Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
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Judge claims that social worker’s report should have been written in ‘plain English’
Judge Jeremy Lea has claimed that a social worker’s report, which was being used in a family court case to decide on the adoption of two children, was so poorly written that it would have meant the same to the involved parties had it been “in a foreign language”.
A family friend known to the two sisters, aged two and four, was attempting to adopt them.
However, the Judge said that parts of the social worker’s report used unclear language, and he also added that the woman who was hoping to become the sisters’ new legal guardian would not have understood it.
Phrases such as “imbued with ambivalence”, “having many commonalities emanating from their histories”, “issues had a significant interplay on (her) ability” and “I asked her to convey a narrative” were some of those highlighted as being obscure.
Judge Jeremy Lea rejected concerns expressed by the social worker responsible for producing the report – Tina Pugh – and ruled that the woman should be able to care for the two children.
He said: “Reports by experts are not written solely for the benefit of other professionals, the advocates and the Judge.
“The parents and other litigants need to understand what is being said and why.”
The Judge continued, stating that: “I may be accused of linguistic pedantry. There is a serious point here.
“My reason for criticising Tina Pugh’s report in this way is not solely borne out of my concern that such reports should be so written as to be readily understood but because I have to question whether Tina Pugh was able to communicate orally with (the woman). Did (the woman) fully understand what was being asked of her or said to her?”
The comment serves as a warning to all social workers that clarity is needed in their written reports, instead of using unnecessarily complex language, especially as their work has a serious impact on decisions made in family court cases.
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