Have your say

See below for responses in Victoria Climbie debate.

This week’s Have your say gives people the opportunity to ask questions or make points to an expert on violence in the workplace. Have you experienced violence at work, and if so, is there something you would like to say?

Ray Braithwaite, who is a freelance trainer specialising in the management of aggressive and violent behaviour, will respond to questions and points and his answers will be posted on this website by Friday 4 January.

Click here to ask your question or make your point.


Last week’s Have your say centred on the Victoria Climbie case and we asked people what could be done to improve the public’s perception of social workers? And do people think a similar case could occur in the future?

We received the following responses:

Sadly, undoubtedly. All these cases perk up SSDs for while, but then people sink back. There is obviously a problem in social worker selection, training, and management. I also believe that generic social work doesn’t. We need to have specialist workers for children, with a far greater understanding of family dynamics and child psychology than at present, and they need to be more carefully selected, possibly after a certain period of generic experience. As with juvenile court magistrates, the selection process should be more rigorous than for those dealing with adults.

Jacqueline Castles

I don’t think that it is fair to expect that child protection services will ever be able to stop children being abused and or murdered.

The society in which those CP services operate would readily investigate and prosecute an adult for smacking/slapping another adult (assault). However an adult can smack/slap a child where the child lives within the adults family (The very place where most abuse takes place).

An adult who is asked to leave a home in which they have lived, married or otherwise can apply for compensation from the other party through the value of the ‘family’ assets (is likely that the adult cannot be actually forced to leave unless they commit an offence). However a child can be evicted from a family home without any question of compensation and at the adult’s say-so. The child, could be 15-16 years of age and can be evicted by a new adult into the home (e.g. step-parent) who may only have lived there a short time. The child has no rights to any percentage of the value of the family assets yet the new adult is accruing them as each day passes.

Only internal controls developed within people offer safety. These cannot be developed where the loss of those controls (in my examples, smacking/slapping/evicting) is not treated the same as if the recipient where an adult.

The normal rules are bent/relaxed because these events take place within the family yet this is the same place in which the violence takes place!

To conclude I would like to suggest that within the values of our society, C.P. services operate in a similar way to the Police, tax or customs and excise services. They are all external forms of control and whilst their existence offers some preventive impact, when internal controls fail, these services can only follow in the wake of events.

Mike Reay

It would appear yet again, that to many people and organisations, failing to talk to each, or understand one another, have led to this error. Putting child protection under one roof, with one organisation , and responsibility staying within that organisation seems the only way forward. I might add that total absence of local politics might be advisable.

Nick Savage

This is happening in all public services. Teachers do paperwork while unqualified classroom assistants sit in with children during class, with work set by teachers. Nurses spend most of their time filling out statistic forms for NHS managers to produce worthless figures and now, surprise, surprise, we are going the same way.

I moved from children’s services in 1997 to work in mental health services. At that time, I worked with clients approx. 60 per cent of the time. Now, if I spend 20 per cent of my time with clients, it’s a good week.

I have had to learn computer skills, secretarial skills, statistician skills and become proficient in completing numerous forms, the format of which changes about once a year, just to get the appropriate services for people that previously a telephone call would provide (in one week, rather that sometime in the next 6 weeks, if I’m lucky).

I want to do my job, with clients, face to face. I want to use the skills that I have been trained for.

I’m so glad I spent all that time completing my PQ award to show that I could work with clients effectively!!

I do not want to spend my time telling someone else what to do or how to do it. I do not want cheap labour infiltrating a service that we are trying to make more professional and credible with the public.

I guess I’ll just have to want!!

Terry Henson

Mental Health Social Worker


I felt compelled to reply to your article in this week’s Community Care magazine regarding the lack of confidence in this country’s social workers, particularly those involved in child protection. I was, myself, a DipSW student who left after the first year. I found the training to be totally inadequate, biased, and, basically, pathetic. The tutors were all self-opinionated people who regarded any one else with an opinion as a rebel.

I now work as a care manager in the private sector with an agency that provides domiciliary care. We come into daily contact with social workers across a number of local counties. Unfortunately, up to now, all the managers I work with, and myself, find these SW’s totally useless. They seem more preoccupied with political correctness than with the welfare of their clients. Yes, of course, the rights of the client are paramount, but when someone’s life is at risk it is the responsibility of the SW to act, and react, maturely, appropriately, and quickly.

Too often, our agency comes up against remarks that are both insulting to ourselves, our clients, and our carers. We often have to literally beg a SW to act on their client’s behalf, either because they cannot be contacted, or they deem Mrs Jones a nuisance. Social Workers need to wake up to the real world, not the one they view from behind rose-coloured spectacles. They should understand that people do, infact, need them and would definitely respect them if they stood up to be counted once in a while. They seem, somehow, afraid to make decisions for themselves. Again, I feel this is where training comes in.

Most work placements, when I was training, were in totally inappropriate areas, nothing whatsoever to do with social work. This left most of the students wondering what on earth they had got in to. When anyone complained we were just told that we were being uncooperative!

So, wake up all you social workers, and student SW’s. This is the real world. Make a difference – make a decision. Make it on how YOU feel and on how YOU would feel if it was your neighbour’s child/relative. You do not always have to listen to others. Listen to your heart. God knows, that may be the only thing that saves the next life.

Sue Cartlidge

North Wales

The use of authority is of central importance in child protection work.

However, the qualification training courses do not prepare students adequately for this aspect of their role. In the Victoria Climbie case there were obvious failures by social workers at the investigation stage. Do you think that the investigative role should be recognised as police work instead of social work and be carried out by the people with police training? This might go some way towards restoring the public’s confidence in child protection services.

Hilary Searing

I have just read the article on the above child and the dissent now being shown by some members of the public. Of course as public figures we have a duty to carry out our work and practice’s under our legal and statutory duties to the best of our abilities. But to do this we need to have workable caseloads, not the high numbers that we have to have now.

You can have quality or quantity you cannot have both. Whilst the outcome for this child was dreadful and none of us would want something like this to happen to us, it does happen because everyone, frontline workers and managers are so pushed to their limits. This country, I understand, is 5,000 social workers under-staffed. It’s about time this government got into the real world. I am sick and tired of hearing about the poor health and education systems. What about social services. As workers we are ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

When the public profile and image is raised so that the public know exactly what we are up against, over work, lack of funding and resources we are never going to get the profile we deserve. Let’s face it social services is not a vote catcher.

Colin Saunders

Social Worker

A level of senior management accountability might go some way to restore confidence; in employees, service users and in the general public.

Ms Arthurworrey’s position is depressingly predictable, and social workers throughout most of Greater London are working defensively as a consequence. Directors and senior managers, however, appear to be able to abdicate responsibility for whatever disastrous events occur, and can move on to the next authority or voluntary organisation with their careers and reputation intact.

Chris Crossland

Training and Development Co-ordinator



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