Senior judge and president of the High Court family division, Sir Nicholas Wall, has labelled social workers ‘arrogant and enthusiastic removers of children from their parents'. In a scathing attack, he criticized the apparent eagerness of social workers to take children out of the family unit and put them in an ‘unsatisfactory care system’.
The comments were made during a case involving a mother who had been in a violent relationship with her children’s father. The children lived with their maternal grandmother initially, but were taken into care after she had a disagreement with the children’s father. The mother ended the relationship with the father and made significant efforts to keep her children but Greenwich social services refused to believe that the relationship was over. The local authority had already begun adoption proceedings and were offering the mother, who was described as ‘warm and loving’, no assistance at all. The adoption order was set aside after the ruling.
The number of children who were taken into care last year rose dramatically by 40 per cent to more than 8,000. Conversely, the number of children who died of abuse or neglect actually increased from 46 in 2007-2008 to 56 in the first ten months of 2009.
The publicity surrounding recent high-profile cases, such as the tragic death of Baby P, has meant that social workers are increasingly aware of negative public perception and media repercussions, meaning that they are not prepared to take any chances in cases in which the welfare of a child is at stake.