‘But’ is no excuse for not getting it right

Lisa Arthurworrey, the social worker involved in the case of
Victoria Climbie, admitted on Radio Four’s Today programme that she
made mistakes.

Arthurworrey said that the case had caused her to have a nervous
breakdown. She is now appealing against her dismissal for gross
misconduct. She said: “I realised that I had got things terribly
wrong because I had perceived Kouao as a kind person who was trying
to do her best by the child…In some ways I was responsible. I
didn’t save her which [it] was my job to do.”

Sadly, Arthurworrey’s testimony manages to encapsulate much of why
the public’s image of social workers is so poor. Of course,
Arthurworrey had too heavy a case load, she was inexperienced and
she certainly wasn’t the only one to blame. Nevertheless, in
re-examining her conduct, she repeatedly returned to the word
butÉ but doctors misled herÉ but managers let her
downÉ but Kouao was convincing. But nothing.

Arthurworrey was on the front line, her instincts, her ability to
judge character; her rapport or lack of it with Victoria, were what
counted most, as was her motivation to investigate

She received a 19-page fax from a consultant paediatrician that
detailed Victoria’s injuries including razor cuts. She “skim read”
the fax as did her manager. Both concentrated on a covering letter
which stated there were no “child protection concerns”.

The average member of the public is bound to believe that common
sense indicates that 19-pages of medical evidence have to flag
several reasons not to be cheerful about the outcome for a child.

Arthurworrey says the fax was “difficult to read”.

God help other children if investigations are conducted on the
basis of what evidence is legible. Arthurworrey’s qualified
culpability holds little appeal. How could she return to social
work, if that is her aim, since her professional instinct, so
lacking in the Climbie case, is bound to be even further undermined
by future intense scrutiny? If she wishes to remove the charge of
gross misconduct from her record then she helps to further
undermine public confidence.

Good practice and social work do not go together easily in the
media’s mind – although there are steps now to challenge that
negative image. Arthurworrey does neither herself nor the
profession any favours in the manner in which she is trying to
salvage her reputation.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.