BBC1, episode five (of six),

14 December 2004, 10.35pm

Star Rating: 4/5

This was another powerful episode about social work in Bristol
children’s services. The programme highlighted the stress placed on
workers dealing with child abuse, writes Melanie Howes.

The theme of this episode was denial by parents of their
children’s injuries and abuse. Jo, a hospital social worker, was
faced with Daniel, a seven-year-old boy with a fractured wrist.
Neither parent seemed concerned about his injury. Without a family
history or support from her back-up team, Jo could not bring the
case to a satisfactory conclusion.

Jo’s second case was a shaken baby who died in the hospital. The
baby had been left in the care of his father, a schedule one
offender, by the mother. The trauma of the situation placed a huge
weight on Jo’s shoulders.
We also saw a four-year-old boy living in squalor with his parents.
The family was helped by Frances, a social worker in the community
team. The antagonistic attitude and verbal abuse of the parents
towards Frances and the difficulties in finding a suitable
placement complicated the process of meeting the boy’s needs.

The programme highlighted that behind every abused child there
is likely to be a history of abuse, neglect, domestic violence and
needy parents. One was left thinking that, apart from the distress
and pain children face, the trauma of dealing with child abuse
inevitably leaves workers vulnerable to stress and burnout.

Melanie Howes is a social worker for children’s
services, Cornwall Council.

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