Liz Davies, senior lecturer in social work at London Metropolitan University, who has supported Lisa Arthurworrey throughout the appeals process against the General Social Care Council, explains why she thinks Lisa was let down by the system.
After ten years of struggle and hardship, Lisa Arthurworrey, Haringey social worker for Victoria Climbié, is a registered social worker. Some level of justice has been achieved following her experience of at least nine different legal processes prior to the General Social Care Council hearings. Conditions attached to her registration including requirements of supervision and training are mainly what should be expected by all social workers of reasonable employers – but who will employ Lisa? Sympathetic employers would surely note an increase in recruitment because they would shine out as truly supportive of front line staff and challenging to the blame culture. They would also be responding to Laming’s recent plea that the most junior employees should not carry the heaviest burden of accountability.
The GSCC must re-examine their role in the tortuous process that followed a Care Standards Tribunal decision in 2005 that Lisa was fit for practice and in 2007 that she should be registered subject to conditions. There was unacceptable delay in the GSCC response and it was Lisa’s courageous persistence with strong representation from Roger Kline of the trade union Aspect that achieved this positive result.
I have supported Lisa throughout and acted as her expert witness – however the GSCC refused my application to be an endorser for registration alleging that I had misled them about the length of time I had known Lisa. Despite corroborative evidence from the child executive of BASW, a police superintendent , Lisa’s father and renowned journalists, I failed to win any of the five stages of GSCC and Ombudsman complaint hearings. I was assured that the decision was no slur on my professionalism but it impacted detrimentally on Lisa’s case at the time.
There has been no justice for Lisa with respect to Haringey’s decision to dismiss her and no compensation for years of unemployment and experience of constant vitriol from her local community. Legal actions have taken their toll but have resulted in her becoming an advocacy expert. It is to her credit that she has set such a stunning example to other social workers finding themselves as political scapegoats carrying the can for organisational failure and flawed policies. There is now a strong knowledge base of case law and expertise in the representation of social workers. Suppressed social work voices commonly point to suppressed service user voices. Few cases have had as much academic, political and media attention as that of the murder of Victoria Climbié – perhaps now Lisa will be empowered to add her account to the archives.