Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stop the Witchhunt of Social Workers

Baby P: Social work campaigners launch 'anti-witch hunt' petition

writes Louise Hunt

The campaigning body Social Work Action Network (Swan) has today launched its own petition to condemn the "witch hunt" against the profession fuelled by the Baby P case.

Swan said it was responding to "an unprecedented campaign in sections of the media against social workers in Haringey".

More than 200,000 people have so far signed The Sun newspaper's online petition, launched last week, calling for the government to sack all the social workers involved in the Baby P case and the council's director of children's services, Sharon Shoesmith. Other petitions have appeared on social networking sites.
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The Swan petition has already been signed by social workers from across the country.

Witch hunts don't address issues

Swan representative Dr Michael Lavalette, senior lecturer in social policy at the University of Liverpool, said: "Such witch hunts don't address any of the issues raised by the Baby P case - indeed they serve to cover up the real causes of the terrible tragedy: budgetary constraints, marketisation of care, social workers with excessive case-loads, child poverty, inequality - these are the issues we need to look at to reduce child harm."

Swan, which formed in March 2006, is an organisation of social work academics, practitioners, students and service users.
Have your say on the Baby P case and its implications on CareSpace.

Baby P: A Statement from the Social Work Action Network.

Stop the Witchhunt of Social Workers.

The awful death of the child named as “Baby P” at the hands of his mother and other carers is an up-to-date reminder of the challenge social workers and fellow practitioners face in seeking to safeguard children from harm.

Eight years after the death of Victoria Climbie it is clear that on a daily basis many children continue to experience harm, neglect and abuse – even where health and social care professionals are involved.

However, the outcry from politicians and the media against care professionals in general and social workers in particular is unwarranted and counter-productive.

Against the condemnation of social workers, we roundly condemn the abuse of press powers best exemplified by the actions of the Sun newspaper in mounting a national public petition for the sacking of social workers involved with the case of Baby P, and associated practitioners.

The publication of these individual’s photographs alongside requests for anyone who knows them to contact the newspaper represents a witchhunt and call to persecution that places them at direct personal risk.

The effect of such scapegoating will inevitably place more children at greater risk, having caused anxiety and demoralisation amongst key practitioners, and created additional barriers to positive and effective work with families where there are concerns.

The scapegoating also diverts attention from what we see as the three main contributing factors to such tragedies.

First, there is the underfunding of social work services. It is timely to observe that, whilst more than £500 billion has been dedicated to bail out the UK banking system, children’s services remain at spending levels proportionate to GDP of 1993.

Second, the past 10 years has seen the introduction of market forces into every area of social care. The result is that social workers are now pre-occupied with budgets rather than the needs of those they work with, and are forced to spend increasing amounts of time in front of computers rather than spending time with families who need support and help.

Finally, all of this takes place in a context where children in Britain are amongst the most disadvantaged in Europe with at least 1 in 4 children living in poverty, educational achievement among the poorest in the western world, and UK children last in the league for quality of life.

With the recession, including unemployment rising at an unprecedented rate, our great fear is that social work will be further eroded at a time of rapidly increasing deprivation and alienation.

Neglect of social services will result in more neglect of children.

(Iain Ferguson, Vassilis Ioakimidis, Michael Lavalette on Behalf of the Social Work Action Network)


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