Children’s services are reactive not universal, child protection
experts told the first seminar of phase two of the Victoria Climbie
inquiry, writes Lauren Revans.
The 25 representatives from health, social care, police and the
voluntary sector agreed problem-focused services and stigmatising
eligibility criteria help contribute to social exclusion rather
than reduce it.
They feel that the inquisitorial role frontline social workers
were obliged to take with potential new clients in order to assess
eligibility and meet managers demands for statistics, was
threatening and off-putting.
Professor of psychiatric social work Colin Pritchard described
the under-resourcing of children’s services behind stringent
eligibility criteria as a “professional disgrace”.
“Why are social workers sometimes apparently hostile to their
clients? Because they feel their managers are demanding and their
systems are equally hostile” Pritchard said.
“You have three victims here the child, the damaged and
disrupted parents and the poor frontline social worker trying to
hold the whole thing together. Very often, that frontline social
worker does not feel that they up there (managers) are looking
after them. They are feeling that they are the next people to be
quizzed and judged. That, I hate to say, is about resources.”
In order to make services more responsive social workers should
instead take their lead from voluntary sector organs such as the
Samaritans and Childline, and ask fewer questions take more time to
listen and develop relationships of trust, the inquiry heard.
Dr Howard Baderman, a retired accident and emergency consultant,
told the inquiry: “If one of the things we want to achieve is
inclusiveness and encouraging people to seek help, I think we just
have to bear in mind that pressing for too much information puts
people off, raises the spectre of where it is going to go and of
Immediate past president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, Moira Gibb, said social workers no longer had time
to reflect on their work, and that supervision sessions had
effectively been reduced to an opportunity for managers to check
the correct forms had been completed.
Gibb added that the sector had failed to take advantage of the
opportunity afforded by the Children Act 1989 to take a more
strategic approach to children’s services.