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Study summarised:

Social work forensic reports in South African criminal courts: Inevitability in the quest for justice

The summary:

In this qualitative study the authors explored the views of 32 South African legal and police professionals (including judges, regional court magistrates, district court magistrates, prosecutors, private defence lawyers, Legal Aid lawyers and four inspectors from the Child Protection Unit).

Although participants were asked to provide recommendations regarding social work forensic reports and probation reports, the recommendations are also applicable to child protection social work reports.

The study reveals what these professionals feel, many social workers are notorious for:

  • (1) Not keeping to submission dates.
  • (2) Wasting the time of the court if the report is of poor quality to the extent that the court would be better off without the report.
  • (3) Producing poor quality reports, in other words, reports that reflect:
  • a) No consultation with all the relevant stakeholders,
  • b) No corroborating information that you obtained from sources;
  • c) Poor writing style and grammar 🡪 seen as unfit for use in the legal context
  • d) A lack of evidence of critical thinking
  • e) A lack of proper writing principles

How can we use this information in practice?

  • Acknowledge that your role as a CPSW is inevitable in the quest for justice for the most vulnerable in society – children.
  • CPSWs reports gives a voice to these vulnerable children and therefore you must ensure that your court reports adhere to the gold standard of being “outstanding”!
  • Remind yourself that your report is a “forever image” of who you are and what you stand for.
  • CPSWs can uplift the image of the social work profession and become celebrated for being punctual, keeping to deadlines, and produce court reports that demonstrate their critical thinking, objectivity, and accountability towards their clients and the court. Of course, always upholding Section 7 of the Children’s Act (38/2005).