Legal campaign group the Transparency Project has published guidelines on the recording of conversations with social workers by parents.
Intended as a resource for such parents as well as the social workers themselves, the guidance examines the law surrounding recordings and the reasons why people might wish to make them in the first place.
“Because they don’t want to rely on other people’s records of a meeting and want an objective record of their own. Although formal minutes of meetings are taken, they are often not available straight away, and parents can find it difficult to get corrections made where the understanding or recollection of professionals does not match their own.”
Other possible reasons cited include forgetfulness, a lack of trust in social workers and other childcare professionals and because the parents had previously felt misrepresented in official records of a meeting.
Written in plain English, the guidance also addresses “common misapprehensions” about the law, stating for example that the much quoted Data Protection Act 1997 does not prohibit parents from recording meetings with social workers because the matters discussed would not constitute “personal data” under the Act.
The Transparency Project claims most parents record the meetings on a “just in case” basis, although some recordings have been presented in court cases and have influenced the course of at least one. In that, a mother staying in a foster placement with her baby was subjected to verbal abuse.
Following a conference in June, the Transparency Project sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local authorities to assess their approach to the topic.
“The responses to the FOI requests demonstrated that the attitude and approach of local authorities varied considerably. Reasons given for refusing to permit recording were not always underpinned by a correct understanding of the law. In addition, there appeared to be some evidence of a culture of suspicion, fear or hostility by professionals towards parents who wished to record their interactions.”