Allowing children a voice: a note on confidentiality

Roche, Jeremy and Briggs, Andy (1990). Allowing children a voice: a note on confidentiality. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 12(3) pp. 178–192.



During the Cleveland controversy there was much public focus on the relationship between the state, personified by the local authority social worker, and the family, represented by the parent. As such this would not have been that different from the tragedies surrounding many young children and their families which have resulted in official enquiries and reports over the past 15 years. However in Cleveland there was another figure-that of the crusading doctor. This figure enjoyed more professional power and prestige than social work and was thus able to force onto the agenda, of both public debate and social work action, the question of the sexual abuse of children and its prevalence. Yet despite this special feature of Cleveland1 the aftermath was depressingly familiar. In the debates which followed Cleveland the child was pushed off centre stage and only appeared in the company of the adults. The child was the means by which parent and social worker were adjudged failures or successes. Once this judgement is made the child well nigh disappears from view while efforts are made to render parents more responsible, social workers more professional. Amidst all the talk of child protection the child's voice is rarely heard. So it has been with Cleveland-the plight of the children affected over time was translated into the plight of their parents. The lives of “innocent” fathers suspected of sexually abusing their children are ruined.

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