The children’s social care sector has reacted to the death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by telling social workers that they are never to blame for child deaths caused by their carers, in a Facebook post for online magazine, Social Work News.
The post’s headline, which received more than 1,500 likes and ‘thumbs up’ from commenters was also shared more than 2,000 times.
The comment follows the announcement of little Arthur’s death, who was poisoned, starved and beaten to death by his carers over an extended period of time. Social workers who saw Arthur just two months before he died concluded there were no safeguarding concerns.
Social Work News’ website also carried a featured story by “Social Work Tutor” with the headline, “SOCIAL WORKERS ARE DAMNED IF WE DO AND DAMNED IF WE DON’T.”
The rest of the site’s current front page appears to be dedicated to parents who kill their children, with one item reflecting on social media and its part to play in the production and distribution of child sexual abuse imagery.
And while it is fair to say that not every child death will be the fault of a social worker or their team, to suggest that the sector can absolve itself of every death in this context, is astounding. The social care sector’s reaction to Arthur’s death is though, symptomatic of everything that is wrong with the sector.
While social workers have cast a wide net over families nationwide for decades — investigating some 600,000 children every year, and putting more than 50,000 children on child protection plans annually — the concern here is not that social workers are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” The real issue is that they just can’t seem to get it right.
The government has since announced yet another review into this latest child death, which follows more than 1,500 serious case reviews already under its belt for child deaths in the UK. The idea that this latest review will allow lessons to be learned — by a sector that refuses to take responsibility for its failures and clearly fails to learn — is a hollow, bitter joke.
But no-one’s laughing.
The narrative too, in the news that lockdown was somehow to blame for Arthur’s death, is a flimsy copout. Arthur had been seen by social workers, he was known to his local authority and he had been maltreated for a long time.
That no-one noticed anything was amiss, should be a warning sign to the sector that its policies and practices have never been fit for purpose.
Responding to Social Work Magazine’s Facebook Post, one children’s social care-experienced parent said, “Too interested in covering their own backs to notice it’s meant to be about the best interests of the child.”
Another care-experienced parent commented, “When you are a public funded body, you very much deserve public scrutiny. With this attitude , why do we have ‘child protection’? They systemically failed little Arthur.”
A separate poster noted, “If social workers were involved in the first place and failed to act in the child’s interests, they would be equally to blame.”
Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to this development.