Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Review: And finally...


Notable things this week:

Welcome to what may (or may not) be my last Friday Review.

I mentioned the criticism of the President's decision in Re J by Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, in the Review two weeks ago. Then, she wrote on the Community Care Blog. This week she turned to the larger audience of The Guardian, where she suggests that social workers may be targeted online following Lord Justice Munby's decision. She says:
"The Munby ruling theoretically means that not only do social workers have to face threats in person, they may have to cope with 24-hour-a-day onslaughts in the form of social media."
Whilst I have every sympathy for social workers subjected to such abuse, I'm not sure that this is entirely fair. As I believe has been said elsewhere (I'm afraid I can't recall by whom), it was not Munby's job to protect social workers - if they are subjected to threats, then that is surely a matter for the police. Otherwise, perhaps local authorities should be more protective, perhaps in the way that The Law Society has dealt with certain 'anti-solicitor' sites.

The Department for Work & Pensions has announced changes to the way in which appeals against benefit and child maintenance decisions are to be dealt with. In particular, 'mandatory reconsideration' will be introduced, so that the DWP will reconsider all decisions before an appeal. Sounds a good idea on the face of it (no doubt motivated by cost-cutting), although obviously if the DWP does not change the decision then the 'reconsideration' may only lead to a further delay before the appeal proceeds.

The Independent reports that, following the publication of the Daniel Pelka serious case review, children and families minister Edward Timpson has requested an analysis from the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board into the failing highlighted by the review. The minister said that "answers were needed not only to establish accountability but because they were "critical to improving child protection practice across the country"". All very good, just so long as this doesn't become (another) witch-hunt.

On the subject of child protection, may I highly recommend this post on Pink Tape by Sarah Phillimore, in which she asks:
"...with gritted teeth and growing sense of frustration, just how am I supposed to reconcile all the President’s clearly expressed views about the urgent need for a massive change in culture, for speed, for efficiency, for an entire case to be dissected in nine days and using no more than 300 pages of A4, with what the President goes on to endorse in the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Re B-S (Children)"
Here is a taste::
"Just as the discussions in some quarters about reform to criminal legal aid appeared to be based on the assumption that all defendants were guilty ... so too does the debate around care proceedings often seem to carry a whiff of an assumption that any parent caught up in this must be hopeless so the aim is simply to process the case as quickly and cheaply as possible."
As I say, highly recommended.

Yesterday the Department for Education released the latest statistics for looked-after children in England, for the year ending 31 March 2013. The headline, picked up by the BBC, was that there was a record increase (15%)  in the number of looked after children who were adopted. Children's Minister Edward Timpson (left), having a busy week, is quoted as saying that the rise was "hugely encouraging". For myself, I really don't like the idea of judging the success of policies concerning serious issues relating to children by statistics - the idea seems to me to give ammunition to the 'secret courts stealing our children' brigade.

And finally finally (perhaps), I shall finish with one of my pet news hates: law firms getting into the news by doing PR using surveys. The latest example of this august genre appears to be this 'story' in The Telegraph, in which Australian law firm Slater & Gordon, perhaps as part of their £1 million advertising campaign, commissioned a survey that came up with the thrilling finding that the third year of marriage is apparently the happiest. Like, wow. Slater & Gordon 'National Practice Group Leader' (whatever that is) Amanda McAlister, who "heads a team of 15 lawyers who are dedicated to providing clients with clear, straightforward advice and a professional pro-active service", does warn, however that: "People often get so overwhelmed by the first few years they forget that a successful marriage requires work." Who'd have thought?

Have a good weekend, and beyond.

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