Following claims by a former senior social worker that police failed to act on child abuse allegations in Nottinghamshire care homes on number of occasions, BASW has welcomed the shift to a ‘culture of belief’.
There are now over 100 allegations of historical violent and sexual child abuse at local authority run care homes in the county, involving staff in at least 13 different institutions over a 40 year period.
In an interview with BBC News, BASW professional officer Karen Goodman said: “We have to be able to listen; listen to social workers, we have to be able to listen to victims, both victims of historic abuse and victims today. The culture is shifting and we welcome that very much indeed”.
When asked by the BBC’s Chris Rogers why cases of historic abuse were not believed, Ms Goodman replied: “Some have been believed and some haven’t. There are huge obstacles; there has been a culture of disbelief.
“It’s something we have been addressing for many, many years. It hasn’t always been believed and that’s what we’ve seen. There is a shift in culture and public opinion, there’s a greater ability to talk about these things now.
“And the training, the stability, the skilled staff, the Working Together, the partnership work which is so essential between the police and social services, we have got to have that.
“It’s in some areas but it needs to be spread out nationally and what we need to see here is a national approach from the police as well. We need a national police inquiry and a service that comes together because these perpetrators, these criminals move around, they’re not just in one place.
“So if you have abuse in one area, they need to coordinate that across regions, across cities and across services, police; social work and health working together. We do have multi-agency teams, the MASH teams but they deal with the front door, the referrals, the investigative stage.
“This is slow, painstaking work. We have to have the time as professionals to gain the trust of victims, both of historic victims and of children today. That isn’t quick work, you have to painstakingly go at the pace of the person who’s experienced these appalling crimes. So you have to have staff who can stay with the work and build up that trust.
In response to being asked if all the high profile criticism is putting people off going into social work, Ms Goodman said: “It’s a hard profession, and recruitment in past years has been difficult and turnover of staff has been an issue. Team stability and experience has been a problem but actually there are more people coming forward to the universities wanting to be social workers than there are places.
“The profession is becoming skilled, what we have to do now is make sure we have stability and that turnover and staff retention is focussed on, as well as training and working together with other agencies.”