Protecting our children

Our guide to the BBC social work documentary series

Protect the children - trio
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 characters

Louise - Protecting our ChildrenLouise: 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 - Protecting our ChildrenBen: 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 - Protect our ChildrenEllen: 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 characters

Annie - Protect our ChildrenAnnie: 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 - Protect our ChildrenArthur: 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 characters

Susanne - Protect our ChildrenSusanne: 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 - Protect our ChildrenLouise: 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 - Protect our ChildrenSallyanne: 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 panel

We gathered some social work experts to offer their comments on the documentary as it screened. Our panel included:
Naintara KhoslaNaintara Khosla Head of service at family courts body Cafcass.
Natalie WyattNatalie Wyatt A childcare social worker with experience of both safeguarding and children with disabilities
Rebeca PopRebeca Pop A consultant social worker in a children and families team at Worcestershire County Council.
David Shemmings 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 FebrerYvalia Febrer A senior social worker on the children and families team at Richmond council.
Hope DanielsHope Daniels A former care leaver and the author of ‘Hackney Child’.

Comment and analysis

We were just doing our jobs

Annie SemphillProtecting Our Children social worker Annie Semphill discusses security guards and emotional turmoil as she responds to comments and questions from viewers

Why we back Bristol social workers

Sunday TelegraphUnlike one national newspaper, Community Care does not think it is right to criticise social work practice based on one hour of programming

Assessing safety and managing emotion

Lucy RaiLucy Rai, of series co-producers the Open University, sets out key learning points from episode 2

Behind the scenes with series director

Sacha MirzoeffProtecting Our Children director Sacha Mirzoeff explains how the series avoided sensationalism and the bandwagon of poor social work media coverage

Episode 2: preview

Protect the Children title screenProducers have promised that the second episode of Protecting Our Children will be even better than the first and will tackle issues such as homelessness, violence and alcohol

NQSW Susanne has her say

SusanneThe newly qualified social worker from the first episode of Protecting Our Children talks caseloads and interventions as she responds to comments made about the programme

Assessment, neglect and moral dilemmas

Lucy RaiLucy Rai, senior social work lecturer at the Open University, which co-produced Protecting Our Children, discusses some of the important issues arising from the first episode

We have a duty to be more open

Annie HudsonBristol director Annie Hudson says despite the risks involved in taking part in a TV documentary, the profession has a duty to improve public understanding of what it does

Life through a BBC lens

Salyanne JonesBristol social worker Sallyanne Jones explains how it felt to be filmed and why she has no regrets about appearing in Protecting Our Children.

An important step forward

Ruth SmithAn advance screening of Protecting Our Children revealed a sensitively made documentary that should help the public understand more about the reality of social work, says Ruth Smith

Don’t judge, be proud

Ray JonesThe social workers in Protecting Our Children have opened their practice up to public criticism and it should make the profession proud, argues Ray Jones

How to improve your practice

Our series of comprehensive Inform guides to alcohol misuse, hospital social work and supervision can help ensure you keep the children on your caseload safe GuidesGuide to the assessment and support of non-abusing carers in circumstances of reported sexual abuse committed by an adult in the family Guide to the impact of parental substance misuse on child development Guide to substance misuse related disorders and the impact on parenting Reference manualParental substance misuse Looked-after children – kinship care Not an Inform user?Visit or call Kim Poupart on 0208 652 4848 to find out more about Inform

Free looked-after children guide

looked-after childTo mark the screening of Protecting Our Children, Community Care Inform is offering free copies of an expert-written, in depth guide to care planning, placement choice and review in relation to looked-after children (©AAPix/Alamy)

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Replay the week 1 debate

We round up some of the best comments from last week’s Protecting Our Children live chat. Plus, you can read all the comments by replaying the whole discussion.

Episode 2: Your reactions

Episode 2How social workers reacted to issues such as security guards accompanying social workers on visits and the wider role of adult services
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