Baby P’s social worker ‘set up to fail’ by training system

    Baby Peter’s social worker was “set up to fail” by the social work education system by having no experience of child protection before taking up her post at Haringey Council, MPs heard last week.

    Liz Davies, senior lecturer in children and families social work at London Metropolitan University, revealed that Maria Ward did two placements in adult services during her degree and took her first job at Haringey without any post-qualifying training in child protection.

    Davies, who was giving evidence to the children, schools and families select committee’s inquiry into social work training, said she had been in contact with Ward, who has faced media vilification and has been sacked by Haringey.

    Ward and Christou ‘unable to leave homes’

    Davies said Ward and her former manager, Gillie Christou, were “not able to leave their homes” due to the publicity surrounding the case.

    Christou has also been sacked by Haringey. She and Ward are challenging the decisions. Both practitioners have been suspended from social work practice by the General Social Care Council pending the completion of a conduct investigation.

    Victoria Climbié case

    Davies, a child protection specialist who has also represented Lisa Arthurworrey, the social worker at the heart of the Victoria Climbié case, said students should be required to take placements in adults’ and children’s social work, as is the case at London Metropolitan.

    The General Social Care Council requires students to take at least two placements with different user groups, though Davies pointed out this could mean placements in older people’s and adult mental health services.

    Lord Laming recommended in his review, commissioned by the government following the baby Peter case, that no graduate should enter frontline children’s social work without having completed a placement in a frontline children’s social work team.

    Social Work Task Force

    The government referred this recommendation to the Social Work Task Force, which is considering how the status and quality of the profession can be improved in England.

    Issues surrounding practice placements are emerging as key for the taskforce and have featured heavily during the three evidence sessions held by the select committee for its inquiry.

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