A three-part documentary series following social workers from Bristol City Council’s children’s services department was screened on Monday nights on BBC2 from January 30 to February 13. For more than two years, their every move was captured by cameras. The result, Protecting Our Children, has been described as “powerful”, “sensitive” and “enlightening”.Community Care has compiled all the latest news, views and behind-the-scenes commentary on the series, and offered readers the chance to take part in a live debate with our panel of experts on all three Mondays.
Episode Three: Meet the main charactersLouise: Social worker Louise has been a child protection social worker for eight years. Viewers will see her trying to assess whether a couple – who both have drug problems and had their baby removed at birth and placed in temporary care – are capable of caring for their child.
Ben: Senior social worker Ben is a senior social worker on a duty and assessment team and has been working in child protection for the last 12 years. Viewers will see him dealing with reports that a child is at risk of being sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend – a known paedophile.
Ellen: Senior social worker Ellen is a senior social worker with seven years’ experience. For the past year she has also been working on a duty and assessment team. Viewers will see her trying to help a single mother make her flat safe and hygienic enough for her seven-year-old to return home.
Episode Two: Meet the main charactersAnnie: Social worker Annie, 48, is a social worker with eight years’ experience based at St Michael’s hospital in Bristol. Viewers will see her working with Shaun and partner Marva during Marva’s fourth pregnancy. The couple have already had three children removed after social workers decided they were not fit to care for them and, due to their previous behaviour, Annie has to be accompanied by two security guards during meetings. But the case has an outcome that no one could have predicted.
Arthur: Team manager Arthur, Annie’s team manager, currently looks after hospital teams at Southmead and St Michaels. He began his social work career in 1993, with Avon County Council, and became a team manager in 1998. He knows Shaun and Marva well, having worked with them before, and supervises Annie as she looks for new opportunities for Marva and her baby.
Episode One: Meet the main charactersSusanne: Newly qualified social worker Susanne, 26, is just six weeks into her first case. She is helping to support parents Mike and Tiffany with the care of their three-year-old son Toby, who has learning difficulties. The case has been classified as ‘low risk’ neglect, but the situation begins to change.
Louise: Qualified social worker Louise has worked in child protection for eight years and helps train newly qualified social workers. She supports Susanne by accompanying her on visits to the family’s home and discussing the case with her.
Sallyanne: team manager Sallyanne, Susanne’s manager, becomes concerned by the increasing level of risk in the case and supports Susanne by accompanying her on visits to Mike and Tiffany’s home. After months of working with Susanne and the family, Sallyanne faces a tough decision.
Replay our live chat
Our expert social work panelWe gathered some social work experts to offer their comments on the documentary as it screened. Our panel included:
Naintara Khosla Head of service at family courts body Cafcass.
Natalie Wyatt A childcare social worker with experience of both safeguarding and children with disabilities
Rebeca Pop A consultant social worker in a children and families team at Worcestershire County Council.
Professor David Shemmings Chair of social work at the University of Kent and director of the Assessment of Disorganised Attachment and Maltreatment (Adam) project in London.
Yvalia Febrer A senior social worker on the children and families team at Richmond council.
Hope Daniels A former care leaver and the author of ‘Hackney Child’.
Comment and analysis
public understand more about the reality of social work, says Ruth Smith
practice up to public criticism and it should make the profession proud, argues Ray Jones