I know I shouldn’t do it. I know it will just make me unnecessarily angry and raise my blood pressure. I know exactly what I’ll find but sometimes, just occasionally, my curiosity gets the better of me and I dip into the Daily Mail’s website.
And to those lucky enough not to have come across the Daily Mail – think populist and right wing – a kind of printed version of Fox News.
Yesterday, I found a story (from a few days previously) headlined MUM ON THE RUN: PREGNANT TEEN FLEES TO IRELAND TO ESCAPE SOCIAL WORKERS SHE FEARS WILL TAKE HER BABY.
I will sum up, for those of a nervous disposition for whom actually entering the lion’s den or giving the Daily Mail the merit of your ‘click’ might be a bit much.
Heavily pregnant 19 year old (she is named in the article but I chose to convert her name to initials) discovered that her social worker had asked the local maternity hospital not to let her leave with the child before a case conference had been arranged as the pregnant woman had had a history of self-harm and had previously been known to have taken an overdose.
There is a reason I have never written a sentence about Children and Families Social Work – and that’s because I don’t really know a great deal about its workings – I mean, I studied about the Children Act (1989), risk assessments and child development from when I did my MA.. but that was.. er.. a few years ago! I have some friends in that field but while we might discuss general issues, I wouldn’t say it has given me an insight or understanding of the system – nor can I comment on the particulars of this case.
The only thing I’m commenting on is the language used in the article. Some examples of the quality of journalism on display in this article.
The county council has not obtained a court order giving it authority to keep MT in the hospital, and she has no history of being a danger to children – yet social workers appear convinced she is unfit to care for her baby.
Convinced to whom? The local authority (quite rightly) have refused to comment. A lot of assumptions in that sentence there. Of course, only one part of the story is presented – fair enough. We don’t know what the social workers are thinking to be honest. Is it what one social worker is thinking? One social worker in consultation with her manager? All the social workers that work in that area or the UK or the world.. The journalist seems very happy to present this as fact.
Then they wheel out the politician with a point to prove
John Hemming claimed that the local authority had been heavy-handed.
In some cases, he said, fearful parents feel they have no option other than to flee to Ireland or Sweden, where it is difficult for councils to take children away from them.
‘MT is right to worry that if the new baby is taken into care after birth she might end up getting adopted,’ he said.
It really is a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t case. As far as I know, ‘taking children away’ is the absolute last resort. And this makes it sound like it is an available option.
Without knowing details, background, medical history and planning of the social services in question, it’s hard to know whether this is ‘heavy-handed’. And no option but to flee? Is he really presenting fleeing the country as an alternative to working with social services who might not be ‘child-snatchers’ but do actually work within a legislative framework whose principles are based on working to keep families together.
It does sound a bit ‘rent-a-quote’. Child might end up getting adopted – might not end up getting adopted too though. That’s the beauty of being able to put the word ‘might’ into a sentence and presenting it as fact.
MT accepts that she has harmed herself and taken an overdose in the past, but insists she has not been troubled by problems related to depression for two years.
Yet council documents show her past difficulties are still considered serious.
‘council documents’. Surely I’d be more interested in confidential medical documentation to be honest – that the Daily Mail would not be able to get their hands on.. council documents can’t just invent things -much as people do think it.
And this use of the word ‘yet’ to again – well, frankly it’s just irritating at this point.
Maybe if there were more responsible reporting of the actual situations and less conjuncture for a ‘cheap shot’ at social services, people wouldn’t actually think that their only answer is to flee to a different country for fear of having their child taken away.
I have to add I have nothing but sympathy for woman in question, it is an awful and tragic situation for her to be in but I can’t help feeling that there is some manipulation by the Mail to make a demon of a social worker (who is actually named in the article) who is doing a job within a legal context as far as we know. No action has been taken yet. A woman who is pregnant is frightened. I’m not surprised she’s frightened if this is how social workers have been presented to her up to this point.
And people ask why there is a shortage of social workers in the country?
If you’ve got to this point and have a strong stomach – go click on the article and read the comments section. There are some fairly vitriolic rants there.
(I did submit a comment to their site but they vet all comments and it hasn’t made it up there – possibly because it was a rant about poor (and cheap) journalism taking advantage of emotionally fragile people to make political points).
Anyway, I’ll off to lie down with a copy of the Guardian!
edit: John Hemming has replied to some of the issues raised on his blog. I thought it would be fair to share as he has more details than I was privy to (although I maintain that my argument was about the language rather than some of the substance)