I don’t like the money spent on public enquiries. However, having just watched the documentary on the untold story surrounding the appalling death of Peter Connolly (‘Baby P: The Untold Story’), the public needs to understand just how brutal and manipulative are the attempts to scapegoat social workers for our endemic social problems.
In this case there was an orchestrated campaign by The Sun (under Rebecca Brooke) to target the social workers and locum doctor involved in the case, all quickly themselves becoming the tragic victims of a contemporary witch-hunt. The evil resulting from this is that the strain on all the services involved escapes attention, as those with a huge burden of work in the front-line of patching up society’s ills are punished rather than supported.
The performance of David Cameron making political capital out of the tragedy (at the time briefed by his ‘political advisor’ Andy Coulson) was hugely significant in this modern tragedy, as were the panicked reactions of Ed Balls and the rushed report of Ofsted on the matter. After this disgraceful farce of wrongful blame (the spokespeople for the police and NHS happy to tolerate if not encourage the misleading targeting of the social workers), still, all the right questions are being ignored.
How better to support our front-line social workers is the issue. Even as the brave and compassionate Sharon Shoesmith kept trying to talk about what was needed to protect children (and damaged mothers) last evening on Newsnight, Evan Davis continued with the lazy routine of personal blame. Given that there was never even an inquest into Peter’s death (despite his father calling for one) a public enquiry might at least make more people aware the evils of these bullying diversions, perhaps as well highlighting how much more vulnerable professional women are to being scapegoated than men in similar positions of responsibility. There are so many social, political and ethical issues here, which a public enquiry might begin to flush out.
Other blog posts by Professor Segal: