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UK Politics

Get tougher! Social workers 'cannot collude with parents to find excuses for failure'

The price paid by their children is too great, says Government adviser

Social workers should worry less about being "nice" and instead tell "the honest truth" about people's problems, the Government's adviser on troubled families said today.

Louise Casey also said that too many social workers are "colluding" with parents to help them make excuses for their children's bad behaviour. 

Speaking at the Local Government Association's annual conference in Manchester, she said that social workers needed to get tougher: "This time around we cannot collude with parents to find excuses for failure", she said. "The price paid by their children is too great."

The problem families tsar then called on social workers to be more "authoritative" and "challenging", rather than trying not to rock the boat.

Casey's troubled families intervention programme was one of only a handful of schemes to have its funds boosted in the latest spending review. The programme targets the most "high risk" families in England and Wales with intensive coaching and support to tackle joblessness, truancy and anti-social behaviour. It was given an extra £200m to extend to another 400,000 households.

Casey, who previously advised the Labour government on their "respect" assault on anti-social behaviour, said the increase in her latest project's funds was justified.

"We know it works. We're proving it works. It saves money", she said. "there is an opportunity here we can't ignore to get to grips with the chaos and help these families change."

After the speech Casey explained why social workers' concern about being "nice" was an issue. "There is a lack of decision making, things are open-ended, there are lots of meetings, lots of discussions, but nothing's closed down. And some of that is because it's quite hard to challenge people isn't it?

"You are in a partnership meeting and everybody wants to be nice to each other. Well I'm saying... I don't really mind whether you're nice or not nice.

"We need to make sure we tackle the problems with the families so if you are not doing your job you need to be challenged on it. It's the same with families who need to be told the honest truth."

She said family intervention co-ordinators took a tougher, more straightforward approach than traditional social workers: "They crack on. They get on with the job and they are quite assertive people."