Sharon Shoesmith’s failure to secure a judicial review of her sacking will perpetuate the demonisation of social workers, sector leaders have said.
“This decision is going to send shock waves,” Nushra Mansuri, of the British Association of Social Workers, told Community Care. “It’s quite sobering for directors of children’s services and it’s a very negative message for social workers on the frontline.
“Social work has been through the mill, particularly because of this case. The one thing we’ve been trying to overturn is this blame culture, this idea that when terrible things happen it’s ok to have scapegoats. If that’s what people can expect, I wonder who will apply to become a director or a children’s social worker.”
She was backed up by frontline social workers writing on Community Care’s online forum CareSpace.
One user said: “There was terrific pressure to sack her and Ofsted did their political master’s bidding. Ofsted has lost the trust of the social care profession. We are all fair game now.”
Meanwhile Marion Davis, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said raw politics must not be allowed to “simplify or distort what are complex and serious matters” or to “direct attention solely towards individuals, rather than the need for improvements in the systems that keep children safe”.
She said directors of children’s services across the country had wintessed “increasing attention paid by central government to the internal workings of local authority children’s services departments, which has at times bordered on micro-management” and called for a clear process to regulate any national intervention in local government.
“We accept the need for rigorous scrutiny, but we also demand that that scrutiny should be transparent, fair and proportionate, with an equal emphasis on promoting the best practice as on tackling the worst.”
Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said while the ruling was not in Shoesmith’s favour, her situation was not completely hopeless.
“The judge has taken a view based on a narrow legal case he was asked to consider, but there was plenty of encouragement within the judge’s comments to suggest Shoesmith should pursue a case for wrongful dismissal at an industrial tribunal,” he said.
Another CareSpace user agreed, saying: “The judge’s emphasis on the Employment Tribunal would lead me to believe she has a chance and that means she may get her pension and lump sum, if successful. This goes against the previous public baying for her blood, which Balls colluded with, in my opinion, to scapegoat her and summarily deprive her of all financial rights.
“I would not rule out an appeal from Sharon Shoesmith and to make as much political capital as she can from it.”
What do you think of the Shoesmith ruling? Have your say on CareSpace.