‘ITV1’s Exposure: Don’t take my child was both important and irresponsible’

Programme 'swung like a pendulum between one extreme to the other', writes Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University

The television programme Exposure: Don’t take my child, broadcast this week on ITV1, raised important issues about the checks and balances within child welfare and child protection services.

The impact of government policy – led and championed by former education minister Michael Gove – that more children should be adopted, and adopted quicker and at a time when help for families is being reduced, is of considerable concern to many social workers and other professionals working with children and families.

The media itself, however, should reflect on the impact it has in influencing public opinion, which in its turn impacts on doctors, police officers, judges, social workers and others having to take decisions about the safety of children based on complex, but inevitably never complete, information available at the time.

As reported in my book, ‘The Story of Baby P: Setting the record straight’, the irresponsible vilification targeted especially at social workers by the tabloid press and others 17 months after the death of Peter Connelly (Baby P) disrupted a child protection system, which sought to keep in focus the safety of children and the role and commitment of parents.

ITV’s programme on so-called ‘forced adoptions’ was no more responsible with its pendulum swinging to the other extreme which reported, with considerable emotion, that children were being taken without any cause from their parents.

As with the ‘Baby P story’ the programme’s targeting was almost exclusively at social workers (leaving doctors, police officers, and judges on the margins, although their decisive roles and powers in child protection decision making are crucial and central).

And the programme sympathetically, but irresponsibly, included reporting that parents of babies and other children for whom there were considerable concerns for safety were being advised and assisted to leave the jurisdiction of British courts.

There is a need for a serious, informed and balanced discussion about children and families welfare and child protection. Government policies, with Mr Gove in the vanguard, have cut help for families and made it less safe for children.

It is a considerable, but unwelcome, achievement that the government is failing in each direction. But media comment and reporting that bounces from one extreme to the other does nothing to promote a serious, informed debate

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One Response to ‘ITV1’s Exposure: Don’t take my child was both important and irresponsible’

  1. Edna July 22, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    It is mostly verbal and written reports by social workers that eould strongly influence the actions of police, judges and even doctors, social workers are writing ’embelllished reports’ to present risk where it is low or non existent in a back covering climate.

    We saw in this publication a social worker who was sanctioned by the regulator for failing to write a report allowing a child to be removed when in his knowledge of the case it was not warranted. It was the local authority management whose need to cover their backs that prompted this punishment on the social worker. This is not an isolated incidence and few social workers would stand up to their seniors even if they know the child does not need to be removed when their managers demand this action. The TV programme did not get it wrong, prof jones has.