The news that every agency is to blame for Baby Peter’s death leads me to ask a simple question. Where was the lead agency in this case? In every child protection case, one agency should take responsibility for sharing information effectively between all agencies, and it’s usually the local authority. Without communication and coordination, social workers are unlikely to gain access at the right time, or find themselves on the front line, without the knowledge they need.
I’m sure that every frontline member of staff, from the police to the social worker, who came into contact with Baby Peter, knows that more could have been done. But how can one person make up for the lack of communication that has plagued this case? I believe strongly that the local authority should have been responsible and that without their leadership, it was impossible to protect Baby Peter.
Working alone, many social workers knock on a door and fear for their own safety when the door is answered. No-one takes on this type of work without a strong personal motivation to help others, but even this can be superseded if a social worker is faced with danger and threats to their personal safety. Often the fear takes over and they can fail to challenge the family of the child effectively enough. Is this the right atmosphere in which to make profound and emotive decisions about a child’s welfare?
It’s clear that changes are needed. A central place for this sensitive information to be stored, shared and accessed is essential, and the Government urgently needs to find an effective solution. Social workers should no longer be handling these cases alone – it should be standard practice for two people to work on a case, providing the support they need to make the most appropriate judgements in these difficult, disturbing and challenging cases.
Kenn is available for comment, please call 07831 612688 or fill in the contact form.