BASW attacks media after death threats against social workers named in articles

The association said the risk to social workers outweighed any public interest defence for naming them

Photo: Victoria M/Fotolia

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has attacked sections of the press for naming social workers involved in cases where children have died.

It said two national publications had named the social workers involved in one of these cases, and this led to death threats and a “barrage of personal abuse” against the workers on social media.

Ruth Allen, chief executive of BASW, said: “No social worker should have to fear for his/her life just for trying to do their best in a very complex job that often involves many other agencies.”

Allen added: “The publication of social workers’ names in situations like this is known to provoke such threats and the risk of this often far outweighs any public interest defence in the media.

“Social workers are accountable professionals and there are proper channels for practice to be investigated where necessary.”

BASW said it had received further reports of frontline social workers being abused in person, including an example of people “shouting obscenities through a megaphone while social workers head into their offices”.

Advice for social workers

Employers have the primary responsibility to handle threats against social workers, BASW said, and it advised social workers experiencing threats to:

  • Speak to their employer on what support is available, as most will have written procedures outlining how individuals subject to abuse should be supported
  • Consider reporting threats to the police
  • Ask their employer about possible legal routes, and involve the legal department where appropriate
  • Consider referring their case to the director of children’s or adults’ services , who could take it to their national organisation (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, or Association of Directors of Children’s Services, for example) and lobby Parliament to prosecute website organisers in cases of online abuse

BASW said it and the Social Workers Union were supporting social workers suffering abuse, and urged other members and social workers to get in touch if they felt threatened.

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12 Responses to BASW attacks media after death threats against social workers named in articles

  1. Ray Jones November 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    It is not only the ‘usual suspects’, such as The Sun and The Mail, who have targeted social workers recently following the terrible deaths of children from assault and abuse. On 12 November the Sunday Times had a major article by Camilla Cavendish about the killing of 18 month old Elsie Scully-Hicks with a heading about the ‘failure of social workers’. This allegation of failure by social workers precedes the extended child practice review (the Welsh version of a serious case review) which is to be undertaken. It is also not supported by my reading of the reports from the criminal trial nor by the comments of the judge. What is of particular significance, however, is that Baroness Cavendish – who was Prime Minister Cameron’s principal policy advisor and whom he appointed to the House of Lords when he resigned – is the new chair of Frontline, the government-favoured fast-track training programme for children’s social workers in England. She is an award-winning former journalist for her campaign against what she reported as the misuse of power by social workers and where she claims they misinformed and misled family courts in seeking to get children removed from families and adopted. Somewhat shocking that in 2017 ahead of any proper analysis or review the public is being told by someone who has now been given a high profile platform within social work that social workers had ‘failed’.

    • Maharg November 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

      I agree,Trial by opinion not based on facts.

    • Stuart November 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

      I didn’t notice the Cavendish connection – yet another reason I can’t trust ‘frontline’ and hope, wieh all due respect to their intentions, that I never need to receive services delivered by any of it’s ‘graduates’.

    • Emma Gant November 22, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

      I am so pleased to read a response from an eminent social worker on the Camilla Cavendish article. I was shocked and horrified by it. As a newly qualified social worker who did a three year degree I was aware of how deliberately provocative it was. Thank you

  2. Hilary Southam November 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    Having been one of the social workers targeted by the press and social media in the manner highlighted within this article I can fully endorse the observations made. I feel the press target social workers involved often with no evidence of wrong doing having been raised within the court arena, and prior to any Child Practice Review having taken place. Because of press reporting I have been subjected to extreme abuse on the social media where threats have been made against me to the point I no longer feel safe in my own home. Whilst support / action has been provided by the police and my forma employer, you still feel very alone in such a situation as this. In my view the damage has now been done, and feel as professionals we have been thrown to the lions. Multi-agency / professional working underpins our practice and whilst as professionals we need to support each other, yet again it’s the social workers that are left exposed. The area of child protection is a difficult area for all professionals to work in, if the tabloid press continues to report in the manner they do, then we will end up with no professionals willing to risk their career, reputation, and personal safety by working within this field. Where will be the protection for children then I ask myself

    • Stuart November 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

      Thank you very much for adding your voice Hilary. I can’t be the only person who wishes I could be of more practical help to you & your situation.

      I hope in due course the murdoch press will be forced to recant, apologise and compensate you as much as money can compensate for the effects of this situation.

