Fixating on social workers

I’ve only skimmed much of the news for the last week. I couldn’t bring myself to read the details of the baby P story, so I picked up the gist and moved on. But even with that little knowledge I got the impression that social workers were taking the brunt of media anger, rather than the actual people responsible for the crime. So I read up on it, and found this post by Unity. In it he compares the official Case Review with the media coverage. He argues for an interpretation of available evidence saying that until two/three weeks before the child’s death, there was nothing to separate the case from thousands of others. And aside from a paediatrician’s failure to notice severe injuries, no mistakes were necessarily made. Many newspapers, from the same evidence, have called for the heads of social workers. And even then without proper regard for the facts:

It’s also worth pointing out here, as this is rarely if even made clear by the media, but of the much quoted sixty occasions that the family had contact with health and social care workers in the 8 months from December 2006 up until the child’s death in August 2007, only 18 of those contacts were actually with social workers, a little less than half the number of contacts with health staff (37, including three visits to the family home), and the family (minus the boyfriend one assumes) were also seen five times at home by staff from the Family Welfare Association, which is now called ‘Family Action’ and there were another eight occasions that the child’s mother took her son to see health professionals including the two occasions on which the child’s injuries raised suspicions of abuse.

So how come the press and politicians are busily trying to kick the hell out social workers when they account for less than a third of the contact between the family and health and social care workers over the entire period and when – if you actually bother to read things properly and think about the many inconsistent elements that are apparent in this case – there evidence provides an equally plausible scenario which accounts more than adequately for the events leading to Baby P’s death but without relying on systematic failures and incompetence to explain the role of a range of health and social care professionals in proceedings?

He makes a convincing case. Here’s Polly Toynbee’s take on the repurcussions:

The fallout will be serious. Children’s departments will cover their backs and take many more into care. The pendulum may be due a slight swing that way, but it has its own dangers: when social workers are seen as child snatchers, parents are less willing to seek help or take injured children to hospital. There is no evidence to show if it is better to take a child away soon after birth when there is a danger the family can’t cope. A child might have a better life with adopters; and if the authorities delay until the damage is done, the prognosis for older children in care is poor, many ending up in prison. But few doubt that, if parents are “good enough”, children are best off with their own families. What Solomon can make the right call every time?

I cannot imagine the pressures of being a social worker. I don’t know how you deal with the things you must see on a daily basis, or cope with the situations that must arise. But people do, and their very existence is astonishing to me. Presumably they save thousands of children every year, to little acclaim. Then something like this happens, and the media don’t have the decency to pause for breath before letting rip. And the next day these same social workers get up and go to work. Because, as Unity quotes, this stuff is happening all the time.