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Eileen Munro on Daniel Pelka case: ‘I can’t claim I would have done better’

Professor Eileen Munro

Professor Eileen Munro

Eileen Munro gave an interesting interview about the Daniel Pelka case this morning, admitting that after reading the serious case review she couldn’t say she’d have done any better than the social workers involved.

It’s a bold admission from such an experienced social worker and academic, particularly one who led a much-praised, government-endorsed review into the English child protection system. It shows the complexity and ambiguity of the case, which Munro described as “very unusual”.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Professor Munro said she found the serious case review into the four-year-old Coventry schoolboy’s death, “very frustrating”, complaining it doesn’t explain why workers acted as they did. ”It’s written totally with hindsight saying that now that we know what was happening to Daniel they should have noticed,” she said.

Munro also questioned the author’s criticism of Daniel’s school, which failed to report his bruises. “If you were to go to a group of four-year-old boys and check how many of them had bruises on any one day you’d find it was probably over half. At the time, a bruise on its own does not alert you,” she said.

By failing to represent social workers’ experiences and views, the author left them “invisible”, she said. “I feel this report just describes what was done and the actual workers are invisible and their voice isn’t heard. It is a complaint [the author] makes of their treatment of Daniel, but it’s also true within the review.”

She concluded by highlighting how “very complicated” the case was, involving two people who were “sadistically torturing” Daniel, while not maltreating their other two children. “That new development was the bit that was hidden,” Munro said. “But it’s very unusual. From what’s in that report, I wouldn’t claim that I know I would have done better.”

  • You can listen to the full interview here; Munro is on around 2:51:30.
Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

About Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

Camilla Pemberton is Community Care's children's editor

3 Responses to Eileen Munro on Daniel Pelka case: ‘I can’t claim I would have done better’

  1. Chris Sterry 18 September , 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    The main problem is the existance of an effective and efficient communication system. I assume all the organisations had their own safeguarding policies and procedures, but without an effective form of communication they will not be efficiently enforced.

    By all accounts, the family were known to Social Services, so why not send out alerts to other agencies which were or could have been involved at some time.

    If the school have been informed by an alert, the evidence of bruising should have raised a concern that would not normally have been raised. The situation of foraging for food should have raised some alarm.

    As to the hospital and GP, well should they have been more concerned or, in fact, knowledgable about the condition of Daniel.

    Yet again no one organisation is accepting any acceptance that they could have done better. Yes, it is easier to reflect with hindsight. But safeguarding should be proactive, otherwise why is it there. After the event is not safeguarding, it is criminal.

    I am afraid the so called, ‘lessons will be learnt’, will not be, yet again. At this moment in time, all most Social Services appear to be doing is cutting back on services, in child and adult areas, under the guise of austerity cuts and are hoping any sagfeguarding issues do not arise. But when they do, they will have a ready excuse, the austerity cuts.

  2. Jasmine Lee 21 September , 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Finally someone has stood up for social workers. Not Chris Sterry of course but Eileen Munro. Her interview was honest and not critical unlike that of Jo Cleary’s media release, the Chair of CSW, who I thought was in her post to be the unique voice for social work not just another critic joining the crowds with Chris Sterry (above). Unless you work in Social Services you will have no idea the amount of pressure social workers are under. That pressure does not just come from high case loads, but from being labelled as failures by the public, stigmatised by the very society they are trying to help. Blaming social workers for ‘failing’ again does them no good, it only encourages organisations to practice defensively. Believe it or not social workers do not enter the profession to ignore child abuse, they go into the job to try and prevent it. And so when I heard Eileen’s speech, I have to admit it was a surprise to hear someone not jump on the band wagon along with the usual critics, let’s hope it continues….because there are two sides to every story and the only people truly responsible for the death of Daniel Pelka are his parents. So I suggest all those who know ‘best’ should start from that point in future when creating the next moral panic.

  3. Peter Garsden 24 September , 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I gave interviews on the date of publication of the review on behalf of various abuser charities to the effect that if there was introduced:-

    1. Mandatory Reporting – make it a criminal offence for failure to report abuse witnessed or suspected.

    2. Introduce better joined up communication through the LADO so that all professionals have access to a confidential source of amalgamated information.

    Whatever the standard of care given by social workers in this case, there is always room for improvement in the way child care works. In my experience, professionals can always look back with hindsight when the worst happens and say “If only..”

    Our proposal for a change in the law is not having a very receptive audience amongst politicians, which is a shame because it has been the law in most civilised countries for some time, and in particular in America since 1963.

    Peter Garsden, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.