Social care leaders and a rising star of the Conservative party have clashed over the current state of social work at one of the sector’s foremost annual debates.
The question time session at Community Care LIVE, hosted by BBC journalist Jeremy Vine, gave practitioners their opportunity to quiz a panel of top figures about how social work must adapt to its current challenges.
Shaun Bailey, the defeated Tory candidate in Hammersmith who has been tipped to rise up the party’s ranks, told Community Care LIVE that policies such as personalisation were often dreamt up on high without due attention paid to their impact on the ground.
Bailey, the managing director of My Generation, a charity helping disadvantaged young people, said: “There’s a growing disconnect between what the professionals think is going on and what goes on in people’s houses. The top end make grand speeches but the bottom end can’t deliver upon that.”
He also said the UK was broken – albeit not beyond repair – and called for a change in attitudes toward older people across society: “The things we do to elderly people, if you did that to a child you’d be arrested.”
Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, called on politicians to stand up to the media when it criticised social work initiatives designed to boost society’s cohesion.
Dawson called on the government to protect social work from cuts, claiming the sector had already been neglected in the “years of plenty”. He also demanded the prioritisation of legislation to bring in a college of social work.
And Annie Stevenson, who runs the Integration in Care consultancy, said: “What we need is good leadership and a fair distribution of resources. There’s so much inequality, complexity and confusion, this is symptomatic of something seriously wrong.”
Jean Stogdon, the co-founder of Grandparents Plus who has been a qualified social worker for 40 years, said the profession had become more bureaucratic since her days on the frontline, meaning that practitioners were less able to prevent cases like Baby P.
“Most of our time was spent out there with families – we didn’t sit in front of a computer,” she said.
In reference to the Haringey case, in which social workers did not realise that a man lived in Baby Peter’s house, she said: “We would have spent a long time in that house. You could have seen if there was a guy around.”