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One Social Workers Reflections on the Children Rights Referendum

November 1, 2012

If we are serious about children’s rights we must focus on what they need and provide that in a transparent and effective manner, as the proposed amendment says “best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration”.

Some people have argued in the past and will no doubt argue again that a children’s rights referendum will set children against parents and break up families, that meeting children’s needs will come at the expense of the family unit. The truth is that couldn’t be more wrong. Enabling children’s rights, all of them including the right to a family, means protecting children by protecting families.

Let me give you examples from my day to day work.

Protecting the family is the best way to protect the child and their rights. To support families we will regularly use local services, such as the local Family Resource Centre. This can provide a variety of excellent supports to promote family well being and by doing so protect child. Recent reports have shown the increasing demand the services of local Family Resource Centre’s at a time when their funding is decreasing. If children have a right to safety, a right to family relationships, then services like this need to be protected and promoted.

For me this issue is illustrated the best by housing need I see in my clients lives. So many of the families I work with in social work have housing difficulties – overcrowding, substandard accommodation, and lack of meaningful tenancy supports. For families from the travelling community housing provision is even worse. The child’s best interests and their right to shelter and housing can only be made real through the whole families receiving adequate housing supports – to protect children’s rights we protect their family.

Everyday decisions are made not based on what a child needs, but what we can provide. The recent  Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group stressed the importance of promptly identifying and providing the necessary services to meet the needs of the child. Yet frequently it is not a question of what is the most appropriate service but which of the only services available is least inappropriate.

Best practice in social work underlines that a child should only be taken into care as a last resort and that children’s needs are best met in their family of origin. The amendment itself stress that the state will only take on the role of parents “in exceptional circumstances” and in a “proportionate” way. As social workers we seek to first protect children by supporting families, only when this fails will children come into care. I believe that a children’s rights referendum will make my job easier because it will make supporting families easier and not because it will mean I can break up families easier.

To Support children’s rights means supporting families, supporting the amendment to the constitution means supporting children and families together.


I for one will be voting a giant Yes on November 10th.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. just a dad permalink
    November 5, 2012 19:50

    What protection is there for children and families to protect them from errant Social Workers constructing a scenario prior to the HSE taking matters to the courts?

    • November 5, 2012 22:54

      Firstly there is an internal complaints system within the HSE, complain to the Team Leader, Principal Social Worker and/or Child Care Manager in the local area.

      Registration allows for an independent complaints process with CORU. This has not been fulled rolled out, but it will be individual social workers who will be liable personally for failing to live up to the ethical and procedural standards.

      My experience is that social workers dont want to make stuff up, if we dont have to take a child into care we wont, its not good for anyone. Yes, sometimes we do take children into, because it some situations it is the least bad option and what is needed to be done to protect children. I have had times where parents and myself have disagreed over facts and whether the child is at risk, but I dont make stuff up and dont construct scenarios prior to court. If I did construct a scenario, it would be a serious conspiracy, involving other witnesses, other professionals, team leader, principal social workers, too many people to make it likely.

      Is this something you have experience of? I don’t know you or your case so cant comment on specifics, and of course wont be discussing personal details or specific cases on a public forum like this!

  2. just a dad permalink
    November 9, 2012 22:06

    I think a little bit of honesty would not go astray, the HSE Your Service, Your Say complaints procedure, in my opinion and experience, always defends HSE staff, with a denial of there being any evidence to show wrong doing on the part of the HSE staff member, I do not know of any social worker ever being fired for wrong doing. As regards CORU, there is no disciplinary process in place. I could go into a lot more detail which would shock any normal person and if it leaked out would ensure that the Children’s Referendum would never be passed.

    • November 11, 2012 10:12

      I have seen managers in the HSE respond to complaints in favour of the complainant, however I understand you skepticism on internal complaints procedures.

      As for CORU, yes, the complaints process is not in place yet, but will be very strong when it comes on stream in the coming months. I have no idea if it will deal retrospectively with complaints from before it was set up so I realise its not much help to you in relation to what you have been put through but will be very strong in the future for others.

      • just a dad permalink
        November 11, 2012 15:26

        The reason people do not have faith in the Your Service,Your Say complaints process is because of the practice of HSE managenent to use every possible tatic to justify their non investigation of complaints, if the complaints process had been used as a tool to highlihgt problems then there would not be the gross system failures that allowed the Kilkenny, Roscommon and 129 deaths of children known to the HSE Social Services, All you have to do is look at any report of the Information Commissioner to see her comments on the behaviour of the HSE and it’s culture of secrecy. Please do not try to defend the indefenseable behaviour of the HSE and it’s Social Workers, such behaviour is disgusting.

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