Dividends of the Hodge controversy

T he continuing saga of whether Margaret Hodge should go or stay
has produced an unexpected bonus for social care – for once, it
isn’t social workers who are being clobbered.

The suitability of Hodge as children’s minister, given her
reluctance to act for two years during the sex abuse scandal in
children’s homes in Islington in the early 1990s, has also revealed
a number of quiet heroes.

Among them are Liz Davies, a senior social worker in 1990, and
David Cofie, her manager. Recent coverage reminds us how well they
performed their duties, attempting to investigate a suspected
paedophile ring and support children in care. Their names have only
now been revealed.

Davies and Cofie, rightly, eventually became whistle-blowers. As a
result, inquiries singled out 22 employees as suspected
paedophiles, names that have never been made public (so where are
they now?).

Rare tributes to the power of social care have also come from the
survivors of abuse. Liam Lucas was placed in care at the age of
nine when his mother died of a drug overdose. He was abused for
three years. Eventually he went to live with Kate and Brian

“Liam was the most traumatised child I’d come across in 20 years as
a foster mother and social worker,” Mrs Cairns says.

Liam became a young offender, hooked on heroin. He attacked and
tried to strangle Kate. The Cairns, nevertheless, stood by

Now, Liam, 26, is clean, in work, and calls the Cairns “mum” and
“dad”. He says he owes his life to the couple.

Last week too, shop worker Callie Rogers, aged 16, won £1. 8m
in the lottery. For a year she has lived with her foster parents
Brian and Sheila Holmes in a council flat. They have helped to
reunite Callie and her mother and encouraged the 16 year old to
return to full-time education.

Among the presents Callie intends to buy with her winnings is a
wheelchair for her foster mother. “It couldn’t have happened to a
nicer girl”, said Brian Holmes.

Social work is on the threshold of a bright new future: a degree
qualification, improved standards, supervision and

Over time these changes should work towards erasing the twin images
in the public’s mind, of the social worker as bungler or baby
snatcher. As this recent crop of stories reminds us yet again,
social care at its best, is truly transformational.

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