It’s a term that’s used a lot, but, if you’ve never required their services, you may not know what they do and can offer. So, here Karis Jones from Howells Solicitors examines what social services are for, what they do, and what you need to know if they have contacted you.
Who Are Social Services?
Social Services are a government-led organisation that aims to protect the wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults. You can find the department that serves your area from your Local Authority.
What Do Social Services Do?
Social Services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and can offer a wide range of care services to children and their parents.
Social Services’ care department helps ensure children are healthy, safe, and well looked after. They work in partnership with a number of charities and organisations to ensure families receive the help they need.
Families often feel anxious at the prospect of Social Services’ involvement because of experiences they may have heard from others, or just because they are frightened that social workers will remove their children from the family home.
To help keep you informed, here is a list of a few reasons why Social Services may become involved:
• A family may request family support services from Social Services at times of stress or for help regarding a particular child or family problem.
• A teacher or GP can make a request/referral on family’s behalf.
• There might be child protection issues for the child(ren), including cases where violence between adults could result in harm to the children. They may have been notified of this violence by the police.
• There may be concerns regarding drugs or alcohol in the home.
• A parent may request that a child be temporarily placed in foster or residential care as an emergency to help with challenging behaviour, or to provide a planned break or a series of short breaks at a time of particular stress.
• Where children are taken into care following emergency intervention by the police or a court order.
• There may be concerns that a child has suffered a non-accidental injury.
• To help families assess any problems that are affecting the children and signpost them to appropriate community-based support and services.
If the Social Services department of your Local Authority considers your child is at risk of harm or in need of help, they have a duty to investigate the situation and to assess what actions should be taken to safeguard your child or promote their welfare. It is important to try and work alongside them and cooperate as best you can.
If they have been in touch to let you know that they are conducting an inquiry, it is important not to panic. It is natural to feel anxious and frightened in this situation, but you should be informed by social services what the process involves and be given leaflets about what you can do.
Unless there are particular circumstances preventing them, they will write to you and let you know they are conducting an initial assessment. This assessment should be completed within a certain number of days and they will inform you of how long this will take. In most cases, these assessments result in them providing support and other services, with your agreement, in the family home.
How to Get a Social Worker?
In order to get help, you must apply for your needs to be assessed. This will be done by your local services to find out what help and support you need, whether this be healthcare and equipment, help in the home or residential care.
To be assessed, contact your Local Authority.
How Can Howells Help You?
If you receive a letter from the Local Authority stating they are concerned about your child/children’s welfare and are thinking about issuing care proceedings then you must contact us immediately. Within the letter you will be offered an appointment to meet with the Social Worker and legal team.
If you have been served with this letter you will be entitled to legal help to enable a solicitor to provide you with advice and assistance and to accompany you to this meeting.
If the Local Authority feel they need to issue an application to the court straight away and you have been notified of their intention to do so or have been served with court papers, you will also need to obtain legal advice immediately. You will automatically be eligible for legal aid, as funding for these types of cases are non-means tested.
If you have any queries regarding the above or Social Services have become involved with your family, contact Karis Jones and her team of friendly and professional family law solicitors who can assist you.