80% of the child protection plans in England

    • 02:58

      are as a consequence of concerns about neglectand emotional abuse.It's a really big part now of social workers' workloads.Neglect is not like sexual abuse or physical abuse.And with sexual abuse and physical abuse,there's usually the information about something which

    • 03:19

      has happened as an incident.Somebody has been hit, or they'vegot a broken arm as a consequenceof a radial fracture, or their arm being twisted,or something like that there.There's bruising.If it's sexual abuse, there's a storyto be told about the event or the incident of abuse.With neglect and emotional abuse as well,these are chronic rather than acute issues.They are issues which are cumulative

    • 03:40

      in terms of their impact rather than just there as a crisis.And it's very difficult for social workers and othersto work out when best to intervene.If, for example, you have concerns raised with youabout neglect, initially you're tryingto work out what's happened over a period of time,and when best to intervene, and how best to intervene.

    • 04:00

      If, six months later, your interventions reallyhaven't had much impact, but nothing's reallychanged for the child, there is a dangerthat we get almost anesthetized to what'shappening to the child and lose the focuson that cumulative impact on the children.And that's why it's hard in termsof neglect and emotional abuse, because there's nothing that

    • 04:22

      requires an instant reaction.But it is something that we've got to keep on the ballwith and not lose sight of.And as an anecdote, many people might know the storyabout the frog in the saucepan.This story-- as I say, many people would know about--is if you put a frog into a cold saucepan of water,and you heat it up gradually, the frog

    • 04:43

      gets slightly acclimatized and enamoredto the water heating up.Doesn't jump out of the saucepan.When the water boils, the frog bows as well.And that's different from when youput a frog into a saucepan of boiling water.The frog jumps out instantly.Well, it's a bit like that with neglect and emotional abuse.Because it's something that's gradualin terms of its impact over time, we may not react to it

    • 05:05

      and respond to it until a lot of damage has been done.If we look at what's happened since the Baby P story brokein November, 2008, we see some really concerningstrong trends in terms of child protection workloads.When the story broke in November, 2008,there was an instant response in terms of escalating child

    • 05:27

      protection activity.Probably as a consequence of other agencies--health visitors, doctors, police officers,teachers-- all becoming more alert, and also more concernedabout the incidents of child protection,but also, a fear that if they did not blow the whistle on it,they also could be in the media firing line.So the referrals coming into child protection, social work

    • 05:49

      services increased very quickly in November, 2008.And that's shown up-- it's an increasing trendwhich has continued.It hasn't come down or quieted down over the last nine years.So for example, over the last nine years,the number of child protection investigationsbeing undertaken by social workers, sometimeswith the police, those section 47 investigations,

    • 06:12

      have gone up by 108%.The number of initial child protection case conferences,those meetings bringing together professionalsto think about what's happening for a child followingthose initial child protection investigations,have gone up by 75%.The number of children with child protection planshave gone up by 73%.These are massive increases in workloads

    • 06:34

      for social workers and others.We talked about a 10% increase or 20% increase or whatever.We would think that was big.A 70% to 100% increase in child protection activityis really big.And if, with our child protection plans,it's not getting better for the child,we might be initiating care proceedingsin a court to have a child removed from their family.

    • 06:56

      Those proceedings have gone up by a staggering130% since 2009.Indeed, if you look at the figures,you can see there's a change very quickly in November, 2009in terms of the number of applicationsbeing made to the courts by local authorities.The response to the Baby P story was instant and dramatic.What that now means--

    • 07:17

      every day of the year, 365 days a year,there are, on average, 500 new child protection investigationsbeing initiated in England.Every day of the year--Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Saturdays and Sundays,right across the year.Over 500 new child protection investigations being initiatedacross England every day.

    • 07:38

      My view is it's probably too many.One of the things is because of the cutsand because of the less help that'snow available to families at the same timethat more families are being pushed into poverty,and deprivation for some families,and some children becoming destitution--less help available, more work to be done.

    • 07:59

      We're treating more of it now as child protectionrather than as how can we help the families.Because our capacity to help has been squeezed by the chosenpolicies of austerity.So we're probably doing too much as child protectionand not enough in terms of helping families.But that shows up in the figures that we've now got.

    • 08:24

      I think some of it is a response to the mediaand the concerns from both social workers,but other professionals as well, that theydon't want to be in the media spotlightif something awful is found to have happened,and then in the frame to be blamed for it.So we're possibly overreacting sometimesto concerns about children.But the other issue which I think is of great significance,

    • 08:46

      and certainly since 2010 and the impact of increasing povertyfor families and children as a consequenceof the government-imposed cuts on local authorities, 40% cutsin government funding to local authorities since 2010,is that as more and more families are being pushedinto poverty, and local authorities have less resources

    • 09:07

      to help these families, we're seeing an increase of concernsabout the capacity of parents to care well for their children.And why do we know that that is so?Well, if we look at the research of Bilson, of Bywaters,of Hood, and of others, we can see a really strong correlationbetween deprivation and child protection activity.

    • 09:27

      Those areas of the country which are the most deprivedare the areas which have the highest child protectionactivity.Why is that so?Well, my view is not because those parents are less caringor even less competent.But they are the parents under most stress and strain.And if you're under strain and stressall the time, you get worn down.If you get worn down, it's hard to care for your children well.

