Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Protecting Our Children: Were the parents given proper support?

Tiffany and Mike face up to Social Services

I posted a couple of days ago about the BBC's new series on child protection, Protecting Our Children. The post attracted a number of comments, the general consensus of which was that in the case depicted in Monday's first episode Bristol Social Services had not done enough to provide support and guidance for the couple concerned, Tiffany and Mike, to help them keep their children, rather than have them taken into care.

It is therefore with some interest that I read today that family advocacy charity Family Rights Group has expressed exactly the same concerns. Now, as I said in the comments to my previous post, it may be that social services did offer support and guidance - inevitably, a film such as this only gives a very brief picture of events over a long period, although if they did then the film's failure to portray this was quite a serious oversight on the part of its makers.

13 comments:

  1. The language and words the health professionals used I felt were too complicated for someone with limited education and often it appeared the parents did not understand what was being said to them. At the case meeting they were talking to the parents about "accessing services" and using other words which were in all honesty a bit airy fairy and did the parents really understand? Who was present at that meeting helping them?

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    1. Yes, now you come to mention it I had exactly the same thought about the language that was being used. I don't think the parents had a solicitor helping them at that meeting.

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    2. I agree about the language. I often find myself having to re-write written agreements or lists of expectations which have been prepared by social workers, so that my clients can understand them. I don't knw what, if any, training Family Social Workers are given about effective communication. Even if someone doesn't fall into a category of having 'learning difficulties' the language used can be hard to understand.

      I think it is likely that Mike and Tifany were beign offered suppirt with parenting all along, however in my experience a lot of this may be provided by separate agencies, or by the LA subcontracting to others, who may not have wanted to be filmed.

      Having said that, Mike and Tiffany will have had solicitors once proceedings were issued at court, (and probably before) who will have made sure that they knew what they were being exected to do.

      I was a little disappointed that the programme glossed over a lot of what had been happening - one minute Tiffany has separated from mike, the next it is "several months later" and Tiffany has decided to agree to adoption. There was no mention of what had been done during those months in terms of supprt, assessment etc.

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    3. Thanks for that.

      Yes, I think social workers can be more guilty of using jargon than we lawyers!

      Interesting what you say about them being given support - I suspected that they were, but the failure to make this clear has reflected badly upon Bristol Social Services.

      I agree with your last point - the programme did seem a little thin on detail, although obviously there is only so much that can be fitted into one hour.

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  2. It was interesting to note that once mike had left was the only time it was mentioned that Tiffany had help from a support worker to help improve her parenting skills, this was after the child had
    been removed from them. It was noticeable that she seemed far more
    aware of what she needed to do and clearly making an effort, however it seemed it was too late for her and didnt feel confident that she could parent them properly. Surely she should have been given encouragement and support in the first instance and this crisis may not have arisen. I certainly feel especially that their low intelligence made it difficult for them both to realise what was needed of them and they should have had support at all of these meetings. Social workers to people like these are intimidating at the best of times and the jargon they use is hard to understand at times especially for people with a learning disability. The only person who seemed to give Mike any encouragement was the guardian ad lite, the 2 social workers I felt were willing him to fail and he walked into their trap. Suzanne right at the beginning made it clear she felt the children should not be with them

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  3. All the way through this documentary it was clear that social workers were just ticking the boxes so they could demonstrate they had given the couple the chance to make change. The decision to remove Toby had already been made I felt - the supervisor was more or less telling Suzanne - right but before you do this these are the things you need to do - and they were done but with no real intention of making it easier for this vulnerable pair. i.e.
    why on earth couldnt Mike have been given a different social worker? Admittedly the same things would still have needed to be done but it may have gone some way to making Mike believe he was being heard and supported and made him more compliant. Clearly great change needed to happen for Toby but maybe just maybe if things had been done in a different way the whole situation could have improved.

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  4. We definately did not get the full picture of what was going on here. The part that really did jump out at me was what appeared to be an application for an ex parte EPO which was granted with little substantial evidence of immediate risk. On what we saw I dont think I would have been able to advise that an EPO would be granted, much less that you had grounds to make it ex parte.

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    1. Yes, I suppose it is possible that some evidence couldn't be included in the programme.

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  5. what jumped out at me was it was televised theatrical performance on behalf of the social workers who were eager to assure the public they do all they can to help such families, however even on camera their attitude to this couple was patronizing to say the least, so what was it like off camera? This case was decided from the outset, the couple were being set up to fail

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  6. I agree there were gaps in the programme about what support was being offered to the parents, and taken up, and also what happened between the talk of an EPO, the granting of an ICO and then the sudden adoption decision. However, reading about making the programme it is clear that the participants were very much in control of what was filmed. There was possibly much that the paretns did not want filmed if it felt too personal to them and irrelevant to Toby. So we can't assume we saw all that the agencies did to try to keep them together (especially as he was 3 by the time the programme starts).

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  7. I searched for this site as I was desperate to read what other people felt about the way Mike and especially Tiffany were treated by their social workers,. It was clear from the start that both parents struggled in their own way to cope with the way they were being treated and I found the scene with the multi agency meeting intervention/inquisition especially harrowing. At the beginning of the program Mike accused Suzanne of trying to wreck his family, and for a man of lower than average intelligence, he got it spot on. I just feel heart broken that not only was Tiffany left alone at the end of the programme, but that she was offered so little practical help throughout the intervention to learn how to be a better parent and so have a chance of keeping her children with her. The thought that she and Mike will never see their children again will stay with me for a long time.

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  8. I totally agree, however I do feel that when carrying out these programmes, it would be far better to just use the case, and then have actors portraying the case. There is something unpleasant about watching people suffering, social workers desperate to showw the world what a good job they do, pretending that they are trying to help. Suzanne's attitude towards Mike and Tiffany was one of patronizing, criticising and clearly showing she had no time for them. Sallyann was just a good actress, but lousy social worker.

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