The morale of Haringey Council social workers has been severely damaged in the wake of public outrage over the Baby P case, a local union leader has said.
Unison branch secretary Sean Fox said professionals were being subjected to verbal abuse by clients, egged on by “disgraceful” coverage in the tabloid press.
Fox said individuals named and photographed in the press had had their privacy invaded by the stream of negative reports, and had been door-stepped several times by tabloid journalists.
Hard-working stuff ‘hurt and damaged’
Their behaviour and the constant negative coverage had caused “hurt and damage” to hard-working staff in the borough, he said. “It’s having a very, very damaging effect on morale. Social workers have faced hostile questions from clients about the [Baby P] case and on occasion the use of abusive language.”
In the past month individual social workers involved in the Baby P case have been the subject of a campaign in The Sun to have them sacked and barred from working with children again. Print media watchdog the Press Complaints Commission said it had received ten complaints about the campaign, on the grounds of harassment and invading people’s privacy.
Fox told Community Care that the backlash could lead to an exodus of staff.
Haringey not good for CV
“We’re concerned that people will be running for the exit door right now. Working for Haringey does not look good on your CV.”
The union representative echoed comments made by the chair of the Local Government Association, Margaret Eaton, who last month said the tabloid “witch-hunt” would make people considering a career in child protection think again.
Social workers involved with Baby P, the 17-month-old child who died in August last year, face being struck off by the General Social Care Council, pending an investigation and possible hearing regarding their conduct.
And the council has placed the positions of children’s services team manager Gillie Christou and social workers Maria Ward and Sylvia Henry under review, in relation to their involvement in the case. At a more senior level, Clive Preece, head of children in need and safeguarding services, and Cecilia Hitchen, deputy director of children’s services have been suspended
Meanwhile, former director of children’s services Sharon Shoesmith was sacked this week with immediate effect and with no compensation after children’s secretary Ed Balls used emergency powers to remove her from her post last week.
He appointed a new management team following a damning report by inspectors into safeguarding arrangements in the borough, and threatened to out-source some or all of the council’s responsibility for children’s services if performance did not improve.
Fox, whose branch represents 250 children’s social care workers, said such a move would cause concern about changes to working conditions and would weaken “democratic accountability”.
“Clearly privatisation leads to a break up of the joined-up services that we all aspire to,” he added.