After Shock Lord Justice Wall Might Be Right Says Foster
Friday, 23 April 2010
Lord Justice Wall might have had a valid point when he suggested it was the job of social workers to "unite families rather than separate them," according to one fostering agency.
But the merit in what he was saying was completely overshadowed by his "headline-chasing" criticism of social workers themselves.
Gareth Walton, of Bolton-based modus, said: "Speaking in the middle of an election campaign, 18 months after Baby P and as the public sector faces huge pressure to cut spending, the thrust of Mr Justice Wall's comments about uniting families could have been very helpful indeed.
"Unfortunately, for most social workers, the sense in what he was saying was completely lost amid the shock of being compared with Mao and Stalin."
Speaking just days before being sworn in as president of the Family Division last week, Lord Justice Wall described some social workers as being "arrogant, over-enthusiastic removers of children", accusing them of "trampling on the rights of parents and children" in a determination to place young people in an "unsatisfactory care system".
But Mr Walton said: "When you look beyond the headline-chasing comments about Chairman Mao, Lord Justice Wall's comments that the care system should be doing more to unite families rather than separate them is absolutely correct. Had he left it that, then I suspect almost every social worker in the UK would have agreed.
"When we place children with foster families, we make sure that those carers have had extensive training and receive outstanding support for as long as is necessary to ensure that that child receives the care they deserve.
"From time to time, we ask ourselves whether, had that same level of training and support been available to the child's biological parents, they would ever have needed to be taken into care in the first place.
"The problem, now more than ever, is one of cost: Providing training and support costs a lot of money, and will not always succeed.
"Moreover, it will be impossible to prove after the event whether a united family is a product of extra training, or whether the circumstances which lead to a child being taken into care would simply never have arisen.
"But in the long term, there's no doubt in my mind that more support for parents would lead to fewer removals, and much lower total costs.
"What we need is a Government brave enough to make the investment - not because it will cost less in the long run, but because it is the right thing to do.
"While unlikely in the current economic climate, the support of someone like Lord Justice Wall would be very valuable indeed.
"I suspect that from his recent comments, he agrees with the principle. It's just a shame that that message didn't come through quite so clearly as it may have done without the comparisons to Stalin."
- Ends -
Notes to editors
- modus was set up in 2002 to provide high quality, co-ordinated childcare services for looked-after children and young people
- Through exceptional training and ongoing support, it helps families to provide environments in which young people can safely achieve their potential
- modus provides foster families across the whole of North West England
- modus also runs a small residential home in West Yorkshire, Cross Lee House, for up to five children who display varying degrees of emotional and behavioural difficulty