Thursday, August 14, 2008

Social Work

What Went Wrong?

Sitting in work on one of my breaks during the week I noticed one of these trashy women's magazines that I almost never read (unless I am in the doctors surgery waiting room) in it I noticed an interesting article on the Social Worker involved in the Victoria Climbie case. She was cleared of being at fault in the case by a tribunal and I thought that it was interesting they showed her side of the story and her grief and anger over the whole tragedy. But at the time, the tragedy reminded me of something that struck me from a fairly early stage in my professional life, there are some sections of public sector workers who only ever get into the press if something goes wrong.

I don't think I have ever seen an article in the main stream press congratulating a social worker for helping a child with behavioural difficulties stick in at school and get their Higher results, or the teacher who gives up their spare time to take kids to the theatre because it will help explain what Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Nights Dream is actually all about, and most of us know one or both of those I have just described. Think about the relatively low paid social care worker in a children's unit helping give young people a sense of home and security as well as the emotional and intellectual support to continue in school and achieve academically.

I don't think enough emphasis is placed on public sector workers as a whole but, Social Workers definitely seem to get the rough end of the stick, it is their fault when a child like Victoria Climbie gets killed, it is their fault when a parole violator breaks the conditions of their parole and commits a crime and it is their fault when the unruly teenager decides to break the windows on their next door neighbours car because he wouldn't give them their ball back!

Society fails to acknowledge and accept that we can never fully mitigate such risks, and I know that is not a popular view I wish we could stop every tragedy like this happening but the simple truth is we can't. We could have the most robust system EVER in place and tragedies like this would still take place.

Social workers will never be able to stop every tragedy like Victoria Climbie but they can minimize them when the system works, that is why we have child protection committees in every council with all appropriate agencies represented. I have been to a few of these meetings as a Councillor and it is never easy but everyone present has one thing in mind what is best for the child. I loved the title of one of the reports to come out of the Scottish Executive when I was a Councillor ....
'It's Everyone's Job to Make sure I'm Alright' because it is.

For my part I wanted to say thank you to all of the Social workers who have helped shape my life. From my Aunts, one a retired social worker and one still serving, to the people I worked with while a sessional worker with Social Work and all of those I worked with while the Deputy Convenor on the Council. All of you made a profound impact on my view of what Social Work can do when it works, and the difference it can make not just to a child's life but, to the thousands of vulnerable clients throughout Scotland who rely on you for help.


Please note all postings on this blog are of a personal nature and do not reflect the opinions of either Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Labour Party or Renfrewshire Labour Group. NB No annonymous comments will be published on this blog if you have something to say have the courage to identify yourself.