Arthurworrey is vindicated

Conflicting opinion abounds about what Lisa Arthurworrey did or
didn’t do in the Victoria Climbie case. The secretary of state’s
counsel at the care standards tribunal hearing spoke of the “baton”
being with her. The response was that “a more telling image would
be of the most inexperienced member of the team attempting to
retain a hold onto an errant hot air balloon when everyone else had
lost interest”.

In fact it was Arthurworrey who recognised that a formal interview
with Victoria was required when her great aunt, Marie-Therese
Kouao, alleged sexual abuse of Victoria by her boyfriend Carl
Manning. And it was Arthurworrey who continued to try to trace the
family after her managers had asked her to close the case.

The 19-page fax from Central Middlesex Hospital confirmed the
mistaken managerial perception of the case as “family support”. If
formal child protection procedures had been in place, a section 47
investigation would have been informed by expert medical analysis
of the fax. It was not Arthurworrey’s role to collate and interpret
medical reports.

Properly trained and supervised, Arthurworrey would have known that
an interpreter was always required and that stated procedures
requiring parental consent were flawed. Following the sexual abuse
allegations, the managerial mindset was that the allegations were a
device to obtain housing and plans for a child protection
conference were not progressed. The tribunal unequivocally placed
the responsibility for convening a conference at management

Arthurworrey was right to question whether Victoria’s deferential
behaviour was culturally based. This was but one aspect of the case
that required complex analysis, and information was overlooked or
misinterpreted in the absence of formal processes.

The tribunal decision has redirected the spotlight away from one
social worker’s admission of mistakes to gross institutional and
organisational failures. No single social worker can protect a
child such as Victoria without every aspect of the child protection
system being firmly in place.

Liz Davies is senior lecturer in social work at London
Metropolitan University and the expert witness for Lisa
Arthurworrey at the care standards tribunal hearing

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