Children put at risk by failure to engage men in protection cases

Social workers are endangering the lives of vulnerable children by failing to engage with men in child protection cases, the Fatherhood Institute has warned.

The charity wants the government to take the lead in urging social workers to boost contact with fathers and male figures close to children to avoid tragedies such as that of Peter Connelly.

The calls will be announced at the institute’s conference on Thursday, two years to the day after Peter’s mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and Barker’s brother Jason Owen were convicted of causing or allowing the death of the 17-month-old boy.

The publication of the full serious case review into the Peter Connelly case last month revealed that statements provided to social workers by the child’s father were disregarded, while information about the mother’s partner and lodger was overlooked.

Rob Williams, chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said social workers are too focused on mothers and endangering children by excluding resident and non-resident males.

“If social workers can find a mother, they will often work with her and not look at the men in the household,” said Williams. “As Baby Peter shows, it’s often men that present the most danger.”

Williams wants to see improved training that explicitly includes fathers. “We’d like to see all new social and children’s centre workers go through training that has fathers mainstreamed in their practice, and for those already in the workforce to go through a change process.”

But the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said limited time and resources are the biggest problem. “Social workers aren’t given enough time to engage with children and families, let alone non-resident fathers,” said Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at BASW.

She added that social workers face challenges trying to reach fathers: “Sometimes it can be difficult to track down non-resident fathers.”

Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation, said fathers often suffer the most when children die.

“There is a danger that singling out fathers may lead to more isolation. A better approach would be to work with the whole family,” he said.

Dr Sheila Fish, senior research analyst at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, added: “Without fathers’ perspectives on what went on, a crucial bit of the jigsaw will inevitably be missing.”

Williams will submit the institute’s recommendations to Professor Eileen Munro’s review of social work, which will publish its final report in April 2011.