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Entries in social work (4)


Learning about 'hidden' men from NSPCC case reviews

Recently published guidance from the NSPCC makes some important points for social work professionals.  From analysis of case reviews, they point out two categories of 'hidden' men. 

  • Men who posed a risk to the child which resulted in them suffering harm. 
  • Men, for example estranged fathers, who were capable of protecting and nurturing the child but were overlooked by professionals.

With regard to the second category, they point out that professionals often overlook the ability of estraged fathers to care for their children. Such fathers are fundamentally important to their children's emotional and psychological development, and could provide much needed safety and protection.

They go on to suggest that fathers should be involved in pre-natal appointments and classes with evening appointments if necessary, and that they should be involved in social work assessments.

It's great that NSPCC is now issuing such guidance, but we hope in future that the need for highlighting such issues becomes less necessary and that men can emerge completely from 'hiding'.


Positive approaches to social work with fathers

 A new handbook by Edinburgh University social work lecturer Gary Clapton challenges workers in social and health care to rethink their approach to fathers.

The majority of fathers, father-substitutes, and father figures wish to do well by their children. However, as a number of high profile cases testify, fathers often feel that they receive poor treatment at the hands of the social care system.

In Scotland, recent research points to the value of involved parenting by fathers, while government policy initiatives, such as the Gender Equality Duty and the National Parenting Strategy, have attempted to stress the importance of involving fathers in their child care.

This book proposes a father-sensitive, father-aware social work practice. It suggests that any social care system that simply adopts a default position that child care is the responsibility of women alone is hampered by its failure to acknowledge the positive potential of fathers.

The arguments advanced in the book concentrate on children and family practice, but do not neglect the importance of social work and fatherhood with vulnerable adults, as well as those within the criminal justice system.


Research on raw deal for fathers starts up a heated debate

Nick SmithersNick Smithers found himself in the midst of a media storm last Tuesday when his report on how fathers are treated by the Social Work profession caused a front-page headline "Sexism stops fathers from seeing children" in the Herald newspaper.

Nick, who is a father's worker with the family support charity Circle, undertook the research though a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with Edinburgh University Social Work Department.

He talked to eight fathers about their experiences of child protection processes when their children were placed in foster care or on the child protection register.  These fathers talked about expressing concern for their children who were in the care of partners suffering from drug or alcohol problems.  Some had faced malicious allegations of child abuse and were themselves suffering from domestic violence.

They all felt they hadn't been listened to and had sometims been prevented from seeing their children when they expressed concerns.

One father criticised what he felt is the standard social work approach: “I think if there’s a family breakdown they should get rid of the old school ‘better with the mum’. There should be a meeting where everyone’s involved and look at everything over time then say the kids are better off with X instead of the ‘since the beginning of time kids are better off with their mum.’

The report suggests that training of professionals involved in child protection should be improved  and social workers held to account to ensure that they do not marginalise or fail to include fathers.  It stresses the importance of organisations that will listen to fathers.

The heated debate continues on the letters page of the Herald.  While the headlines may have been a bit over the top, the content of this report certainly deserves to be debated fully.


Interviewees wanted for study of fathers

Nick Smithers, who is undertaking a Knowledge Exchange research project with Edinburgh University, would like to hear from fathers willing to be interviewed about their experience of child protection procedures.

In his work as a fathers support worker at Circle Scotland he has grown concerned that men receive different treatment to women while involved in child protection procedures, particularly in relation to social work involvement.

To investigate this issue he wants to interview men whose children have either been on the Child Protection Register or who have been Looked After and Accommodated by the local authority. For logistical reasons he is restricting the sample to Edinburgh and the Lothians.

The interview should take no longer than an hour and is an opportunity for fathers to have their story heard and to contribute to a project which will help to bring these issues to light. All participants will be anonymous when the research is published.

 If you are willing to be interviewed and meet the criteria please contact him at Circle Edinburgh 0131 332 9269 or e-mail nick.smithers@circlescotland.org