A Call to Arms


Yesterday, the Scottish Sunday Mirror had a column entitled ‘Sack the bad Social Workers’. The article can be found here. I read it briefly and although I would never condone poor practice or poor practitioners, I can’t help but feel that the journalist was just taking a cheap stab in the dark at a profession that is one of the few that comes in as being less popular than ‘journalist’ in the public perception.

The very brief crux of the story relates to a report presented by a Social Worker to a court which recommended a non-custodial sentence to an offender who had committed a violent crime. The judge decided a custodial sentence was required after judging (because that’s what judges do) the arguments on both sides.

This has raised the ire of the journalist. The social worker in question is clearly, in her eyes, incompetent because they came to a different conclusion than the one she had come to.

In these unforgiving times, you would expect to lose your job if you screwed up big time. If your judgment was so poor it cost your company money you’d be out of the door smartish.

Those are the rules most of us live by, and nothing concentrates the mind more than the fear of getting chucked out.

But not if you’re a social worker.

Nine times out of 10 you’ll keep your job despite a cock-up.

I wonder if she is as bitter as she actually presents herself. Or if she is playing to the crowd who bay for the blood of social workers as a matter of course.

Looking back at the issue of producing a court report, surely it is something that is considered by the judge who looks at different opinions and makes his judgement on that basis, rather than an automatic adherence to the social worker’s report. If the judge (and there is absolutely no evidence of this – especially given the outcome) does that, then surely it is lazy ‘judging’. Of course, professional reports are important but they are advice rather than directives.

Oh, but the journalist, Anna Smith adds a brief addendum

What chance have we got if social workers get it so wrong so often?

Of course I don’t mean all of them. Most do a brilliant job. But as in any other walk of life, some are just no good.

All of us live with the consequences of endless inept social-work reports to courts. Time and again, thugs walk free because they have managed to convince their social worker that they have turned over a new leaf.

Do these social workers really do their training coming up the Clyde? Are they buttoned up the back? It seems that way to me.

Hmm.. some social workers ‘do a brilliant job’. Well, maybe more attention other than the five words that testify to that fact would create a different image of the profession that is just so easy to kick.

And honestly, as stated previously,  judges are not obliged at any point to adhere solely to the evidence presented by the social workers who have clearly been hoodwinked by thugs.

It seems that Anna Smith wants to hold the social worker more responsible for the crime and its resolution than the actual perpetrator.

9 thoughts on “A Call to Arms

  1. Well said. Why do journalists think that they know the answers to all of the problems when they have so few of the facts?

    Social worker do a very difficult job. They have to weigh up all the circumstances that they see and make a recommendation based on those circumstances. Sometimes their assessment is right (but they will never be congratulated in those circumstances) and sometimes they are wrong (they will always be pilloried on these occasions).

  2. “In these unforgiving times, you would expect to lose your job if you screwed up big time.”

    Unless you are a company director or city banker in which case you walk into your next job with a several million pound payoff ;/

  3. Well put. I am sick of this vilification of people who are doing work that most people would simply not want to do. Working with the vulnerable and needy (and lets face it most offenders are just that) is never easy, and I am in complete agreement with you re the job of the Judge to JUDGE the evidence presented to him.

  4. It is sad when your profession becomes a political pawn. Teachers and social workers always get it in the neck from the media. Nurses don’t because we will all be at their mercy sometime!

  5. lets add in this chunker: Social workers unfortunately may on occassion find themselves being expected (ordered) to attend to the political and fiscal “realities” beyond the details of the case. It is very EXPENSIVE to keep someone in custody, and I personally have known of social workers being pressured to make recomendations that were not perfectly sound.

    Yes, the judge had the ultimate responsibility. But a system that fails to adequately fund necessary services may also contibute to such determinations. There is plenty of blame to go around. (Including for journalists who present opinion as clear fact.

  6. Hi Gary, I hadn’t actually considered that, but can definitely see how it happens. I have only once been asked to provide a court report myself and working in the area I do (over 65s) it’s not so common. But ultimately, the blame for the system cannot rest on one individual.

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