Skip to main content

Baby Peter five years on – government must strengthen child protection services not diminish them

Ahead of tomorrow’s five year anniversary of the tragic death of Baby Peter Connolly, BASW has renewed its call for the government to make child protection a priority and support professionals undertaking this very challenging but important work, by taking a number of measures, including cutting social worker caseloads and redeploying admin staff in local authorities.

A BASW survey in March 2012 of over 1000 social workers revealed the profession to be in a ‘dire’ state, with social workers stretched to breaking point, due to soaring rates of the number of children being referred to local authority children’s services with no increase in resources, rather a diminution, including cuts to backroom staff.

The survey’s alarming findings have prompted an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Work, scheduled to begin in the autumn.

Commenting on tomorrow’s five year anniversary, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “There were many public declarations following the sad and lonely death of Baby Peter Connolly, which we hoped would prove to be a watershed moment for the profession, by providing vital support to social workers undertaking this difficult work.

“Sadly, as every child protection social worker would testify, child abuse is an unsavoury fact of life, and will never be eradicated. However, five years on, children’s services have deteriorated, despite the input of the social work reform board and a well-intentioned government sponsored review led by Professor Eileen Munro that offers a blueprint for much needed change, as well as progress towards establishing a College of Social Work.

“Yet without the necessary resources to do the work effectively, there is a danger of the Munro review becoming just a mirage in the desert. So much has been promised, and yet so little is being offered apart from more cuts to services.

“We can only despair as Munro suggests more preventative services, and members report closures of community facilities. The government continues to issue new policy and guidance while failing to look adequately at the creaking and heaving social work service. The government’s fixation with adoption and ‘troubled’ families is merely diverting money away from vital resources towards pointless posturing.

“We know from our members that little has changed, and concerns for children grow. 88% of social workers think cuts are putting lives at risk, and 54% said their caseloads were “unmanageable”. More experienced social workers are leaving as the burden of protection falls squarely on their shoulders, while newly qualified workers, eager to learn, find themselves out of work.

“While BASW and the Social Workers Union (SWU) are much stronger, real change and improvement will only happen when the social work profession asserts its role, and the necessity for social workers to lead reform.

“Keeping children safe is a challenging task, particularly when abuse often occurs behind closed doors, sometimes without any agencies like social services, police, schools or health professionals being involved.

“Child abuse continues to happen in our society and in every society, and this is all the more reason to ensure that child protection services are given absolute priority, so that we can strive towards preventing as many fatalities as possible.

“Children are continuing to die at the hands of abusers, and until we have more resources and can work together to prevent such tragedies, the number of fatalities will continue to grow.”