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Saturday 28 May 2011

Social Services – Playing It Both Ways

Yesterday’s court ruling in favour of former Haringey Council Director of Childrens’ Services Sharon Shoesmith has sent much of the press off into a righteous froth. But there is more than a little hypocrisy in play here: while the why-oh-why brigade are laying into Ms Shoesmith over the Baby P case, implying that her staff should have taken the child into care, they are equally adept at deploying the counter argument.

And while pundits like the Mail’s Richard Pendlebury carp over Ms Shoesmith’s background and qualifications, they themselves have no idea what social work involves, and certainly don’t have any background in it. This does not stop Pendlebury, and tiresome Glenda Amanda Platell, from pontificating on the case.

It’s no different over at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, where hack Neil Syson claims “she could get £2.5m compo”. This is clearly A Bad Thing, as many Sun readers signed a petition that said Ms Shoesmith should be sacked. The thought that employment law and due process is not decided by Sun readers is not allowed to enter.

So, it seems, children at risk – a judgment made with 20/20 hindsight by hacks and pundits – should be taken into care. Social services should be more proactive. Except that, this time, the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate plays the other side of the field.

The Mail approach is typical: “The couple who lost three children to social servicesscreamed the headline in December 2008. The previous January, there wasHow social services are paid bonuses to snatch babies for adoption”. Last year, readers were treated toIn hiding, the mother accused of abuse for cuddling her child”. In September 2009, there was the case of a father blaming Reading social services for his 13 year old daughter’s pregnancy.

So, when the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is so minded, social services being proactive is A Very Bad Thing. Either way, those whose lot is to be social workers, and their managers like Sharon Shoesmith, cannot be other than infallible in the eyes of the tabs. Being human, and occasionally erring, is not allowed.

So that’s different to being involved with a calamitous General Election campaign, as Amanda Platell was back in 2001, when her unique brand of terminal incompetence helped William ‘Ague get well and truly routed by Tone and Big Al. Fortunately for her, she now gets to judge others from her lofty perch without having to make the kind of decisions that social workers sometimes call wrongly. Because they’re only human.

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