Baby P survey: social workers say case affects their own jobs

baby P poll results

Eight out of 10 Community Care readers believe the government should bring in new management at Haringey children’s services following the Baby P case, an exclusive survey has found.

However, our web poll of 250 readers revealed a reluctance to rush to judgement on individual failings and concerns that the publicity about the case will adversely affect social workers’ ability to do their jobs.

The backing for a management overhaul comes with the government having ordered an urgent joint area review of safeguarding in Haringey, which may determine the fates of senior officers and councillors.

More than half – 53% – of readers believed doctors should be fired over the case, while 40% called for Haringey’s director of children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, to go. More than a third called for managers to be axed and just 21% called for social workers to be fired.

But many respondents said they were reluctant to pass judgement without knowing the full facts, which are yet to emerge publicly. Haringey Council has published a summary of the serious case review but not the full report, and is also separately reviewing staff actions in the case and councillors’ oversight of child protection.

Dismissal for poor standards

One reader suggested that dismissal should be reserved for those found to be practising below professional standards. “Skilled and committed workers could easily have made mistakes or overlooked some issues that led to this tragedy and it would be a disservice to children to lose their knowledge and expertise,” the reader said.

Just over 40% of readers said the media coverage had affected their ability to do their job now.

box outlining major incidents in case

Many said it made them question their own practice while facing renewed scrutiny from the public and other professionals.

One child protection professional warned that the case would lead to a more hardline position from agencies towards parents. “I also fear other agencies’ respect for social work judgement, never much valued, will suffer,” the reader added.

Another commented: “There will be a disproportionate reaction to this tragedy that will place us all under the microscope and make us more edgy about working with risk.”


Demonisation of staff

Others were angered by the “demonisation” of social workers and expressed concerns that media coverage would lead to recruitment problems. “It makes you want to leave the occupation due to forever having to defend it,” said one.

Almost nine out of 10 readers – 86% – also believed the case was symptomatic of wider problems in child protection, contrary to the position of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, which has said the service is fundamentally sound.

Many believed the case highlighted difficulties including “unrealistic” caseloads, too much paperwork, a lack of social workers, and inadequate training and supervision. Targets aimed at reducing numbers of children on child protection plans and high thresholds for taking children into care were also blamed for failings.

There was also much dissatisfaction with the integrated children’s system, the IT-based case management system for children receiving social care services introduced under the Every Child Matters reforms. More than a third – 39% – of readers had no confidence in the ICS, 57% had some confidence in it, but only 2% had full confidence.

These issues are expected to be covered as part of the government-ordered national review of safeguarding, headed by Lord Laming, who led the inquiry into Victoria Climbié’s death. Fifty five per cent of respondents said they did not believe Laming was the right person to head the new inquiry.

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