Debate on the BBC’s portrayal of social care staff

How accurately were social care staff portrayed in the
BBC’s Taking Care season?

Here are some of the comments we received:-

“On the whole, I do think the BBC’s portrayal of
social care staff has been reasonably balanced, and quite well

However, what has dismayed me is the number of features on BBC
news programmes, notably Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, that have
been very critical of child protection agencies who have apparently
got it wrong, and they have used examples of aggrieved parents who
argue that they have been wrongly accused of child abuse.
There has been no recognition in these features of the fact that
although it is indeed an imperfect system, and that the agencies
may sometimes get it wrong, it is still necessary and important
that this kind of work be carried out with public support.

The programme makers seem to conveniently forget this, and
ignore the fact that on average two children are murdered by their
parents every week. When a case where a child is killed is
highlighted by the media, the agencies are lambasted for not doing

When will they accept that they cannot have it both ways, and
not continue to fuel negative public prejudices about child
protection agencies?
Thus when we hear that fewer medical students are willing to go
into paediatrics because of the possible implications of child
protection work, then we should not be surprised. However, we need
to be clear about who is responsible, and why.”    

Jon Cotton

“I think it was very well balanced on the whole.  As a result
I appreciated the way in which social workers have to work within
systems and how this can stress them out and causes frustrations
all round.”

Louise Pickering

“Many people have made this point, but I want to reiterate
that social workers hardly appeared in the picture at all, in spite
of their key role working with children in care.
Otherwise I thought the series was useful.”
Jenny Weinstein
Assistant Director Quality Assurance and Customer Care
Jewish Care


“I felt that the social worker on Eastenders came across
as judgemental and harsh when she arrived to pick up the teenager
who had run away from his residential unit. 

The general public already think that social workers are nosey
parkers who remove children from their family homes all the time. I
felt this episode of Eastenders only reinforced this
Helen Sanderson

“I grew up in the care system between 1967 and 1981
– in foster placements as well as children’s homes – so
could relate very well to the experiences portrayed. I now have a
career in social care. I began as a volunteer then qualified as a
social worker and now I work in public health.

I was concerned when I saw the social worker collect JJ (the
child who ran away from a residential unit) in Eastenders. Her
surly attitude only reinforced the negative picture of social

Perhaps it’s about time social services were portrayed to the
public as being of as great a value to the community as other
public sector workers such as nurses and teachers.”

Donna Thorne

“As a manager of children’s homes for the past 18 years in
various local authorities and the private sector, I am of the view
that residential staff have not been given an opportunity to speak
about there experiences of both working with young people and also
working under the management of organisations.

Whilst I am a great supporter of young people both in care and
care levers having an opportunity to express there feelings and
experiences to all care sector workers, I do strongly feel that
residential staff have not been given a voice or opportunity to
influence any of the recent developments and initiative that have
come about over the past few years.

Whilst watching some aspects of the BBC’s series, I was
horrified to see two ex-care leavers talk about their experiences
whilst they were in care, and the impression they gave of their
account of being in care.

One of the areas that I am concerned about is how much
clarification is taken when a young person tells their story?
Whilst I accept that this is a sensitive area I cannot hold back my
comments. What the public must be made very clear about is the
types of young people who come into residential care are often very
disturbed and present extreme challenging behaviours.

To have to listen to a young person who was totally out of
control and a clear danger to themselves and others, and who had no
respect or regard towards the adults or the care system they were
being looked after by, is a nightmare for residential staff who
have to work with these people on a day-to-day basis. No one ever
gets to hear this side of the argument.

But on the other hand we are given a sad story of loneliness and
un-caring professionals who stumble along the way in planning for
the young person in care. We don’t get to hear about the genuine
efforts and attempt to make plans work for difficult young people.
As a result, we are often left with a sense of guilt and a
reflection of residential care being punitive and un-caring.
I would like to see some real efforts towards people listening to
frontline staff, who have arguably the most insight into how young
people are looked after in residential care, and listen to some of
their experiences.

My final point is that residential care has come a long way
since I first started as a residential social worker in the 1970s,
but I fear we are not really progressing as well as we were in the
early 1990s when the Children Act 1989 first came into force.

We need to seriously look at the current state of play in
relation to social care and recognise that arguably, residential
care is the most heavily regulated service in social care, and
therefore we have achieved as much as we can to improve conditions
and stamp out all the bad practice that was rife prior to the

Residential care is a good service for both children and young
people. Workers are committed and dedicated to working in a honest
and professional way to ensure young people are treated fairly and
with compassion, love and sensitivity.”
Philip Craig
Unit Manager




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