Social services support individuals and families who are in need of assistance or are considered to be vulnerable. These services are deployed in a number of different situations and are provided by local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland and by Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland.
The overarching purpose of social services is to help people who are facing difficult circumstances, such as poverty, disability, or illness in addition to protecting those who are at risk and require safeguarding.
Overall, social services in the UK play an important role in helping individuals and families who are facing difficult circumstances. The goal of these services is to help people maintain their independence and wellbeing, with solutions varying from financial assistance to support for housing, healthcare and more.
It’s important to recognise that social services and the social care system can be complex, involving multiple stakeholders and a wide range of intervention, assistance, or support measures.
For many families, their first experience of social services could well be due to concerns for a child’s wellbeing. This could be because of abuse or neglect but may also be due to abandonment or the illness of a parent or guardian.
Why do social services get involved?
One of the core responsibilities of social service is to safeguard children and young people who may be vulnerable to abuse or neglect. If someone is concerned that a
child is at risk, social services may step in to ensure that the child is safe and is being cared for appropriately. The actions they take are governed by the Children Act 1989.
A professional who is familiar with the family in question, such as a teacher or GP, can request for social services to become involved but concerns may also be raised by anyone else.
It’s very common to feel anxious and worried if social services become involved with your family, with many parents feeling that their child may be taken away from them. It is important to remember, however, that a child will only be taken into care of a Local Authority by a Court if there is clear evidence that the danger to their safety is so great, that it can only be solved by the child being removed. Everyone with Parental Responsibility would have an opportunity to put forward their case.
In cases where a child is at risk of significant harm, the police have the power to place the child under a Police Protection Order for a maximum of 72 hours. The child must then be returned to their family unless the court issues an Emergency Protection Order (EPO), or Interim Care Order (ICO).
In the event of social services becoming involved with your family, it’s always advisable to seek legal support at the earliest opportunity. A family solicitor will be able to guide you through the process, help prepare any required evidence and represent you before the Judge.
What are social care services?
The phrase social services is an umbrella term for a range of departments intended to offer different types of support to the local community. Social care provides support to those living with a disability, either physical or mental.
These services will often take the form of practical assistance and solutions for those unable to carry out their day-to-day activities independently, such as bathing, dressing or cooking a meal. Social care services can be provided in a person’s own home or in a care home. They can be provided by local authorities but may also be delivered by private and voluntary organisations. Some people may be required to pay for these services, while others will be provided with financial assistance to help cover the cost.
A child who takes on the responsibility of caring for a parent with a disability will often be referred to as a “young carer,” and special support services may be available to them.
The provision of social care services for adults with mental illnesses or addictions is typically the responsibility of a mental health trust. However, different departments will collaborate if the needs of a family or individual require it, with the goal of coordinating services for the benefit of the entire family.
If concerns arise that a child may be suffering or at risk of harm, the lead agency will be the children’s services department (also known as Children’s Social Care), who will work with the family, typically through a social worker.