Sharon Shoesmith’s appeal against her dismissal as ‘unlawful’ was rejected at the High Court yesterday but it wasn’t as straightforward as some headlines might suggest.
I haven’t a great deal of sympathy for Shoesmith necessarily. I think that there has to be an element of ‘the buck stops here’ where bad practice is concerned, particularly as it seems that the poor practice was related to atrocious staffing levels and poor supervision but I think that Ed Balls’ media play party with her and others in Haringey as the sacrifical lambs was incredibly uncomfortable.
It felt very much like a response to a media baying for blood rather than a considered investigation about what had gone wrong and how better outcomes could be achieved.
The judge though rejected this interpretation and has indicated that an employment tribunal may be a better place for Shoesmith to address her grievances directly with Haringey.
The Guardian has an interesting follow up about the effect of the case on child protection in the UK and asks the pertinent question of ‘Who would be a DCS (Director of Childrens’ Services) in the UK?’. Hopefully, the answer will be found through those who have an interest in the quality of work produced rather than the quantity necessarily but that’s a pipe-dream in a system built on targets that don’t always allow a professional judgement to be made as regards priorities.
The shortage of Child Protection Social Workers increases meanwhile as does the number of children taken into the care of local authorities. It is no coincidence.
While for Shoesmith in particular, whatever should or shouldn’t have been done will, I suppose, go to tribunal – the sadness of this instance is that there is a group-think about social workers which has been damaged by both media responses and by a government (Ed Balls) snuggling up to the media portrayals of everything being the fault of social workers and social services. There is an inability to detach poor practice by individuals from the profession as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Mail has another ‘social workers want to snatch my child’ story. It is, of course, hard to see this story as anything connected to ‘journalism’ as clearly only one side can be told. But anyone who has a sniff of knowledge of social work departments will know that ‘cuddling your child for too long’ is absolutely not going to be anything close to a reason for removal, intervention or even .
The Mail seems to attract these stories and they tell their readers exactly what they want to read – that those nasty nasty child snatchers might take your sweet child if you just cuddle her too much..