by Amy Taylor
Today’s papers scream of the failure of social workers to take Baby P into care despite health and social care workers seeing him sixty times during the 8 months before he died.
In the summer of last year social workers also dominated the headlines but coming from the other side of the damned if they do and damned if they don’t debate.
The coverage then centred on controversial MP John Hemming and his headline friendly allegations that social workers were unnecessarily taking children into care to meet adoption targets.
Understandably social workers came out fighting in response citing how difficult it was to get children taken into care. Many pointed out that that the family courts, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and lay adoption panel members all played a part in deciding if a child should be taken into care or adopted not just councils.
The serious case review for the Baby P case found that he died due to poor practice by professionals rather than a breakdown in the system. The correct procedures were largely followed but, critically, nobody was willing to decide to remove the child.
At the time of Hemming’s allegations Ann Baxter, the then chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services health, care and additional needs policy committee said that allegations such as Hemming’s brought the system into disrepute, may put people off raising concerns about a child’s welfare and therefore children might be put at risk. Something Hemming dismissed as “nonsense.”
Baxter’s remarks related to the general public but despite their resilience to Hemming’s view many social workers themselves cannot help but have them on their radar when deciding whether to remove a child.
If the case did not flag up problems with the system it laid bare how the social workers involved had little self confidence – they, along with other professionals, largely failing to challenge Baby P’s mother’s account that his injuries were accidental.
Views such as Hemming’s chip away at a profession in an already fragile state, the lack of confidence in this case highlighting how everything must be done to challenge them.