Senior judge criticises ‘highly defensive’ social work culture ahead of ITV documentary

In an interview with ITV Exposure, Justice Sir Mark Hedley claims social workers face an 'increased pressure' to intervene post Baby P

Royal Courts of Justice
The case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice. Photo: Rex Features

A senior family court judge has criticised social workers’ handling of children’s cases, claiming there is “an increased pressure to intervene” in the wake of the Baby P tragedy.

Justice Sir Mark Hedley made the comments to ITV in a new documentary about so-called ‘forced adoption’. The programme is part of the broadcaster’s Exposure series, the same investigative strand that uncovered Jimmy Savile’s history of abuse.

In Exposure: Don’t Take My Child, due to be screened Tuesday 15 July at 10:35pm, the former High Court judge spoke about the “highly defensive atmosphere” that he believes has developed in the wake of the Baby P case.

Justice Hedley said: “There is a highly defensive atmosphere around, both in social services and in the state generally about future disasters like that happening again.

“That has meant, I think, that there is increased regulation, there is an increased pressure on social workers to intervene where they might not have done so in the past.”

He also added that “there is often a failure to think through the implications of adoption as opposed for example to long-term fostering or to trying to find a special guardian amongst the members of the family”.

Tomorrow’s documentary will examine whether social workers are increasingly prepared to remove children from their birth parents through so-called ‘forced adoption’, looking at the implications of large media scandals and the Children and Families Act 2014.

  • Exposure: Don’t Take My Child will air on Tuesday 15 July at 10.35pm. For live tweets and reaction follow us on Twitter.

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4 Responses to Senior judge criticises ‘highly defensive’ social work culture ahead of ITV documentary

  1. Brenda Burnett July 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    we have to look at the facts in each case and from where i sit i have seen social workers do things for the past 20 years and i can see that it is easer to take a child away from it’s parents as they do not have to put time and money into the family’s to help them and that is not best for the child and we should think how that child is feeling when you take the child and they can not see there family and it is a sham that social services can not put time and money into keeping family’s together

  2. David Jockelson July 16, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    Many of the points made by Sir Mark Hedley and by the barrister Martha Cover are true and well made. The programme however did not have the balance needed in this all important field. It avoided the true agony of care cases which is that often social workers are too slow to move and allow children to remain in abusive or neglectful homes.
    What really needs to be explored is the fact that judgements on which cases need removal and which do not that is so very hard and each case is different. Why do programmes avoid that painful issue? Would that make programmes too real, too demanding for viewers? Is it easier to show just one side of the issue?
    What really needs to be said is that it requires the best possible social work, expert witnesses and legal resources – all of which have been reduced over the years.

    • Edna July 16, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      It requires social workers / services with a much higher level of critical thinking and practice than exists in much of the current system.

      From my own experience, and as shown in the programme, social services / workers use, repeatedly, rehearsed, stock,in trade meaningless phraes (from their college text books), without enough hard evidence, (e.g. as the barrister highlighted),

      Most professions have to produce facts not just give judgements / opinions. That is why the medical profession often feel more challenged nowadays by patients who are often clued up. It is time that it was recognised that social workers do not have the knowledge or ability in the main it to make this level of judgement. Hence the use of hearsay and gossip and made up information prevail in client records.

      Destroying families means destroying the very social fabric of societyy- feel proud of this social workers- it will come back to bite as you are too part of the same society. Only you can change this situation.

  3. Edna July 16, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    The programme highlighted how social services / workers ‘tweak’ judgements /opinions about individuals and family members based on their own prejudices and bad behaviours as well as back covering which is rife.

    Too many innocent families are being destroyed (applies to to adult social care social work where safeguarding investigations are very poor / inadequate or just unintelligent.