Child’s death would not matter, social services official tells undercover reporter
A senior social services official has said that it would not matter if a child was killed after their case was closed because it would not be the council’s responsibility.
The remark was secretly recorded by a colleague as part of an undercover investigation into Britain’s child protection system.
The findings have exposed numerous failings which, experts said, could be putting lives at risk.
Despite a shake-up of social services across the country in the wake of the death of Baby Peter Connelly, the recordings reveal a disturbing picture of Surrey social services.
The most serious findings show:
- social workers prepared to allow a child to sleep on a park bench;
- inexperienced staff assigned to complex jobs; and
- an admission from a social workers that child protection is “p*** poor”.
In the most alarming insight, a manager in the department advises that it is important to close cases quickly so that social services will not be blamed if a child subsequently dies.
“If there’s a Baby P on a closed case there will never, ever be a problem,” she tells the reporter during a private conversation in council offices.
“If it’s closed and we closed it with good reasons at the time and it’s shown in the closing summary that the reasons were good, then it won’t matter.”
It was reported last November that Surrey had closed 500 children’s social services cases, around one in ten of its total, in an attempt to focus on higher-priority cases. The council experienced a surge in referrals after news of the Baby P case broke in November 2008.
The manager, who does not realise her words are being recorded, adds: “The real problem is the case sitting at the back of your draw that isn’t being dealt with, but is technically open to you.
“If one of those goes off on you, God help you. Those are awful.”
Her comments follow a survey by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in April which found the number of children deemed at risk has increased by a third since the Baby P scandal.
The Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, to be shown tomorrow, singled out Surrey for investigation because there have been several known child deaths as a result of abuse or neglect in the county in the past five years.
The council’s child protection arrangements were said to be “inadequate” by inspectors in 2008, but last year Ofsted found that the situation had improved.
In the programme, a reporter who had previously worked as a family support worker obtained a job at Surrey social services.
Even though he had not worked in a child protection unit for six years, he was given two highly-sensitive cases on his first day in the job without any training.
One case involved him visiting a home where a convicted murderer had regular access, and had recently been violent, to assess whether it was safe for a child to continue living there.
In addition, the undercover reporter was given work that government guidelines state should only be given to qualified social workers, not less-qualified family support workers.
Other colleagues told him that they had not been given proper training, and the manager of the unit described the induction procedures as “crap”.
He was also advised to warn a 15 year-old-boy looking for somewhere to stay that social services would not be able to house him, even though they were legally bound to do so.
“If we don’t have a placement we can’t put him anywhere,” a colleague was recorded saying.
“He can sleep on a park bench.”
It took more than six weeks before the child was given a placement in a residential home, during which time the reporter was told the child had threatened to commit suicide.
Summing up his findings after the filming was completed, the undercover reporter expressed concern at what he had discovered and said that social workers have an “impossible job”.
“What’s emerging is there’s an age group from 13 up to 16 that really get forgotten,” he said.
“It’s just depressing.”
He added: “This is a national problem. These are our most vulnerable children and if we want to look after them in an adequate way we’ll have to pay for it.”
Joanna Nicolas, a child protection consultant and trainer with 15 years’ experience, said last night that the findings of the investigation exposed the stark reality of the challenges faced by social services across the country.
“The public will find the programme shocking, but those of us on the ground have been saying for years that the system is at breaking point,” she said.
“It’s buckling and that means that children are left unprotected. It’s not right that we have a system where young people are left effectively homeless and without support.”
A spokesman for Surrey county council said: “Child protection is our top priority and we will examine the findings of this programme carefully.”
The documentary, raising questions about what is being done to protect vulnerable children, follows a series of high-profile failings by social services.
Earlier this year, welfare officers at Birmingham council were criticised for failing to take seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq from her mother who starved her to death.
Lord Laming recommended a complete overhaul of child protection policies following the death of Victoria Climbie in 2000, who was also starved to death after social workers, police and the NHS failed to raise the alarm.
*Dispatches: Undercover Social Worker is broadcast tomorrow [MON] at 8pm on Channel 4
I cannot find even a short amount of footage except of the Social Workers poor us under resourced, etc burnt out, overloaded, etc …….
But if you listen to the stories of parents’ who have been through the system of being on a Child Protection Register, and how minimal, things are suddenly blown out of proportion, or have experienced their ‘help’, as I have, then you realise that with people that are vulnerable, they can tick all the boxes as if this is perhaps the next Baby P, or Victoria Climbie, and prove they are doing their job, yet clearly ignoring still real cries for help. There are pillars seemingly made of stone, of entrenched, unhealthy tactics, that polarise the relationship with parents immediately, and then seek to divide and rule, any relationships, that are by now, often fragile to say the least.
I urge you, please do not make Daniel the next child held up, to bring more powers, and then use them against any parent that takes a professionals’ fancy……….. Earlier this week the FBI released news of 105 children being rescued, and 150 pimps arrested.. I was lucky enough to be alerted by one of our smart members, and hear the live release which was 30 mins long. I was struck at the attitude and language used, so much said with compassion, i felt was genuine, he spoke at length of the fact that 60% of the rescued youngsters were from fostercare………………yes FOSTERCARE. 60% and isn’t the same thing going on here, UK. ? Add to that, the fact that 60% of children in care have parents who were abused…… do you see a pattern ?
I have never accepted that resources are to blame. Billions have been wrongly spent in my view. 20 years ago at a community focus forum, i raised the issue, that survivors of child sexual abuse needed special help. I was sneered down by a community midwife, that there were not the resources. ‘Yes there are i said, look at any alchohol, drug, homeless unit, any profoundly needy group, and you will find child sexual abuse survivors, needing to heal the cause,
Rest in Peace Daniel. Am so sad that I or someone who would have made sure,, were not around you. Be at Peace now suffering no more.
Please lets’ make sure that as Sonia Poulton brilliantly said on the Jeremy Vine show Radio 2 yesterday 1st Aug. Lets create this smaller society, i recommend a listen , it,s a bout 7 mins in. and on the iplayer. for 6 more days.