The Bickerstaffe Record

The world beyond West Lancashire

Social workers in the Sun

11.29.08 | 3 Comments

Here’s a direct link to the Sun’s 1.2 million petition calling for the sacking of those involved in the Baby P case.  Yes, I agree that there’s a real case for summary dismissal…..

 ………..of every Sun journalist and editor involved in this shameful crap.

Let me just say, for starters, I’m not going to get all sanctimonious about the death of Baby P.  Yes, of course I regret it, as I regret all unnecessary and untimely death that comes to my attention, like here or here or anywhere else in the world, but I’m not going to condone, by joining with it, the mass hysteria which has overtaken the popular press, and even some bloggers who really should know better (and as put right very well by Don).

Instead, let’s focus on those bastards at the Sun.  

If you are intent, as The Sun is clearly intent, on stirring up mass hyteria; if you are intent on creating a mass hatred of all things ‘social work’ so deep that a challenging but highly rewarding profession sees massive drops in recruitment and retention; if you are really ‘care so deeply ‘ about children’s justice that you’re quite happy to see the numbers in care rise dramatically in the two weeks since you started your ‘campaign for justice'; if you want to do all these things, you might at least start by getting your bleeding facts right.

Here’s the wording of the petition that 1.2 million people have a signed, in all its shabby detail:

‘I believe that ALL the social workers involved in the case of Baby P, including Sharon Shoesmith, Maria Ward and Gillie Christou should be sacked – and never allowed to work with vulnerable children again.

I call on Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, and Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, to ensure that those responsible are removed from their positions immediately.

I also demand that the doctor and health visitor involved with Baby P, Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat and Paulette Thomas, should also lose their jobs.

I call on the General Medical Council to ensure that they do.’

Fact 1:   Is Sharon Shoesmith actually a social worker?  She is Director of Children’s Service, whic covers all education provision in Haringey as well as child social work.  She was previously Director of Education before the services were merged, and it looks very much like she comes from a teaching background.  Of course she is reponsible for social work in her new position, but it’s simply wrong to call her a social worker.

Fact 2: Paulette Thomas, a Health Visitor, cannot be fired, or struck off, by the General Medical Council.  She is a Health Visitor, and her professional body is therefore the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Fact 3: The social workers in the case also have a professional body, the General Social Care Council, which announced its review of the case on 13 November. 

So, apparently the Sun think it’s fine to leave doctors to their regulating body (along with anyone they think might be a bit like a doctor because they’ve got the world ‘health’ in their title), but that social workers, whoever they might be and whoever they decide to lump into that term, are beneath all of that ‘professional’ stuff and can discarded like toilet paper. 

That says a lot not just about their poor attention to detail, but also about their inbuilt (inbred?) class-based subservience to the medical profession.

Except that’s not the whole story with doctors – because there’s doctors, and then there’s woman doctors.

In this piece, the  Sun journalist, despite there being a picture of the named docotr on the same page, makes clear that the main doctor culprit is a – shock horror – ‘woman doctor’ (on the same page he also implies that, even more shock horror, one of the social workers may not be married).

So 1.2 million people put their name to a document which was factually incorrect, but the hacks who put it together keep their jobs.

The people of Liverpool from Hillsborough right through to today have shown what can be done.  In 2005 the Sun came grovelling in a bid to end the boycott which saw sales slump permanently in the area.  The grovelling didn’t work.  Don’t, I’d advise anyone gently, try asking for a copy of the Sun in any newsagent in North Liverpool.

Perhaps we should try giving the Sun a bit of the same medicine now

Let’s start by signing a petition, and see how we get on.

Please take a moment to read and then sign this intelligently worded, factually correct, petition put together by the Social Work Action Network in response to the Sun’s attack, but also in more general support of ‘grassroots social work’.  The petition doesn’t duck the issues (about which I’ll blog separately) associated with social workers being ‘over bureacuratised’, but it’s all the more laudable for that.

At the moment 1,500 signatures doesn’t compete well with 1.2 million, but it would certainly be in the spirit of recent left-leaning blogosphere posts (see here and here also) and action on using the internet to bring solidarity in action, if lots of us blogger-types joined forces with the Social Action Network and each other to make the petition grow, both through our own blog readerships and then perhaps out in Facebook territory or some such (I’m no expert here!). 

 If we could get quite a few thousand signatures together, who knows?  Perhaps the next step might be to start some kind of public sector union-based campaign to boycott the Sun. 

I’d be well up for it – as you can probably tell.


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