You will be aware that in the weeks leading up to Christmas the Sun newspaper has managed to whip up a massive campaign against social workers blaming the individual social worker for the death of Baby P. It delivered a petition demanding the sacking of the social workers and managers involved in the case. Since then any child death reported in the media seems to be scrutinised for potential involvement by social workers and then discussed in terms of the failure to intervene.
Why? Could it be social workers try to work and understand people who are disadvantaged in society instead of simply labelling them as “scroungers” as one Sun journalist on the Today programme referred to people living on the estate in Dewsbury where Shannon Matthews lives?
The effect of the campaign against social workers will make it more difficult to recruit and retain workers in the profession – particularly in Child Protection work. It has overnight also pushed up the cost of caring for children as rather than take risks there has been an increase of some 36% of children being taken into care. In turn the work which relies on trust between the social worker and families has been damaged, potentially increasing the risk for vulnerable people. Well done the Sun and its readership!
UNISON issued a press statement before the Sun petition was handed in and pointed out the difficulties social workers face in their line of work. It was critical of the attacks by the popular press. This statement was accessible on-line.
In our Branch we have discussed the statement at a variety of meetings (latterly our last Branch Executive) and in each case our members agreed for our Branch to forward solidarity greetings to Haringey UNISON which is involved in defending social workers bearing the brunt of the attacks.
Leo Boland’s (our former Chief Executive) statement to all council workers (15.12.08 First Team) was helpful as far as it went, but we think he could have gone much further. For instance there needs to be a serious commitment to cutting down the bureaucracy which is tying our workers to the computer instead of them having more contact with families. He could also have pushed for the 2 extra annual leave days in recognition of our 4 star status for all council staff as a measure of goodwill.
We do not have to feel helpless in the face of this attack on social work and social workers. The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) has an on-line petition. If people want a meeting or further discussion about this and related issues, we can organise this – contact us.
Finally let’s be clear: if the Future Shape delivers privatisation of Children’s services this will do nothing to protect our children but will put more children at risk and result in more frustration for our social worker members.
Branch Chair Social Services Convenor