    • 09:49

      And I think that correlation between deprivation and childprotection activity really is significant,but one, I have to say, at the moment, which the governmenthas not really faced up to.Well, one of the things about neglect and emotional abuseis sometimes we just see it as one category,

    • 10:10

      one type of issue.But if we drill down into it, we cansee that there are different types of neglectthat we have to respond to.The first type we might call passive neglect.This is where-- for example, when we found this from a studythat we did of troubled families programs in South London,there are mothers-- and they often are just mothers,single parent mothers--

    • 10:31

      who themselves might have experienced abuse,domestic violence, who themselvesmight be struggling with poverty, poor housing,are absolutely overwhelmed in terms of stresses and strainsin their lives with very few supports around themin terms of family or whatever.And they crumble.They're exhausted.They have difficulty getting up in the morning.They might themselves turn to alcohol,

    • 10:53

      or they may have depression and be on anti-depressants.And the capacity and the energy that theyhave to care well for their children is very limited.And within that type of neglect, passive neglect,one of the things that we ought to be thinkingabout as social workers is how we actuallysupport those mothers, how we lift them up again, howwe give them the energy.One of the things we need to do is to be beside them--

    • 11:15

      not battering them, but helping them.And that might be practical help as well as emotional help,helping them to see a way forwardand helping them to see value for themselves.The second type of neglect we might call chaotic neglect.That's where parents have had very poor parentingexperiences themselves, don't necessarilyknow how to parent well.They may have very low self-esteem

    • 11:36

      as a consequence of their own parenting experiences.And one of the consequences of that is theymight be quite self-centered in terms of their behaviorand quite chaotic.They're not lacking in energy, but they're lacking in focus.Or if the focus is there, it's a focus on themselves rather thanon their children.And the consequence for those childrenis that they experience both neglect, but also sometimes

    • 11:59

      emotional abuse.And one of the tasks for social workers and others,then, is to challenge the parents about that,but also to help the parents to understandthe needs of their children somewhat moreand to change their focus.It might require parent training and parenting classes,but it also requires helping the parents to understandhow they can structure their lives somewhat differently

    • 12:20

      to give more space and time to their children.And the third type of neglect is the onewhich is really quite frightening, because itrequires a very quick response.And that's neglect which is deliberate and acute andactive.And that is where a parent-- and it might be step parents.And I can think of, for example, the death of Daniel Parkerin Coventry, a little boy who was targeted by a new step

    • 12:44

      father, and as a consequence, unprotected by the mother, who,over a period of time, experienced very active neglectin terms of being denied food, being locked away,and being isolated.And those types of neglect, active neglect,

    • 13:05

      are often associated also, I haveto say, with domestic violence.They're about power and control.They're about a parent, often not the natural parent,being controlling of children, but also their partner.And the danger is that escalates very quicklyin terms of violence, as it did with Daniel Parker.And what we need to do there, with the policeand with the courts, is to be very active in not

    • 13:26

      just challenging that, but taking preventive actionto stop that abuse continuing and potentially escalating.Because of that frog in the saucepan story--or the, if you like, anecdote--

    • 13:46

      the consequence is that social workers seeing families dayafter day, week after week, hour after hour,can get somewhat blinded to the impact of continuingneglect for themselves.And because they see it quite frequently,the impact that it's having may sometimesbecome a little bit marginalized in terms of their thinking

    • 14:07

      and what they're seeing.And that's where organizations are really important in makingsure that within those organizations,there's both the time for the workers to reflect and to thinkfor themselves rather than just running from visit to visit,case to case, court proceedings to court proceedings,but also that there's supervision in terms of what wecall reflective supervision, time for the social worker

    • 14:30

      and others-- we might be thinking of health visitorsor police officers or others--to think about what they're seeing in front of them,to be a little bit challenged in that supervisionas well in terms of what sense we're making of whatwe're seeing in front of us.And thinking hard about, in particular, what's itlike when we're not there?What's it like for a child in a family,in that house, in that street, back in that bedroom,

    • 14:54

      wherever they are, when we're not there?And sometimes those are hard thoughts to have.And organizations need to make surethat workers have the opportunity and the spaceto have those thoughts, but also are promoted and encouragedto have these thoughts through good supervisionfrom their supervisors and managers.

    • 15:18

      In relation to neglect, I'd suggest three.Takeaway number one is to recognize the recent trends.And that tremendous escalation in child protection activitiessince 2008 is very demanding.The question is, is it necessary or sensible?I do think that we have to reflectvery hard about whether we're now capturing

    • 15:40

      too many people in the net of child protectionand whether we're not actually providing enough supportand assistance to families to help them to carefor their children well.The second takeaway is recognize that neglect is notjust one category.There's different types of neglect,and they require different responses.And through our reflective supervisionthat hopefully organizations make available,

    • 16:03

      we should be thinking very hard about what'sgenerating this concern about neglect for these childrenand how best do we engage with families to tackle it.And the third takeaway is for organizations.How do we help our workers to keep their heads upwhen they're very busy, maybe too busy, but doing

    • 16:23

      very demanding, traumatic work?Because there's a danger that if our heads drops,we get on with doing what the procedures require,but we stop doing the thinking that we need to do.So we have to have organizations, teams, teammanagers that keep us being reflective.

Child Neglect and Protection

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Abstract

Ray Jones, PhD, Social Worker, Kingston University, discusses the relationship between child neglect, child protection, and family services.

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Child Neglect and Protection

Ray Jones, PhD, Social Worker, Kingston University, discusses the relationship between child neglect, child protection, and family services.

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