      Media, the murdoch press and the public need to have drilled into them that it’s not the social worker that commits murder. We don’t see public castigation of the police for failing to prevent robberies or the fire brigade for starting the blaze at Grenfell so there’s no reason for social workers to be villified when they’re unable to prevent every child death.

      And how incongruous to be reminded of efforts by b. Cavendish (and others) to make it more difficult to take children to safer places with stories in the same rags that then make life difficult for them when they (supposedly) don’t protect children.

      These people just want to blame somebody and social workers are handy but all they show up is their own ignorance.

    • Frances ward November 20, 2017 at 8:31 am #

      Here are your double standards NO Evidence of wrong doing .
      Parents have children removed with no evidence of wrong doing just pure conjecture false accusations etc etc children from loving family homes .
      Who’s lives are torn apart they are emotionally and psychologically abused by being taken by means of false section 7 and 37 report.
      NO EVIDENCE NEEDED just your reports if a parent shows any emotion they have mental health problems.
      IT’S TIME Family Court was brought into the Criminal Arena let’s just see who the perjurers are with their false statements of facts etc etc and jailed every social worker who has caused severe emotional harm to children their parents grandparents with false accusations or caused a child’s death that was taken into care through false allegations while in the hands of fostercarers or who had been adopted .
      Why are you afraid of the media ??.
      Children being removed is of serious public interest the media should not be stopped from reporting what is happening to children and families

    • Allison Hulmes November 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

      Please contact BASW Cymru Hilary so we can support you.

  3. Challenging patient November 16, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    I submitted a comment asking whether community care were aware if the reports of abuse/threats against the social workers were proven or reported.

    I also asked why community care are against naming social workers but for naming service users who have been involved in legal disputes with councils/CCGs etc (including all the gory details of the case).

    Community Care refused (it seems) to publish the comment.

  4. Kelly Burgess November 16, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank you Hilary for commenting on this given you are/were involved. Personal accounts such as yours, whilst not breaking any confidentiality about the case, are so important to read about as a reality check to the toxic sections of he media. I’ve come across some bad practice and poor decisions, but I’ve never come across a social worker who deliberately neglected a case with the knowledge that a child’s life might be endangered. Sharon Shoesmith has tried to put the record straight with her book about events surrounding Peter Connolly but her name is still mud in the media and in government because there has been a passage of time and she was unable to discuss facts at the time. Nobody in those sections want to believe the depravity of some cases dealt with by social workers, but it’s easy for them to point the finger when it does go wrong. This sector needs more independence from government who view it within their political game playing. I hope the voyeurism of these kinds of cases is quashed until the facts can be reviewed by people who know the systems and processes but that’s a long way off yet. Glad that BASW had spoken up but we need more of it. I’m sure there will be a better understanding of the facts of this case but sadly once ignorant people have already formed their views.

  5. Planet Autism November 22, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

    “No social worker should have to fear for his/her life just for trying to do their best in a very complex job that often involves many other agencies.”

    Only, where practice falls short and their ‘best’ has not been done and a child has died, the buck does stop with the SW. That’s not to say that every SW that is named in the media in connection with such an incident is by default blameworthy, but although other professionals have safeguarding duties it’s not their main role, they might be a doctor, a teacher etc. The SW’s main role is to get it right for children and that is their entire job, so if a SW has seen a child multiple times and failed to notice signs of abuse, they can’t start scapegoating other professionals to share the blame, they have ultimate duty.

    I of course do not condone the actions of those who threaten SWs, but if people cannot handle the very serious responsibility that goes along with being a SW then don’t become one. Such failings may not be deliberate, but negligence being the reason doesn’t comfort the loved ones of the dead child and all SWs should strive for excellence in every aspect of their role. If the caseloads are too heavy, go up the chain to get something done. If you know a child is likely to be seriously at risk because you have too many files, speak out and put it in writing. That way you have evidence you tried to do the right thing and you were prevented, then the buck didn’t stop with you. If a SW really didn’t do anything wrong, then “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” doesn’t apply.

  6. whatsoccurin November 26, 2017 at 12:23 am #

    Worked with Hilary years ago when I was a member of the out of hours team and she was progressing in her social work career-a dedicated and hard-working lady-in those days we supported chaotic families and Wales had seven reasonably efficient Local Authorities-today the emphasis is on “rescuing” children,from unstable families with Wales having 22 Local Authorities which have management structures which are unfit for purpose, and certainly give little support to front line social workers or Team Managers-the scapegoating of front line staff just makes the staffing situation worse and is very unfair on individuals.Best Wishes Hilary.