Judge criticises social worker’s training and report


A judge has criticised the training of a junior social worker and a report she submitted in relation to a child placement hearing.

Mr Justice Macdonald delivered a scathing assessment of a report under section 7 of the Children Act 1989 and oral evidence of the social worker.

The report concerned the case of an 11 year-old boy and under what terms he should (a) remain with the maternal aunt under a special guardianship order; or (b) move to live with the father.

The child (“C”) had been living with his maternal aunt in London since September 2013. His mother was in Mozambique and supported C staying with the aunt. The father lived in Manchester. He applied for C to move to live with him, but the aunt cross-applied for a special guardianship order.

In D v E and T [2016] EWFC, C had moderate to severe ADHD, global developmental delay and dyslexia. He needed stable and consistent routines and had one-to-one educational intervention four times each week.

The court had directed a s.7 report and two addendum s.7 reports by a social worker. Mr Justice Macdonald said it appeared her training in such reports had been a 90-minute discussion with her supervisor.

He pointed out the significant factual errors, contradictions and omissions in the reports, including the fact she hadn’t spoken to the child’s mother and did not address C’s special health needs beyond simply writing “ADHD” in the checklist in the report.

The judge attributed no weight to the reports at all and instead carried out his own analysis.

Mr Justice MacDonald stated that C had been living with his maternal aunt in London since September 2013.

The mother alleged that the father had been the perpetrator of violence against her from the start of the relationship in 2003. There was police evidence and the father had been convicted in 2005 of violent affray and received an 18 months suspended sentence.

C had seen a number of moves in his life and only had sporadic contact with the father. Yet despite this, C wanted to live with his father.

The judge considered that, given his developmental delay, C was unable to understand what the move would mean, though, and concluded that it was in C’s best interests to remain in his aunt’s care.

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