BBC’s Panorama programme highlighted the real challenges that social workers face every day, and the damage that can be done to children when things go wrong.
I found the programme deeply moving.
It revealed reoccurring problems of the care system, especially regarding staffing.
I am aware of past cases where staff who perpetrated serious failures were rehired as temporary staff, which highlights terror that local authorities have of another “Baby P” case.
We need good social workers who, unless the children are at risk of serious harm, provide the support that parents need to keep their children. However, that is much easier said than done!
Herefordshire Council comprehensively failed on more than one occasion, and continued to try to take children away from their families even though the proper protocols were ignored.
The new Chief Executive of Herefordshire Council arrived in post in time to bring in the new measures mentioned in the programme, which we all hope will bring these problems to an end.
Watching the programme, it struck me that there is a much greater need to talk to the children in question – far more.
The role of grandparents and other family members was never mentioned, yet I have had many constituents complain that the grandparents are not consulted enough in childcare cases.
It just seems too easy for Councils to take a child into care, and that this decision is used by default rather than as a last resort.
It was also important to notice that nobody in the programme complained about the care that was being delivered by foster parents.
These people are unsung heroes, and it was heartening to see how one of the girls wanted to be adopted by her foster carer, so there are some very good points to take away from the programme too.
Having spoken to the reporter myself, I share her concern that the recycling of senior council staff sets a dangerous precedent.
Personally, I have had to intervene many times for the families in these sorts of cases to try to find common sense solutions.
I am usually met with enormous bureaucracy, and sometimes when social workers are clearly wrong, the extraordinary lengths people will go to protect their own backs.
This culture is one of the reasons why the number of children in care has grown.
There are other factors such as drug use by parents, violence by partners and difficult mental health issues in children which parents struggle to deal with.
However, Herefordshire is a great County with wonderful people and a harmonious society.
This programme did not do justice to the extraordinary work delivered by our good people, the teachers, the dedicated grandparents and foster carers, as well as so many others who are doing their best to help our young people.
We live in a society where people are too quick to judge, and it seems that social workers are no exception. It seems wrong that many of these cases end up in court.