Caring and Coping: A Guide to Social Services

By Anthony Douglas; Terry Philpot | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

On the statute book

The law and social services

Social services staff absorb general legal principles but rarely familiarise themselves with the fine print or with research findings. It would help if they did. For example, a study by Marsh and Triseliotis in 1996 found that the average social worker thought that only 25 per cent of children returned home after a period in short-term care. 1 The real figure is over 90 per cent. Basic social work is too often poorly informed.

In the early to mid-1990s, over 100 volumes of new government guidance on social care were issued, much of it structuring social work at a national level for the first time. Clear standards were set. Although this amounted to a sea change in communication about what government expected social services staff to do, it was by and large written in a way that sent social workers to sleep, and has had a limited impact on what they actually do on the ground, with a few plainly written and well-illustrated exceptions, such as Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson’s Reporting to Court under the Children Act.2 The unfortunate truth is that despite the best efforts of managers and trainers, the influences on social work practice are more personal and diverse. External influence in the form of supervision and training may change what someone does by 20-30 per cent at most.

While the legal framework for social services only changes once in a few decades, new case law is being made all the time, much of it requiring changes in policy and practice. The law is a general expression of the way society is moving, the guidance gives the law a push in a particular direction, then everyone waits for judges to clarify what it means in practice.

Social services decisions tend to remain invisible because the people they support are unlikely to make a fuss. In recent years, a

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Caring and Coping: A Guide to Social Services
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - From Charity to Social Work 6
  • Chapter 2 - On the Statute Book 21
  • Chapter 3 - The Nuts and Bolts of Care 37
  • Chapter 4 - For the Child’s Sake 57
  • Chapter 5 - Does the Community Care? 94
  • Chapter 6 - Whose Service is It, Anyway? 138
  • Chapter 7 - Home from Home? 150
  • Chapter 8 - Something Special 160
  • Chapter 9 - More Than a Piece of Paper 172
  • Chapter 10 - The Manager’s Tale 180
  • Chapter 11 - Acts of Charity 195
  • Chapter 12 - All in It Together 208
  • Chapter 13 - Across the Borders 218
  • Chapter 14 - Conclusion 231
  • Notes 236
  • Bibliography 242
  • Index 247
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