by Terry Brownbill
Journalists are vociferous armchair experts who consistently lead the battle cry against social workers whenever a child dies in unexplained circumstances.
Proudly flying the banner of ‘the public has a right to know’ they wade in, armed with righteous indignation, to vilify and blame social workers.
They gather facts as building blocks for their story angle, but they are rarely balanced accounts because they lack an essential ingredient – a real understanding of the complexities involved in making life and death decisions on a daily basis.
Birmingham City Council’s children’s social care team is tackling these self-perpetuating negative media perceptions head on. The directorate invited Birmingham Mail and Post feature writer, Richard McComb to join a social worker for the day and find out what is involved in protecting children and supporting families in what is one of the most challenging areas in the country – and it turned out to be a real eye-opener.
By the end of the day he was exhausted and stressed and open in his admiration and respect for the professionalism of senior social worker Wendi Grizzle.
After a day shadowing Wendi as she conducted delicate negotiations with two clients, Richard said: “I don’t know how you sleep at night. We often have to make difficult decisions as journalists, but the cases that Wendi comes across on a daily basis are potentially life and death matters and the effect of dealing with them must be traumatic.
“Journalists are able to leave work and switch off. It must be very difficult for social workers to go home each night and leave some of these emotionally-draining cases back at the office.”
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