Hearing Marginalised Voices in Social Work

‘Families’ experiences of social workers will be rich and varied, positive and negative, helpful and unhelpful. However, many parents, me included, highlight that their experience of working with social workers make them feel powerless. In fact, I often talk about my relationship with the local authority as being one of the most emotionally damaging I’ve experienced.'

‘Annie’ Parent

This section focuses on how practice supervisors can help social workers to understand the lived experience of children and families and to ensure that their voices are heard.

Knowledge Briefing – Understanding the lived experience of black and ethnic minority children and families

This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:

  • Factors that frame the lived experiences of black and ethnic minority children who are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system.
  • The impact of diversity, social inequality and poverty on the lived experiences of children and why it is important to listen to the voice of the child.
  • The importance of focusing on diversity, poverty and social inequality when working with black and ethnic minority children and families in social work contexts.
  • How practice supervisors can support social workers to reflect on issues of power and discrimination.

Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.

Hearing from 'Annie': a parent who has experienced child protection involvement

This tool based on 'Annie's' experiences focuses on the importance of building transparent relationships with parents so that their voices and views are heard (and the role which practice supervisors can play in making this happen). This tool is designed to be used in conjunction with the next tool ‘Hearing parents’ voices: the first assessment visit’.
‘Annie’ tweets as @survivecourt. You can read more of her work on her website.


Hearing parent’s voices: the first assessment visit

This tool developed in partnership with ‘Annie’ will help you ensure that your supervisees have a detailed understanding of how they can communicate effectively with parents at the first assessment visit and why it is important to do so.

Movie icon Hearing from Jenny

Author and trainer Jenny Molloy talks about the importance of talking with and listening to children to understand their experiences. She draws on her own life story and relationship with the many social workers she worked with as a child and young person.

You can hear a different podcast on a different topic with Jenny in – ‘Emotions, Relationships and Resilience in Child and Family Social Work.’

Jenny Molloy tweets as @HackneyChild. You can read more about her childhood experiences here.


Hearing children and young peoples’ voices

This tool, inspired by Jenny’s experiences, will help you and your supervisees consider how to communicate effectively with children and young people so that their voices and views are heard.

Hearing the voices of children and families in supervision

Families often report feeling that their voices and views are not heard when they have a social worker. This can be exacerbated if supervision focuses on compliance with process rather than exploring how practitioners are working with families on the issues they are facing. This tool focuses on how you can use reflective discussion to explore the lived experiences of children and families in supervision.

Audio icon Using a social model of child protection in supervision

Professor Anna Gupta (Royal Holloway, University of London) explains what a social model of child protection looks like and how practice supervisors can ensure social workers take account of the impact of poverty, social inequality and discrimination on the lived experience of children and families.


A social model of child protection for supervision

This tool provides suggestions about how practice supervisors can have discussions about children and families in supervision which are informed by a social model of child protection.

Movie icon Inverse intervention law

This short film presents findings from research by the Nuffield Foundation and Professor Bywaters (2014). Their research findings found that areas with lower rates of deprivation had higher rates of child welfare intervention compared with areas with higher rates of deprivation. This suggests that a number of complex factors influence social work intervention rates in different geographical areas. Findings from this research study are regularly updated on the website.

Thinking about the inverse intervention law

This tool asks you to consider your response to the film and your role in supporting social workers to take account of the impact of poverty and inequality in their work with children and families.

Exploring diversity in supervision

Learning from Serious Case Reviews highlights that there is insufficient focus or attention paid to the impact of heritage, culture or religious faith (and its meaning for that specific child or family) as well as disability or poverty when working with children and families. This suggests that families' lived experiences of social and structural inequality, culture, ethnicity and diversity may not be sufficiently understood or acknowledged by social workers. This reflective audit tool considers how you can explore these issues in supervision and support social workers to talk about diversity with children and families.