Sunday, 16 November 2008

Gordon Brown has promised he will “do everything in my power" to ensure there is no repeat of the brutal death of Baby P”. Not good enough and it never will be until the government drops it’s insane obsession for creating a paper mountain made of pages and pages of forms and returns from social workers. Social workers are required to spend hours of their precious time writing reports and ticking boxes in order to demonstrate to the government that all is well. It is not. Many social workers are prevented from doing their job and so they are disillusioned and de-motivated. Nice one Gordon though the blame lies more with traitor Blair.
It has been said that many social workers see their main task to be getting the statistical returns in on time. The welfare of clients is compromised in such a negative climate with such preposterous objectives. I have seen the same culture developed in my local Children’s service for whom I worked until recently. I am now unemployed and glad to be free of a system dominated by the same burocratic obsession with ticking boxes.
There is a plan to allocate access to social workers via call centres. The idea is monstrous and in my opinion devastatingly destructive. It is designed to remove people from waiting lists who will either not fit new criteria or will not have the means to access the service.
A social worker recently told me that “ the only thing that is readily on offer to most clients is meals on wheels” and that things are getting worse by the week. Money is wasted on burocratic rituals while people go months with out proper access to WHAT THEY NEED.
It is understandable that we all want to see the people negligent in the tragic case of baby P brought to book but we must look at the bigger picture. The fact is that today services and quality of service is being eroded and dismantled by a labour government. They have become so detached from our reality they are no longer able to meet the needs of the vulnerable.
One of the contributing factors to this mess is the decline in credibility of political statistics. Paddy Ashdown recently described this as due to an increasing lack of honest transparency among our politicians. In other words we can’t trust them and if the boxes are not ticked they will juggle the forms and resulting statistics until they are happy with the result. One in four posts in Social services are vacant and I suspect it is far worse in some areas
While I was till working in my local Childrens services in Wandsworth I became directly involved in a case of a young man at risk. My line manager had no idea as to what route should be taken. When ever I protested that nothing was being done I was told that as I had reported the facts to a senior manager my job was done. I was not happy with progress so I pushed some buttons again and eventually the young man was allocated a place of safety but only at the last minute and in my opinion this only happened because I kept pushing. Another case of every one too busy ticking boxes?
Recently the government introduced a scheme requiring all public service workers at all levels to act when ever they thought a child to be at risk. The intention was eventually to make all adults responsible in law for intervening for such a child whether it be to make a phone call or to intervene in some other way. What a fantastic idea I thought! Finally all children are OUR CHILDREN. Proper socialism at last. Sadly the Nevres Kamal the social worker who “ blew the whistle” in Haringey (all local authorities have a whistle blowing policy) was sanctioned and ultimately ignored. A letter from her legal representatives is copied below.

Ms P Hewitt MPSecretary of State for the Department of HealthHouse of CommonsLondonSW1A 0AA
Our ref: LD/KemalYour ref:
Strictly Private and Confidential
16 February 2007
Dear Secretary of StateMs Nevres Kemal v Haringey Council
We act for the above-named Claimant. She worked as a senior social worker at Haringey Council and discovered that child abuse victims were not being protected. Haringey of course is the home of the Climbie tragedy.
Our client's claims follow similar recent revelations in Westminster and Leeds. Statutory child protection procedures are not being followed. Child sex abusers are not being tackled.
Our client whistle-blew the fact that the sexual abuse had been ongoing for months and the new management brought in post-Climbie had not acted. She was then targeted for a witch-hunt by management who sought to dismiss her. She received a final written warning and was transferred out of child protection.
Our client won her racial discrimination and whistle-blowing claims (copy attached) at Watford ET on 15 February 2007 (copy decision attached).
We write to ask for a public inquiry into these matters.
Yours sincerely,
Equal Justice Ltd

The enquiry will roll on and we will be told some thing palatable at the end of it but while Social services are allowed to decline we will get no where. It is time this government acted responsibly and effectively to ensure that sufficient funding is available for training and resourcing social workers.. So far it has failed miserably to such an extent that it’s policies have eroded not improved existing services. They have made significant positive changes in some areas of the work and how it is carried out such as new procedures for dealing with rape victims and there are others but the overall effect of their target driven obsessions is mostly detrimental.
Mean while we must all be vigilant where children are concerned. We must be ready to intervene if we think any child is at risk. I will never forget the young woman who challenged me while I was pushing my three year old son in his buggy in the dark. She over heard me say to him “ you don’t know where you are now do you?” ( it was part of a game we played when he couldn’t sleep) She thought this was odd and she turned to ask him – “ do you know this man?” He told her I was his daddy and she apologised to me. No need. I wanted to kiss her. What a brave and loving thing to do! Don’t hesitate. Participate.


Copyright e d g a r b r o u g h t o n 2008


Anonymous said...

Rob is spot on about the paper mountain. I regularly fill out 30 page forms for the samllest resource and resources are dwindling.
The turnover of young social workers in this area is very high. new faces all the time and bless them but most haven't a clue and often don't have basic skills such as literacy etc. In my office in the north,can't be more specific, meals on wheels is the staple diet of the statistics machine. It covers a multitude of sins and ticks boxes.Stress levels in my job are very high and increasing.
Having said all this there is no defense to be made for the appalling lack of duty of care in the baby P case.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Ken. I have been a social worker for over 30 years and have always taken great pride in the way I, and colleagues, have been able to make a real difference to some of the most disadvantaged people around. Now I spend at least 50% of my work time trying to meet the strange recording systems that are constantly changed in order to meet performance indicators. I am seriously thinking of joining the leaving hoards. Newly qualified, young, enthusiastic social workers are burning out in a matter of months (have just finished counselling one) and most of the people left are stressed and demoralised. After how many years of a labour government?????????
None of this even begins to justify the horrific circumstances surrounding the death of Baby P. It just scares me how many more innocents are going to suffer while I and others are coming to grips with yet more forms.

Anonymous said...

There is an overwhelming public need to blame someone for the tragic death of Baby P but the identification of a scape goat will only deflect attention from the underlying weaknesses in the system.
In the early 70's, in Brighton, Maria Colwell died in similar circumstances. It was said then that it must never be allowed to happen again. Nothing has really changed.

Anonymous said...

My Mom wouldn't have got through the past 16 months with out her social worker after a serious bout of mental illness and that she is house bound so let's remember people are trying. They are up against it. Money is needed now.