“Victory for Baby P” screamed the Sun, as heads rolled in Haringey. No, guys – Baby P is dead. There’s no victory here.
The Sun, over the last week or two, has run a very nasty campaign in which they’ve ‘named and shamed’ social workers and demanded their dismissal. Local Lib Dem MP Lynn Featherstone has worked hard to build her own career by cheer leading the witch hunt. Tory leader David Cameron has joined the ritual condemnations of staff, saying “It’s good that some of the people have been named and been suspended” – and is calling for their pay to be stopped.
The ‘victory’ for the witch hunters is that three senior staff have been suspended, and another three are under review. Are they culpable? It’s hard to know – because Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has refused to publish the enquiry report.
Human beings make mistakes. We know that, for the simple reason that most of us do it from time to time. Possibly even Sun journalists and career-minded MPs get stuff wrong sometimes. Condemning individuals here is not particularly useful. The tragic death of Baby P wasn’t caused by an evil social worker trying to kill him. Almost certainly, we’re looking at a series of system failures – around resources and workloads, procedures, training, supervision and so on.
We’ve already heard from a senior social worker at Haringey about the culture of bullying and the massive workloads. She flagged up her concerns long before Baby P died, incidentally. If individual social workers were stressed, overworked and bullied, there’s a good chance that they weren’t doing the job that we (and they) would want them to.
Child protection is way too important to leave to the likes of the Sun and David Cameron. If we can stop the hysterical witch hunt for a moment or two, it’s worth thinking about what needs to happen. It’s too late for Baby P, but not for other children who are abused or at risk of abuse. What needs to be happening is a careful, honest detailed review of why Baby P died, and what lessons need to be learned. Then we need to look at the resources, training and structures that are needed to implement change at national level. It might be more fun shrieking at individual social workers – but children deserve better than that.