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Social workers react to BBC documentary on Bristol children’s services

Social workers have reacted strongly to the first episode of ‘Protecting Our Children’ on BBC2, a documentary following the case of a family in Bristol subject to the intervention of the council’s children’s services department.

The programme centred on concerns about a three-year-old child called Toby who was exhibiting signs of neglect and developmental delay. The production team spent 18 months following a social worker, a team manager and a newly qualified practitioner – her first case after qualifying – and observing first hand the family’s lifestyle and how decisions came to be made.

BASW, which has commended Bristol’s decision to open the door to the media and help raise public awareness of social work, was among those to respond to its broadcast.

Below is the initial response of two senior BASW figures, as well as the Association’s full submission to an Education Committee Inquiry into the Child Protection System in England, plus more general comments made by Twitter contributors in the wake of the BBC broadcast.

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Nushra Mansuri, BASW England professional officer:
This programme highlighted some of the very real gaps in services, particularly in terms of the preventative agenda. It highlights the reality that our child protection system is still not as rights based as it could be.

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Sue Kent, BASW England professional officer:
The programme was excellent and I think the social workers and especially the team manager all worked well together. As such I would offer no criticism of their individual practice but definitely the system. What family support was available? What work was done with the mother outside of the home? Where were all the other agencies prior to the Child Protection Plan?

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BASW submission to the Education Committee Inquiry into the Child Protection System in England
‘It is BASW’s contention that there is a strong correlation between political and economic issues and eligibility for services even where child protection is the stated priority – i.e. ‘Everybody’s business’. Just as poverty is deemed to be a relative concept in its definition so standards of child protection are bound to change with the prevailing social and political climate.’

‘The major challenge for social workers is to remain resilient even during the rather questionable attempts to redefine the problem to suit the financial climate and prevailing political ethos and to maintain their perspective and professional integrity when they carry responsibility for children’s wellbeing.’

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Selection of online reaction to BBC’s Protecting Our Children

Harrowing. Respect to social workers making tough choices.

Huge debates but the safety of the children involved is paramount.

Difficult viewing so imagine living it. Social work so difficult and often so thankless.

A really difficult watch last night – impressed by the even-handed way the film-makers tackled such raw subject.

Very interesting programme about Social Workers last night, makes you realise just how difficult those decisions are.

That child is not talking because there is no interaction going on. Social workers sharing the risk and supporting each other.

At last a documentary that presents social work in all its complex glory.

I’ve never wanted to go into social work more than I do now.

Illustrating not so easy for social workers to make decisions, difficult job – underpaid and undervalued.

My heart really went out to the NQSW who looked very anxious, she received good support and will grow into role.

More could have been shown on supporting mum with parenting skills and raising self esteem.

Think I could just do the banker’s job on Newsnight but not the social worker’s job on protecting our children.

Excellent program but I’m sure the Daily Mail will find a way to make us look bad!

Well done Bristol but not particularly groundbreaking – social workers didn’t really shine, perhaps I’m too harsh?