We’re really pleased that we have today been able to published the guidance we promised about the recording of social workers by parents where there is local authority involvement with the family. The guidance is intended to be used by parents and their advisers and representatives, and by professionals – who might include social workers, social work managers, independent reviewing officers and local authority lawyers.
Readers may recall that earlier this year, we sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all local authorities in England and Wales to establish whether there was a consistent approach when parents ask to record their meetings with social workers. This project was prompted by discussion generated at the Child Protection conference organised by The Transparency Project in June, when the topic of parents recording their interaction with social workers was raised by participants. We thought there was lots of misunderstanding and a lack of clarity. You can read about that here and here.
The responses to the FOI requests demonstrated that the attitude and approach of local authorities varied considerably. Reasons given for refusing to permit recording were not always underpinned by a correct understanding of the law. In addition, there appeared to be some evidence of a culture of suspicion, fear or hostility by professionals towards parents who wished to record their interactions, particularly where such recordings were covert (or suspected).
Having considered the responses to the FOIs we thought clear basic guidance would be really helpful for both professionals and parents, so that they can have informed discussions about the issue of recording and the underlying anxieties that may have led to the issue arising, so that appropriate arrangements based on the individual circumstances can be agreed.
In the guidance we explore the question of recording from the perspective of parents and professionals, and consider reasons for and against recording, including some common misapprehensions about what law does and does not apply. It includes general information about the potential issues arising from use of any recording, for example the distribution of a recording on the internet or the use of it in evidence at court. It is important to remember though, that it isn’t the same as legal advice – it is very general guidance.
We hope that you will use the document as a starting point or framework for discussions about these issues – and please let us know what you think of it, and how it might be improved. If you are one of the Local Authorities who indicated in your response that you were intending to review or develop policies in this area, or that our request had prompted discussions, we’d love to hear from you also.
Download the guidance. [Jan 16 : NB this now links to version 2 which contains some minor corrections]
Download our press release.