In the summer of last year social workers also dominated the headlines but coming from the other side of the damned if they do and damned if they don't debate.
The coverage then centred on controversial MP John Hemming and his headline friendly allegations that social workers were unnecessarily taking children into care to meet adoption targets.
At the time of Hemming's allegations Ann Baxter, the then chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Services health, care and additional needs policy committee said that allegations such as Hemming's brought the system into disrepute, may put people off raising concerns about a child's welfare and therefore children might be put at risk. Something Hemming dismissed as "nonsense."
If the case did not flag up problems with the system it laid bare how the social workers involved had little self confidence - they, along with other professionals, largely failing to challenge Baby P's mother's account that his injuries were accidental.
Views such as Hemming's chip away at a profession in an already fragile state, the lack of confidence in this case highlighting how everything must be done to challenge them.
In short: "If you criticise us, we'll let children die. And it'll be your fault." And, just in case you think the threat might be empty: "We warned you last time you criticised us. And now look what you've done."
Dress it up however you like. There is an impressive level of sheer perversity required to argue, when the same Social Services department have watched a second child being tortured to death without intervening, that the solution to the problem is never, ever, to criticise them. Is there any other profession that tries that one?
John Hemming himself has turned up in the comments to point out:
The article you cite is dated 2nd August 2007. Baby P sadly died on 3rd August 2007.
This causes you some practical difficulty in arguing any aspect of causality.
The man's an MP for a reason.
And there's an excellent comment here from one Nick Bromley:
I worked on Sir Roy Griffiths' Review of Community Care in the 1980s.... I well remember Sir Roy's increasing exasperation with the language of partnership and joint working. He saw it as a cop out and his constant question, in his trips around the country to see care in practice, was "who exactly is responsible for the success of the service here?" We visited social workers who were caring for people with learning difficulties who had been released into the community from long-stay institutions. It was quite clear that those social workers were fully responsible and the air of competence and confidence was palpable. Elsewhere, we found situations where the division of responsibility between health and social service was supposed to be a matter of joint partnership. There was an air of drift: much discussion of procedures and not much action.
When people can shift responsibility onto the process of joint working, they will. Nothing is ever anyone's responsibility because it was discussed in a conference in which the most timid solution usually prevails. People who have firm views are seen as not being committed to joint working. And social workers who have no sense of personal responsibility never learn to exercise a confident judgement. Sadly, i am almost certain that what will come out of these reviews is even more procedures for joint working and even more bodies for collaborative working.
Absolutely right and, of course, pretty damn obvious to those of us who've spent any time at all working outside the public sector.
Anyway, the site's administrator is declining to publish my reply to this tripe, so I reproduce it here:
> But none of the above posters seem able to recognise the huge contradiction in taking a stance that social workers take children away from their parents too readily, and then criticising them when they haven't removed a child.
There is no contradiction there at all, because that's a glaringly incomplete description of the criticism. No one ever complains that social workers remove children and that social workers don't remove children. People complain that social workers remove children who are in no danger and that they don't remove children who are in danger. These two complaints hugely contradict each other in much the same way as the two positions that (a) murderers should go to jail and (b) innocent people should not go to jail hugely contradict each other. The only way to see a contradiction in the latter position is to fail to see any real difference between murderers and the innocent — they're all just people, right? And the only way to see a contradiction in the former position is to fail to see any real difference between perfectly good families and brutally violent dysfunctional families — they're all just families, right?
I don't have a degree in social work, and I can see the differences. If social workers can't, what use are you?
> I fail to see how a headline like "Blood on their hands" is going to protect children
I don't think protecting children is the headline-writer's job. I thought it was yours. As it happens, I agree with your underlying assumption that we should all play our part. Thing is, if every member of society does their bit to intervene where necessary, what exactly do we need social workers for?
The entire point of your job is that we have taken these responsibilities and given them to the state, and the state is taxing us to pay you to shoulder those responsibilities for us. If you don't want to take the responsibility, stop taking the money.
I work for a bank. I can get sacked for trading a few shares, which, frankly, harms no-one. For some reason, you guys don't get sacked for negligence leading to children's deaths.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Harringey Social Services failed to cooperate with the police investigation, refusing to provide relevant documents until forced to by the court. I would be interested to hear your defence of this. Was it because the public are always criticising social workers when they cooperate fully with murder investigations?