Being a social worker: Are you damned if you do and damned if you don’t?

Peter Connelly, Baby P, who died in August 2007 while on the at-risk register. There has been a rise

Peter Connelly, Baby P, who died in August 2007 while on the at-risk register. There has been a rise in the number of children taken into care by councils after the Baby P child abuse scandal. Photo: ITV News/PA Wire - Credit: PA

In light of our investigation into Norfolk County Council's children's services department, Dan Grimmer gives his view on the difficult job of social workers.

To say being a social worker is a difficult task is quite an understatement. It's a job in which you're often damned if you do and damned if you don't.

These people work with families who might not exactly welcome the intervention of children's services. Yet, in many, many cases, they do great work in extremely challenging situations.

What they do can save children's lives. It's a sad fact that some parents neglect and abuse their children and it's not fair to paint social workers as childsnatchers determined to take youngsters away.

There are times when it is essential that children be taken into care. That can be the difference between life and death.

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But good social work can also help keep families together - changing behaviours to help parents and children remain with each other.

However, high profile cases, such as the death of Baby P and closer to home - the death of six-year-old Lauren Wright in 2000 - inevitably, and understandably, can make social workers ultra cautious.

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And those cases are complex. Yes, children's services departments should be criticised for failing to protect vulnerable children. But it should not be forgotten that, in these cases, it's the parents, step-parents and partners, not the social workers, who kill their children.

Such cases lead to more children being taken into care, although social services bosses are at pains to point out that the courts who make the final decision - based on evidence.

The difficulty comes when that evidence is questionable - and the fact that an MP thinks it has been in some instances is worrying.

Good social care practice should be applauded, but poor practice must be addressed. Ofsted has repeatedly raised concern over some of the work being done in Norfolk and we hope Matt Dunkley's leadership will lead to improvements.

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