The high profile case of Victoria Climbie has had a negative
impact on the public perception of social work and social workers,
according to a new survey carried out by NOP on behalf of
Community Care, writes Lauren Revans.
The findings, published this week, show that 41 per cent of
those polled said that publicity surrounding the case had lowered
their opinion of social workers. Only 4 per cent felt it had had a
positive impact, and 47 per cent said their opinion remained
Victoria was bought to England by her great aunt Marie-Therese
Kouao in March 1999. By the time she died in February 2000, she had
come into contact with three local authorities, two hospitals and
the Metropolitan Police.
Despite concerns of neglect and abuse, Victoria was repeatedly
returned to the care of Kouao and her boyfriend Manning, who were
convicted of murder and cruelty in January 2001 and sentenced to
During the criminal trial of Kouao and Manning, Haringey social
worker Lisa Arthurworrey was singled out by the prosecution for
criticism and came under intense media scrutiny.
Haringey’s director of social services Anne Bristow told a
press conference at the end of the trial: “As the lead child
protection agency, we could have acted to protect this child and
accept our responsibility for our failure.”
The media has also reported chaotic duty social work systems at
Brent and Ealing Councils, following evidence to the public inquiry
into Victoria’s death.
Child protection expert Catherine Watkins said she was not
surprised that Victoria’s case had had some negative impact,
given its focus on social services departments’ failings.
“Often there is criticism of social workers in these inquiries,
but what we do not get in the interim is something positive,”
Watkins said. “People are going to report it – and the public
have a right to hear it. But it would be nice if somewhere in the
article there was some redress, pointing out that the social
workers are not the murderers and that they actually do a lot of