Response to Herald articles on OPFS’s report on poverty and care in Scotland

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Response to Herald articles on OPFS’s report on poverty and care in Scotland

Social Work Scotland and the Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW) have written to journalists and editors at the Herald in reponse to articles around the links between poverty and support for families.

Re: ‘How Scottish kids are being put into care for simply being born poor’, 20 August and One Parent Families Scotland must help challenge poverty stigma, 21 August

Dear Editors,

Recent pieces in the Herald are right to highlight poverty as a major problem in Scotland; a root cause of much hardship, conflict and trauma. Poverty is a major factor in bringing families to the attention of public services.  However, we were disappointed to read the article of Sunday, 20 August, which over-simplified the relationship between poverty and the difficult, important decisions about safety and risk that professionals must make with families, day in, day out.

We agree entirely with much of One Parent Families Scotland’s report.  The report is a shocking read about how the social security system acts against family reunification. It can be incredibly hard for parents and families to fight the challenges which arise from poverty – including poor mental health, addiction issues and neglect.  Children and their families should have the support they need to navigate themselves to more stable waters.

Catriona Stewart’s recognition (21 August) of the trauma of family separation on everyone in a family is accurate. Our communities are living through critical and difficult times, and life for some families can feel extremely precarious. We all want families to stay together, and the balancing act between protecting children from harm and having the tools and resources to support families is an incredibly difficult one.

These two articles confirm the need for action in two key areas:

  • Social security that supports families to remain together through challenging periods, and when separation of a child from a parent is necessary, then facilitates family reunification.
  • Social work services that are made accessible as soon as some support is needed, not restricted to crisis response. By destigmatising involvement with social work, and giving social workers enough time to do the work they are trained to do, more families can be kept together, and flourish.

Social workers are committed to The Promise, and supporting children and families.  That has been evidenced by their willing collaboration on an individual and collective level.  But the bigger, and more fundamental issue here is that without the right action and resources to tackle poverty at its root causes, our society’s care system will have to continue responding to poverty’s affects.

Alison Bavidge, Director of Scottish Association of Social Work and Social Workers (SASW), and Ben Farrugia, Director of Social Work Scotland