Hearing children’s voices

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Hearing children’s voices

Planning is well underway for the family court professional conference this year. This will be held in Birmingham on 12 June.  Our theme is to be Hearing Children’s Voices and we are going to look at dynamic ways of using creative writing with children in our direct work with them. Given the time constraints we work under, and the requirement to show that we have used direct work tools with children, it will be good to have something new and innovative to consider.

Writing East Midlands (WEM) are going to lead the conference. WEM is a regional art development agency funded largely by the Arts Council to develop the art of literature/writing in the community.  WEM looks at what literature/writing can do for individuals in order to reduce isolation, improve social cohesion and provide a means of self-expression. The author who will work with us will have specialist knowledge and expertise relevant to our task of ascertaining the wishes, feelings and views of children and young people.

We will also be providing workshops on related topics during the day.

Cafcass have agreed to fund travel expenses for those attending the conference. There will be some overnight accommodation provided by Napo for the evening before conference for those with long journey times. This will be on a first come first served basis. Enquiries about this should be made to Jacqui Paryag jparyag@napo.org.uk .

Initial feedback from the recent Ofsted inspection was that Cafcass was doing well and it appeared to members who were part of the inspection that inspectors had actively picked up on the issue of high workloads.

The Section will be rerunning the workloads and TOIL questionnaire and looking at widening it out.

A stress questionnaire in the Manchester office had shown that the Workload Measurement Tool was not accurately reflecting workloads and that workloads continue to be a major stress factor. Napo members will be holding a lunchtime protest outside the People’s History Museum (likely date 17 April), which is opposite the main family court.

Members are reminded that they should complete a Cafcass accident/incident form if suffering from workload stress. At what point should this be done? It may be at the point of going to a GP with stress; when you discuss it with your manager, when you cannot hand work back or when you first feel overwhelmed. This will vary. Management must respond to the incident reports and take action to deal with the issue.

The following information has been taken from a recent press release by Nagalro:

Draft regulations, published this month for consultation, would see social workers at risk of being suspended from practice by unaccountable administrators, before any formal malpractice charges have been laid against them and without the opportunity to put their case to an independent tribunal.

Part 2 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 will transfer the regulation of the

English social work profession to a new body, to be called Social Work England.

The Government has published draft regulations for setting this up……

At present, social workers are regulated by the Health Care Professions Council

(‘HCPC’). If there are allegations made against a social worker these must be

investigated by HCPC. If it is believed that the social worker should be suspended

from practice, or restricted in the work which they can do, before formal disciplinary

proceedings are commenced, an urgent hearing can be convened in front of a

disciplinary tribunal who will listen to the regulator’s concerns and the social worker’s

response, before coming to an independent decision about what should happen. Under the proposed new regime, the decision would be taken by the administrator….

Nagalro argues that the proposed changes do not comply with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights or the principles of natural justice. I agree with them.

Napo is affiliated to Together for Children which is comprised of organisations and individuals who worked together successfully to defend the rights of children and families during the passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

They have written to Nadhim Zahawi MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for children and families regarding the proposed Fostering Stocktake. They are requesting that those recommendations which would require a change to the law (4, 6, 7, 8 and 33 are rejected.)

The full letter is on the Together for Children site and makes interesting reading:  https://togetherforchildren.wordpress.com/latest/

Jay Barlow
National vice-chair, Family Court Section

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