Thursday, November 20, 2008

How social work responds to criticism

The most depressing thing I have read today is the contribution of Dr Ray Jones to a brief Guardian symposium on the baby Peter case. He is professor of social work at Kingston University and St. Georges University of London and a former director of social services.

Jones writes:

When the media and public bigots, zealots and hypocrites are out on their witch hunts is probably not the best time for measured reflection about child protection. But there is a danger that politicians, afraid of their own public lynching, will give in to the mob.
No doubt there have been reactions of this sort, but it is outrageous to characterise all criticism of the actions of Haringey council in this way.

A profession that believes it can do no wrong will never learn from its mistakes.

1 comment:

Matthew Huntbach said...

I don't see Dr Jones as saying that, and I do see the comment just below his article as spelling out in more detail the dangers he's hinting at.

That is, the danger of the "something must be done" mentality is that the something that is done is to introduce more bureaucracy and procedures to try and solve the problem - and that bureaucracy and procedures just makes things worse. We have seen this time and time again with the New Labour government.

I've looked in detail at the rants of the public on discussion on the Baby P issue, and I know they're heartfelt and what people do and say when they want to lash out after hearing of a tragedy like that.

But my reaction has been to ask what seriously we want to do? If we did just do what some of these people were saying, it would mean vastly more state intervention in the lives of people who have children and live rather messily. We don't want that do we? And we sure wouldn't want to pay for it.

Do we want the sort of rigid social mores where a child born out of wedlock is a scandal, so the baby is snatched away at birth, and the mother sent to live in an institution for the unsound of mind? I hope not.

I think we do, however, want more social workers who are like mums and aunties, working informally and from life's experience, rather than formally trained and working to a rigid set of rules which gets patched up and made more complex every time another sad case happens and people say "something must be done".

Whatever, sometimes we must just accept - these things happen. If a thing's worth doing it's worth doing badly, and that includes bringing up kids - the intention of that quote (GKC of course) is that we have to leave people free to do things vital to their human existence, even if they don't always do the best job of it. The price of freedom is that sometimes there is a Baby P case.