TRAIN has been working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection involvement since 2015. It was set up to respond to urgent need and because no other specific support for Traveller and Romani children and families in child protection existed in the UK.
Since 2015, TRAIN has been providing free telephone advice and support to parents whose children are in need, at risk, or are in the care system, and with members of the wider family or community who are raising children unable to remain at home. TRAINs main aim has been working on capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves. TRAIN has always been managed by two volunteer social workers and each year the work that TRAIN has been involved in has grown. In 2017, for example, TRAIN provided help and support to 61 families. TRAIN enabled people's voices to be heard, and it has enabled the situation of child protection to reconsidered and to be taken seriously. Whilst advocating for one family a Judge made it clear that without TRAINs involvement the outcome of Care Proceedings would have been quite different.
Today a growing number of organisations are beginning to see and exploit the need to provide help and support to families in matters related to child protection. There is now money available to organisations so that they can fund advocates, online media tools, training videos and information services and all of the other things that TRAIN has been providing. What TRAIN has done for the last 3 years on a free and voluntary basis, other well meaning organisations are now receiving payment to do as well. For this reason, the work that TRAIN has been championing has come to a natural end.
The fact that more organisations are working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection services is fantastic. As many of these organisations are also grassroots Traveller and Romani Community groups, TRAIN's aim to work on capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves has seemingly been achieved, not through consultation though, but by example, innovation and leadership.
TRAIN hopes that those people who found the strength to ask for help in the past will enable others in the future to speak out about the situation that they are in and to seek support early and without delay. It hopes that other well meaning funded services are able to understand and cope with the complexity of child protection policy, and it hopes that the new organisations taking over TRAIN's role are sufficiently knowledgeable and skilled to spot and challenge procedural irregularity and to fight for natural justice, without compromise, in a way that Traveller and Romani families urgently require and deserve.
Most importantly TRAIN hopes that the unique challenges faced by Traveller and Romani families in Child Protection will not be dismissed, minimised or denied. If the significant discrimination that Traveller and Romani face in child protection is not taken seriously, all of the work that TRAIN has tried to achieve and all of the lobbying work it has done will be undone.
Traveller and Romani Advice and Information Network
What is a social services Section 47 enquiry?
If there are concerns about the safety or welfare of a child or children, a social worker may decide that a child protection investigation is needed and they will conduct what is called a Section 47 enquiry. This means that a social worker will carry out a full investigation because there is reasonable cause to believe that a child or children living in that home has been abused or neglected or is likely to be abused or neglected in the future unless steps are taken to safeguard the child’s welfare. (The legal term they will use is ‘significant harm’).
If you have heard that a social worker is going to carry out a Section 47 enquiry, then again, please do not panic. This is to determine the child’s needs are being met. The social worker will also use this enquiry to decide whether further action may be needed to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.
You will be interviewed and the child will be seen, and depending on the age and circumstances may be formally interviewed on their own. The social worker is likely to ask you and an older child to agree to a medical examination by the GP. Social services must seek your views and consider the child’s wishes and feelings when deciding what action should be taken in the Section 47 enquiry. Other information might be gathered from schools, GPs, or other professionals who know you and your child well. If there is someone you think they should talk to, to get a better understanding of your family you should tell them.
Once the child protection enquiry has been carried out, social services will be in touch about the outcome. If the social worker decides that there has been no cause for concern then no further action will be taken. If the social worker considers the child has probably been abused or neglected or is likely to be unless changes are made, then a child protection case conference will be arranged. This may be because they think you or someone else in your family has done something to harm the child, or because of something you haven’t done, such as getting necessary medical treatment, or making sure your child is properly supervised.
Who will do the assessment?
A social worker from the referral and assessment service will assess your children and families' needs. Sometimes the social worker will ask other specialists to help us, such as a health specialist for children under five. The social worker may also visit you with other professionals known to you. Sometimes the social worker can complete an assessment when you visit them at thier office. It may then be possible to help you straight away.
Alternatively the social worker may need to make an appointment to see you at home. The government requires the social worker to complete assessments within strict timescales, so once the social worker has set a time to see you and your children you should try and keep this appointment.
What you can expect from the assessment?
The social worker will speak to you in detail about your situation and the difficulties you may be having and how you manage these. The social worker will explore with you what other services can do to help. They will also ask you questions about your culture and ethnic background and whether you have any disabilities, so that they can fully understand your family's needs. The social worker wants to hear from all members of your family so if your children are old enough, they would want to give them the opportunity to talk as well. This helps the social worker build a clear picture of what issues that they can help you with.
What happens after the assessment?
When the assessment is complete the social worker will talk to you about the outcomes of our assessment. You will be given a copy of the assessment. The social worker will discuss with you what services could be helpful and whether you are happy for them to approach them.
If you feel your situation has changed or you are still worried about your children you can contact the social worker again.
If your family has more complex needs, or the social worker think children are at risk of harm or abuse, you will receive help from an allocated social worker in one of our other specialist social work teams for as long as is necessary.
Do social workers take children away?
This rarely happens as the first aim of the social worker is to help you look after your child yourself. The social worker will always consider alternative options. If the social worker is worried about your care for your child, they will work hard with you to improve the situation, which may include your child living with other family members or friends for a period of time.
A child coming in to care is very unlikely unless he or she would be at serious risk if they were to remain living with their family.