Independent Social Workers Feel the Width
I see that the growing community of Independent Social Work Expert Witnesses are worried that the Legal Services Commission (LSC) intend, as from October this year, limiting what they will pay for an Independent Social Worker to provide assessments to the courts to the notional fee rate Cafcass pay their Self Employed Contractors (SECs). I say notional because Cafcass are gradually divesting themselves of their SECs and anyway the SECs have long complained about the inadequacy of Cafcass rates. The LSC cheerfully pay Psychologists and Physicians about 500% of what they intend paying independent social workers.
Doing an ISW assessment, let me tell you, is very, very demanding work which calls on every ounce of all the knowledge and skill hard earned over many, many years of professional experience if it is to be of any value to the courts or the families and children involved.
The ISWs comfort themselves with the thought that at that miserly fee rate it will not be possible for the courts to obtain high quality assessments by independent expert social workers. Sadly, I doubt the LSC care about the quality – “just feel the width”, and will happily pay this insulting fee rate to local authority and Cafcass employees who will gladly earn some extra cash on top of their salaries by doing the work in their “spare time”. That would take us right back to over 50 years ago. Then, when an “independent” social work report was required, it would indeed be done for “pin money” by somebody in their so called spare time. Also in that era when Medical Consultants provided reports to the courts they interviewed and wrote their reports in NHS time and even had the report typed up by their NHS secretary on NHS paper.
I though we had got away from those indefensible sort of arrangements but it seems not. The LSC, like several other arms of government, seem determined to roll back services to children to somewhere around the pre-1960 standard while their political masters loudly shout their great concern for children and their deep commitment to family life.
The Legal Services Commission is a non-departmental public body answerable to the Ministry of Justice and the Lord Chancellor – Jack Whitaker Straw MP. He seems to have had little to say about children but his “reluctant” approval of the invasion of Iraq and his kindly decision not to extradite the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, to Spain to face charges of torture and violation of human rights show him to be a sensitive and sympathetic man *. I’m sure when this situation is brought to his attention he will correct it. OR can it be, as a colleague of mine writes:-
… the message from ‘the system’ and from the state is that social work is not a respected or valued profession and remains at the bottom of the pile, along with the children whose lives are at stake. Its time for all social work professional bodies to meet with government to say we’ve had enough. Perhaps if less was spent on advertising for people to join social work on the tv and more looking at the reasons why people have left the profession (in addition to being whipping posts for child deaths) then may be something would be learnt. Now there’s an idea for a phd or is it better to research the life of plants instead!