Deep Problems in the UK Social Care System

A review commissioned by the UK Government on Social Care and family breakdown, The Case for Change, has just been published (on 16 June 2021), and various parties were interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on 17 June 2021. The report found that the Social Care system is "simulatneously right yet shaky", and "is creating an increasingly adversarial system that is both less able to support parents or protect children."

First, a parent told a harrowing story of a decade of unwarranted suspicion by workers in the Social Care system, who "treat parents as guilty until proven innocent." However, one harrowing story does not mean the whole system is broken.

Rather, what I am interested in is deeper attitudes and beliefs, assumptions and presuppositions.

One interviewee said the Social Care system spends "too much time investigating rather than helping."

Comment: "Investigating" takes a stance right in the middle of the juridical aspect of life, to which nothing is meaningful expect blaming, punishing and protecting, while helping is meaningful in the ethical aspect of life, the core of which is self-giving love, and a desire for mending rather than breaking.

When interviewed towards the end of the programme, Charlotte Ramsey, of the Association of Directors of Children's Work betrayed that juridical stance, when, in acknowledging the imbalance, she used a different word. She replied "over-investigating and under-intervening." Intervention is not help. It is a juridical idea and lacks any connotation or implication of desire to help and mend.

This, I submit, is at the root of the problems in Britain's Social Care system today.

On Aspects

I name the aspects according to the suite of fifteen aspects of reality that the Dutch thinker, Herman Dooyeweerd, carefully identified and investigated. Each aspect is an irreducibly distinct sphere of meaning and law, each a meaning-kernel. The juridical aspect has "due" as its kernel, the idea that each kind of entity has something due to it, and it is from this that our ideas of justice and injustice, right and wrong, responsibilities and rights, law and policy arise. The ethical aspect is not right and wrong, but going beyond what is due with love and mercy that is self-giving rather than self-centred or self-protecting, and which protects the other even as expense of the self. In the Social Care system, though the word "care" should suggest the ethical aspect, in practice, it protects its own views and treats the 'other' (families) with suspicion, as guilty until proven innocent, and does help this 'other'.

Created by Andrew Basden, 17 June 2021. Last updated: