Chief social worker: ‘Very difficult’ to secure convictions from Cameron’s jail proposals

Following news the government will consult on extending the law of wilful neglect to children's social workers, Trowler told a concerned practitioner the move comes with the territory

Photo: REX/F1 Online

The chief social worker for children has attempted to ease concerns over David Cameron’s plans to extend the criminal charge of wilful neglect to children’s social workers.

Responding to social workers on Twitter, Isabelle Trowler said it would be very difficult to secure a conviction under the proposals, which would give courts the power to imprison social workers for up to five years.

She posted a message on the social networking site, saying the move, “comes with [the] territory of holding responsibility on behalf of the state”, but added that she thought it, “would be [very] difficult to secure a conviction”.

“Not least because I can’t remember ever thinking poor practice was a result of wilful neglect/reckless practice,” she said.

‘Concern, not defence’

Trowler said the government’s announcement “matches the public [and] political mood” and urged social workers to engage with the consultation process. “Just saying it’s terrible won’t win the argument,” she said.

In a formal statement to Community Care, Trowler said social workers’ first reaction to the plans “should not be one of defence, but of concern for the people we serve”.

“We must focus on the experiences of the victims of abuse, their families and local communities, who feel too often so failed by public services…As a profession we must therefore fully engage with the upcoming consultation,” she said

Last week, Cameron announced his decision to consult on extending the crime of wilful neglect to children’s social workers. The profession reacted furiously to the announcement, with one social worker launching a petition in a bid to prevent the move.

The petition has so far been signed by over 9,000 people, while 90% of 8,442 people polled by Community Care said they do not agree with the prime minister’s proposals.

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2 Responses to Chief social worker: ‘Very difficult’ to secure convictions from Cameron’s jail proposals

  1. Goldilocks March 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    No matter how much social workers engage with the consultation it will go through. Local authorities and the HCPC will ensure convictions and jail terms become a commonplace reality.
    Witch hunting has long been the pastime of local authorities when negative attention is brought to their organisations and services.
    The HCPC is happily busy ploughing through the social work workforce punishing social workers for being bullied, battered and intimidated rendered emotionally broken and unable to manage extremely high complex case loads.

    No matter how much a social worker ‘cares’ or show’s ‘concern’ they will be disciplined for recording their concerns as poor record keeping or of bringing their organisation into dis-repute.

    Who in their right mind would want to train as a social worker under such fear?
    To work your socks of for peanuts, have no worklife balance, be burned out at a young age, get trained on top of training on top of training – so much training that you never get the time to do the actual job, get bullied somewhere along the line, then get thrown in the slammer because you’re so tired you may make a mistake.
    To create so great a fear makes one think the real agenda is to be rid of social workers once and for all.

    Mr Cameron, how about some support, commitment and acknowledgment of the real issues rather than punishment and fear, or would that be too costly?

  2. Andy West March 11, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    Cameron is playing to the crowd with an election coming up. It is interesting that many of the responses to Cameron’s announcement in the Daily Mail were not sympathetic to to him either because they were sympathetic to social workers or they see Cameron as someone who makes announcements that are ill considered and intended to be crowd pleasing. Remember his part in kicking off the storm about baby P where he, like Balls, was showing cowardice by caving into the media and public’s reaction to a half told story as demonstrated in Ray Jones book on Baby P.

    In the case of Rotherham and Oxford I don’t think the public have the same clear view of where “blame” lies as they do with younger children. They are much more ambivalent

    Of course it is true that it is highly unlikely that any professional could be proved to have “willfully neglected” their responsibilities. However Isobel Trowler is typical of many social work leaders who refuse to “stand up for social work” but advocate a mealy mouthed “engagement with the consultation process.”

    I am sure that further down the line there will be a more considered appreciation of the difficulties of working with, and protecting, young people who are sexually exploited. Of course, as with baby P, this will not be a narrative that will override the current view that is peddled by Cameron, is supported by the labour party, and is accepted by Isobel Trowler.

    As others have noted perhaps, in the light of the evidence and the cutbacks in services, the only ones deserving of a prison sentence are the politicians themselves