I do not tend to watch TV programmes about social work (not that there are many of them) as they tend to either bore me or make me angry. Last night, this one was a major exception.
The documentary did not say much that I did not already know- I have reflected on the tragic story of the death of a boy known as baby Peter many times on this blog, in an attempt to tell something of the complexity of attempting to protect children through bureaucracy, and my total frustration at the vilification of my profession (social work) as being somehow culpable for what sadly what is an all too frequent occurrence.
Around 260 other children have been killed by their parents since Peter died. We do not know their names. Many of them were also known to services.
The difference in this case is that the press decided that scapegoats were required. They made no effort to understand, to engage in debate about the nature of the task, to understand the inter-relationships between agencies, to consider the resources that are being applied to the task and whether they are adequate or appropriate.
The story that they chose to create was one of the failure of social workers, and to a lesser extent, a ‘foreign’ doctor. Three social work staff, including a rather brilliant director (Sharon Shoesmith) were destroyed in the public eye.
Politicians, particularly David Cameron and Ed Balls then weighed in- one to make political capital, the other running scared of The Sun newspaper and the Murdoch empire.
It became a witch hunt.
If you want to understand how organisations attempt to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from those who should be their closest protectors, then you should watch this programme.
Watch it to understand how things go wrong, but remember too that many many children do not die, because of the intervention of these very organisations, and the dedicated staff who work within them.
You might like to check out some of my earlier posts on this subject;