I don’t have a whole lot of analysis here. This is just the question that keeps rattling around my brain, while this week it has been struggling to cope with an adjusted sleep schedule and “Level 1 Retail”.
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So David Cameron wants to lock up social workers who fail to identify or report suspected child sexual abuse.
I’m left wondering what effect this is intended to achieve.
Consider if we locked up doctors who made mistakes. