Edge Of The City, Channel 4, Thursday 26 August

Star rating: 2/5.

This portrait of Bradford social services and some of their typical clients followed four cases for a year: a young offender and his mentor; a couple with multiple disabilities; an older man; and, most controversially, a child protection investigation into the grooming of white girls for sexual abuse by Asian men. Originally planned to air in May, it was withdrawn after West Yorkshire police complained it would ignite existing racial tensions, writes Clea Barry.

The child protection story did not sit easily with the others; it became an independent investigation into “every parent’s worst nightmare”. The camera crew seemed to move beyond their documentary remit when they were driving around at night with mothers looking for their missing daughters, while the social workers were portrayed stuck behind their desks discussing the problem without solving it. This sensationalism overshadowed the other stories, which were more representative of situations that social workers more often deal with. Splitting it into two separate programmes would have been more honest, and brought out the more nuanced drama of stories such as that of social worker Joanne and 81-year-old Eric. His ambivalence towards needing help, and her struggle to respect this, yet still meet his needs, was captured movingly. By hyping up the controversy, the programme makers lost the more complex picture of context and causation and the subtlety of interaction which would have resulted in a richer and more meaningful programme.

Clea Barry is a child protection worker.

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