Sharon Shoesmith is in the news again. check out this piece from the Guardian which describes some of the twistings and turnings in the lead up to her sacking.
I have written several pieces about the event in Haringey around the tragic death of a baby called Peter at the hands of her mother and two men, whilst under supervision of the social work department. (See here and here for example.)
Shoesmith was paid a lot of money to manage a complex and pressured social care system for children. Her performance was regarded as exemplary- in bringing positive change in a council not unfamiliar with scandal. She had the full support of experts, local political leaders, and her own staff- that is until a poor performance at a press conference in front of tabloid journalists baying for blood. Blood that was duly served up.
You could say that a leader of a system that fails has to take the consequences.
But again I find myself asking questions of a society that appoints social workers to care for it’s most needy and vulnerable members, then vilifies the profession at every opportunity, whilst at the same time, services remain underfunded, and undervalued.
And there is a chronic shortage of staff who are willing to place themselves in the firing line as social workers doing child protection.
It remains to be seen as to whether Sharon Shoesmith will win her case in the High Court. But many people will hope that out of this process will come some clarity, and debate over the real issues.
Because the idea that kids die in our country because of a bad set of professionals not doing their job properly- it may sell tabloids, but it will not protect children.