Why every social worker should invite their MP to their office.
The government has indicated it will bring in further measures to speed up the adoption process. As a firm believer that children need permanent living arrangements that they can rely on throughout their childhood, I'm open to new proposals to build on the significant improvement to adoption rates over the last few years. But it's been 15 years since I left social work and I simply don't know if these proposals are what is needed.
Having just stepped down from parliament I know MPs are asked to vote and decide on many things of which they know little. The majority of MPs will visit local schools regularly, talk to children and their teachers, visit hospitals and GP surgeries, but few will have ever have been invited to visit a social work office. Most MPs will have little idea of what happens there, and crucially why it happens the way it does.
This gives social workers an opportunity. An opportunity to invite the local MP to visit and spend some time in the office - to explain how complicated, and perhaps destructive, some families can be. Asking someone to visit your place of work can be so much more powerful than going to see them. By simply sending an email and arranging a visit social workers could help raise the level of understanding amongst MPs, and in turn raise the quality of debate on adoption and many other social work issues.
Most MPs are keen to engage with their constituents and will want to respond positively. They may not be able to make it immediately but if social workers plan a good visit for a Friday when they are likely to be in the constituency many will come along. It is important to think carefully about the visit - asking beforehand how long they have and what they would like to know. Social workers need to work out what they want them to take away about what it is they do. Just seeing where social workers work, and having a better understanding of the roles will increase their appreciation of the job. It may not be possible for them to meet any of the people social workers are working with but anonymised case studies are an alternative.
And this really does matter. Tim Loughton, former Children's Minister, rightly gained a huge amount of respect from the social work profession because he spent time regularly investigating just what the job entailed, and saw some of the challenges social workers face. Edward Timpson, the current Children's Minster, grew up in a family which fostered children so saw for himself the challenges children in care face.
The College of Social Work has as one of its aims to influence government on social work policy. They also have lots of members, who if mobilised could influence local MPs, ensuring they understand better just what social workers do, and crucially why they do it. It is time to grasp the opportunity to develop better understanding and appreciation between the two professions that can affect the lives of children.