A note to social workers

If you cannot recognise coercion in your own practice, it makes it difficult to recognise coercion and abuse within a household. The Children Act 1989 does not have the scope to consider mothers as victims of domestic abuse, as well as the children. It sees the witnessing of domestic abuse as significant harm being caused to children.

In this country we do not have systems which allow women to leave. Domestic violence services are patchy and contained in the ever shrinking voluntary sector, and our child protection legislation was written with the assumption that some measure of gender equality had been achieved. Our welfare system is the bridge to the gender pay gap for working class mothers, whose earnings potential is capped when they procreate whatever age they are. The creation of maternal poverty is central to the strategies of both parties as a response to financial crisis and both Labour and the Tories have spent years trying to outdo each other with how difficult they can make it for women who leave. Selling the cutting of in-work benefits was easy, if Osborne made it about women being blamed for reproducing, and there is going a rape test that women will have to go through with the dwp just to get tax credits.

We do not have systems that allow women to leave abuse. We do not have systems which recognise gender inequality. It is time that social workers recognised this.

It was not deemed significant harm for a child to witness domestic abuse, so that a person who is by definition under the control of another and being harmed, could be blamed for the abuse they suffer. The private family court system still puts women on trial for leaving. These women often have no legal aid and as a result are mandated by court to be controlled and abused through their children. And when children who have witnessed or been part of domestic abuse grow up, it is assumed that intergenerational patterns of abuse have a high likelihood of repeating so those children are put on trial in exactly the same way.

It is time for social workers to reflect on the fact that we do not have systems which allow women to leave. We do not have police who take domestic abuse seriously, we do not have resources for them to use to leave and the economic bridge that allowed that financial independence is the target of both parties consistently. To the point where working class mothers face the state mandating ALL of their time under Universal Credit.

That lack of reflection is currently causing a huge amount of harm to mothers and children, and is doing so at a time where adoption and their permanent separation is being seen as a cost effective panacea.

It is time for social work to stand up or at least reflect in their assessments that this is the case. The current status quo cannot continue.

While there is an industry of media feminists willing to fight for their right to help deliver the austerity that is doing this, or to count the corpses that result, corpses are indeed piling up. Damage is being done behind closed doors and women leaving the control and abuse of the man they procreated with, face control and abuse by the state and being mandated by the courts to remain in abusive situations.

The point of anti-oppressive practice is to reflect on the system you are in and the way it does this. Regardless of the pressures you are under, you need to really sit down and understand what this means.

That is what you are trained for. And those skills have never been more necessary. When your practice in these circumstances is more coercion, you need to look seriously at the assessments that result.


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