Tuesday 17 September 2013

Is it ideology or bureaucracy? On the failings of social work.


Douglas Carswell points out the cruel truth about the Daniel Pelka case:

The boxes were ticked. Training was complied with. Meetings were held. Meanwhile a little boy went hungry and his injuries grew worse. Officialdom's culture of compliance produced only inertia and incompetence. This should make us alarmed and very, very angry.

The suggestion here is that bureaucracy - Kafka's castle - was to blame for the lack of intervention. But why when:

Since the 2007 killing of Baby P, there has been a huge surge in the number of youngsters being removed from their families by social workers.

The children’s court advisory service dealt with 10,199 cases between April 2011 and March 2012 – a near-doubling of the numbers in just four years. 

It is almost impossible to believe that, in this world of heightened awareness, authorities didn't think to intervene, merely to jot down details of the child's distress in their notes.

With each case we see the same explanations and excuses, the same sophistry as social workers fail to explain why they pursue some parents to the ends of the earth - parents who are less of a threat than were the parents of this poor child.

And why are councillors - me included - so complacent or reluctant to ask the hard questions of our social services management?  Can we really be content, given that we haven't asked the questions, that everything is fine? Or are we nibbling at out nails muttering "there but for the grace of god"?

The problem isn't simply bureaucracy - that is just a reflection of the problem. The real concern is the ideology of social work, the faux non-judgemental approach, the obsession with 'cultural sensitivities' and the view (unsupported by evidence) that there are no demographic or social factors that influence child abuse or neglect. This isn't true and social workers - as well as the ideologues who define social work practice - know it isn't true.

Like so many areas ruled by experts, social work (and the parasitic growths of lawyers and such that attach to the business) has become impenetrable - the verbiage of the profession excludes anyone seeking to understand, the sophistry of the professionals' defence is iron clad in its certainty and the elimination of challenge is now so sophisticated that it is impossible for us charged with being "corporate parents" to exercise that role in any way beyond the guided tweeness allowed by social workers.

Right now we take too many children into care yet allow children like Daniel Pelka to remain in terrible circumstances. Right now social services leaders prefer to blame the problem on government, "the cuts" or "austerity" rather than explore why they are failing.And when those unfortunates arrive in care, we fail them again  - as a momentary glance at educational performance, crime and the tragedy of grooming would tell us.

Perhaps we need to start behaving like parents - interfering, judging, worrying, badgering and annoying. Getting in the face of those we care fore - not because we don't like them but because that's what parental love is about.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The answer is the Accountability Taxi-Rank.

Whenever a child is first identified as 'at risk', he/she is allocated to the next Social Worker in the line - that SW then takes full accountability for all support services and decisions related to that child, including up to any 'discharge' of that child's risk assessment.
No committees, no multi-agency arse-coverering groups - one person acting in sole loco parentis for that child. Even on annual leave, the SW may delegate short-term responsibility to a deputy, but always retains overall accountability.

Guess how many will screw up when their own names, jobs and pensions are on the line, firmly attached to the outcome for each child on their list ?