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Child abuse - how to deal with local authority involvement

This advice applies to Wales

You may be concerned that local authority social workers are involved with your family. There will usually be a good reason for this. This page gives you useful information to deal with this situation.

You may be concerned about the involvement of the local authority. For example:

  • a social worker might be visiting your family very frequently without you being sure why. Or they tell you are they are just ‘popping in for a chat’. You need to be aware that even casual ‘chats’ will be written up and a record of the meeting kept permanently on file
  • your child has been injured in an accident and healthcare professionals report it to the local authority child protection team as a possible case of child abuse
  • your child has been placed away from home, and you want to argue against this decision
  • how social workers are investigating your child's possible need for protection
  • you may feel that the local authority isn't providing the support you need so you can look after the child and stop the abuse
  • you feel that the local authority is discriminating against you in the judgments they are making about your family
  • a child protection plan has been made for you child and you don’t understand why, or you disagree with the reasons
  • in Wales, a child might have been placed on the child protection register and you don’t understand why, or you disagree with the reasons.

The problems might have arisen because:

  • you don’t understand the local authority procedures
  • there have been mistakes in how the local authority has dealt with the situation.

Co-operate with the local authority

Even if you don’t understand why local authority social workers are  involved with your family, it’s usually always best to co-operate with them. Make sure you give them access when they come round, and provide them with full and honest information about your family situation.  If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.  Sometimes it’s useful to have an explanation in writing. Try and keep calm when you meet with social services.

Document everything

It’s a good idea to make sure you write down all your dealings with the local authority. Write down what happened as soon as you can after your meeting with the social worker and date your notes. Sometimes it could be useful to take photographs. For example, if local authority social workers are already involved and your child then has an accident, it could be useful to have photographs of the setting of the accident, as well as notes about how the accident happened and the details of any witnesses.  

Make sure that you keep (and read carefully) any paperwork that the local authority sends you. Write down any dates when you have to meet the social worker.  

If you’re going to a meeting with the social workers and you know what it’s going to be about, make sure you bring any documentation that you think will help.

If  you can’t go to a meeting, for example, because you’re ill, make sure you let them know beforehand. Send them a letter from your doctor to explain why you can’t come and ask for another date to be fixed.

Get specialist advice and support

If you’re concerned about local authority involvement with your family, it’s very important to get support and advice from a specialist organisation. In some cases, you may need specialist legal advice, for example, if they want to take your child in care and you don’t understand why. If the local authority has started court proceedings, you could get legal aid regardless of how much money you have.

If meetings have been scheduled with the social workers, it may be helpful for you to attend with a friend, supporter or advocate. It’s important that you get legal advice beforehand because there are some types of meeting with the local authority that your lawyer can go to with you.

Complaints about the local authority

In some cases, you may want to make an official complaint about how the local authority has dealt with your case. It’s best to get advice from a specialist organisation before you make a complaint.

Next steps

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