Rosie warlock on a quiet office in the aftermath of the Baby P case

Rosie Warlock, a senior practitioner in children’s social services, tells us what’s on her mind

● The Baby P case hangs over everything we do at the moment so there isn’t a lot I can write about this week. In fact, I wish I could run a “Testcard”, as we once had on TV, in place of this column. But then that would be an abrogation of the columnist’s duty.

In the office, we first heard about the case last Tuesday morning. At lunchtime, we went off to watch the news. We are all upset about the baby – the job doesn’t harden you to cases like this. But after the shock we soon started speculating about how this happened.

The rest of the week is very quiet. The usual banter and bubble of work gives way to a solemn mood. Everyone seems more polite and respectful to each other, and senior staff are more often seen in the office. Younger staff are assured that it couldn’t happen in our department (no one can really claim that, of course, but as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes).

But something else happens. Everyone starts doubting their own worth. We are all treble-checking our work, asking other people for advice or getting them to go through our notes. No one is sure of anything. Newly qualified staff are afraid of doing anything without it being approved by a senior member of staff. Staff who have been here for ages are asking managers for the OK.

There is constant phone calling of multi-agency partners such as hospitals, schools and police. Messages are being left – sometimes angry ones – for other professionals to call back and report on a case. Guidelines are read line by line and even those of us long in the job no longer rely on our memories but check, check and check again.

Work will eventually return to normal. When it does though, we will have to learn another set of guidelines and then wonder when it will happen again.

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