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
Referrals to social services can happen in a number of ways. You can request help yourself by calling your local social services or referrals can be made by other professionals who are working with your family or children, including schools, GPs, health visitors, and more. If there are concerns that a child is being abused or neglected, professionals, family members or anyone else who is concerned can approach social services, the police or contact the NSPCC directly for advice.
If the social services department of your local authority (LA) consider you or your child are in need of additional help or your child may have been abused or neglected, they have a duty to talk with you and professionals and sometimes close relatives who know your child well, and to assess what actions should be taken to improve things for the family and protect your child from harm. There are many ways in which social services and their partner agencies can help you and your children so 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 a ‘safeguarding’ or a ‘child protection’ 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 may call or write to you and let you know they are conducting an assessment. They should give you an idea of how long this assessment is likely to take, and if they don’t, make sure you ask them. In most cases these assessments result in them providing support and other services, with your agreement, in the family home.