Social Work Recap: the vilification of social workers and Sunak’s ‘misrepresentative’ comments on profession

Our review of the week in social work

Picture of a man reading his newspaper with the logo 'Social Work Recap' on top
Photo: sebra / AdobeStock Edits: CommunityCare

How much does negative media coverage of social workers affect you?

  • Severely (40%, 422 Votes)
  • Moderately (37%, 386 Votes)
  • A little (15%, 152 Votes)
  • Not at all, it's all white noise (8%, 87 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,047

Loading ... Loading ...

Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

This week our line-up has a theme: public criticism of social workers.

From Sharon Shoesmith’s views on the scapegoating of social workers to the prime minister’s comments on practitioners ignoring child victims of sexual exploitation “due to political correctness”, here’s what you might have missed this week in social work:

Sharon Shoesmith speaks out about the vilification of social workers

Sharon Shoesmith

Sharon Shoesmith has spoken out about the consequences of using social workers as “scapegoats”.

Shoesmith, director of children’s services at Haringey council at the time of  Peter Connelly’s (Baby P) death, faced stringing media criticism and was unlawfully fired on live TV by then children’s secretary Ed Balls in response to the case.

Writing for the Guardian this week, she called attention to the “unintended consequences” of the “scapegoating and vilification of social workers in this case and others”.

According to Shoesmith, this public denunciation of practitioners has made social work a profession “driven by fear of failure” which, alongside austerity policies, “has driven up the number of children taken into the care of the state”.

“It is time for the country’s 100,000-plus social workers to put an end to this,” she wrote.

“We must educate the public and politicians about the realities of protecting children. And when accusations come, we must fight our cases through the courts.”

‘I have made history’, says man with cerebral palsy after completing marathon

Alex Roca Campillo

Credit: Twitter/ Alex Roca Campillo

A Catalonian man with cerebral palsy is thought to be the first person with his level of disability to run a marathon.

Back in March, Alex Rosa Campillo, who describes himself as being 76% disabled, completed the 42km course in Barcelona,.

“I HAVE MADE HISTORY!” he tweeted, alongside an emotional video of him crossing the finishing line and celebrating with the crowd.

“This has been possible thanks to ALL my team. Thanks to ALL of you who have been cheering, I HAVE NO WORDS.”

The 32-year-old’s condition has affected 76% of the left side of his body, so he now communicates only through sign language.

His motto, according to tennis brand Wilson, is: “You set your own limits.”

Prime minister criticised over “misrepresentative” comments towards social workers

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak (credit: HM Government)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been criticised by a social worker for claiming victims of child sexual abuse have been ignored by the sector.

Speaking to Sky News last week, Sunak referenced cases of children sexually exploited by gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford, where the majority of perpetrators were men of South Asian origin. He said that, when victims “came forward, their claims were often ignored by social workers, local politicians or even the police”.

“The reason they were ignored was due to cultural sensitivity and political correctness,” he said.

In a piece in the British Association of Social Workers’ magazine, Professional Social Work, practitioner Pauline Jones called the comments “irresponsible” and “misrepresentative”.

“It was a really unhelpful statement because he was talking about the past,” said Jones, who is a child protection social worker based in London.

“His implication is social workers ignored them then, and this is still the case without giving any credit to how things have moved forward since. It just hit a raw nerve with me. Social work has quite a dim reputation with the public and it doesn’t help having the PM of the country saying something like this.”

The importance of religion in the adoption matching process

Credit: AdobeStock

There are 5,000 Muslim children in care in the UK but a shortage of Muslim foster carers and adopters, according to magazine Hyphen.

An article in the Muslim magazine explored the reasons behind the lack of Muslim representation in adopters, ranging from language barriers and families not having a spare room for the child to “a mututal distrust between communitites and authorities”.

“Some people don’t even want to consider becoming a foster carer because it means they’ll be subjected to so many checks. There is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides,” said Shaqid Juneja, the head of operations of My Family Group, which provides services for Muslim heritage children in care.

However, one Muslim adopter, Rachel Abedi, reported that adoption agencies, like Coram, were becoming more aware of the need for representation.

“They told us they had a lot of Muslim children waiting for homes and some had ended up being adopted by people of different faiths, and that this was a big problem.”

You can read the article here.

Social workers mourn the death of Marcia Grant

Marcia Grant

Credit: South Yorkshire Police

Social workers are mourning the death of Sheffield practitioner Marcia Grant, who was reportedly run over by her own car last week.

A 12-year-old boy is currently awaiting trial for her murder.

Following the news of her death, social workers have taken to social media to share their condolences.

The British Association for Social Workers (BASW) has also joined the chorus of condolences.

“We at BASW and the social work community are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic and awful news,” said BASW England national director Maris Stratulis.

“Our thoughts are with Marcia’s family, friends and colleagues at this devastating time.”

Marcia’s family described her as a “warm, loving and dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend and a pillar of her community”.

Must watch: Nicky Campbell – 12 April episode


Credit: AdobeStock/Dzmitry

Keeping with this week’s theme, radio host Nicky Campbell, whose mother and sister are social workers, dedicated his latest episode on his BBC Radio 5 show on the profession, including its vilification in the media.

To assist with that, he brought in Terri White – whose podcast, Finding Britain’s Ghost Children, inspired the episode – Department for Education improvement adviser Gladys Rhodes White and care review lead Josh MacAlister.

Tweet of the Week

Bryony Shannon, the strategic lead for practice development at Doncaster council, shared her thoughts on the lack of person-centred language in the Department of Health and Social Care’s latest social care policy paper, Next steps to put people at the heart of care.

Give us your thoughts on this week’s events in the comments below!


One Response to Social Work Recap: the vilification of social workers and Sunak’s ‘misrepresentative’ comments on profession

  1. Alec Fraher April 16, 2023 at 4:16 pm #

    It’s great, absolutely fantastic, to see and hear from Sharon Shoesmith. And, if PM Sunak were to take counsel from those ghosted, or ousted by the political interference from their profession, some genuine learning may be had.

    There’s not a major City that’s exempted from masking Child Sexual Exploitation ~ that it required an EC Directive to force any action is symptomatic of the sewn-in characteristics of this shameful position ~ that the mechanisms for safeguarding are subject to and for political gains is abhorrent.

    Put simply, Children Aren’t Safe. Childhood is being obliterated. And the best ‘we’ can come up with is the whole-sale marketisation of the issues ~ and it has to be said largely created by adherence to I’ll thought through compliance with EC Directives never intended for use in Social Protection.

    ‘Taking Back Control’ first requires that Trust is built, the scale of work needed to simply keep children safe is massive ~ there’s more authoritive people than me who can say so too. Sharon, Maggie and Kitty are those who helped me do a job in often very trying circumstances.

    Let’s hear from them. Maybe, a Standing Conference on Confidential Disclose, would help? It’s was a facility and mechanism used by the Irish Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse ~ what are the next strategic steps for iicsa and operation hydrant?