Child Protection

Very interesting article in the Guardian online Social Care Network by Nushra Mansuri BASW’s professional officer – here  – all about the recent ruling by Lord Justice Munby allowing a father to post a video of social workers removing his baby.

What we have to realise, whether we like it or not, is that with the speed of communication these days and with instant videos and messaging, so much activity will occur in the spotlight. Just like everybody with a smart phone is now a news photographer, we have to accept that some things cannot be rewound. There are some inherent dangers, however, that transcend technology and modern behaviour. One of these is that there always will be conspiracy theorists. In this case there is a small minority who populate savage websites that demonise social workers and quite frankly place them in danger by suggesting that their behaviour in protecting children is the tip of an iceberg of some huge conspiracy.

Now this would involve, if true, social workers engineering an enormously sophisticated secret pact with courts, police, health service and schools. I just can’t believe that social workers (or any of the above) really have the time, energy or motive to do this. I have real compassion for people who feel they have been genuinely the victim of injustice and there need to be champions in the community who will speak for them. This has to be done lawfully however and in a way that doesn’t call for criminal retribution. Support is critical but it has to be done openly. There is nothing wrong with challenge but it has to be based on evidence rather than raw emotion.

Some aspects of this case though make me extremely worried that the statutory authorities are not taking on board the fact that technology is now so advanced and readily available. A few days ago I blogged about people not appreciating the difference between secrecy and confidentiality and somehow or another we have to get the wider public to believe that what child care social work does is in the interests of the whole community. I have no problem in disciplinary measures being taken against social workers that seriously fail in their task but, on the other hand, we must have more exposure about what they do. Some argue that there should be just straight countermeasures and cameras should be allowed in when social workers visit homes that clearly are high risk environments for children – just to let people see what is confronting social workers day to day in some sections of the community. Another irony is that several of the respondents to articles on this subject demand more openness and transparency from social services, more accountability and less secrecy. They make vitriolic comments and then sign themselves ‘anonymous’. A great advert for transparency!

We have to find ways of showing more what social workers do. Few other industrialised countries have this level of suspicion in matters of child protection. People must just realise that, ultimately, every suggestion that safeguarding children is part of some wide conspiracy and therefore part of the devil’s own work is just making it more difficult for social workers to get over the doorstep on the next case where a child’s in a room upstairs being badly abused.

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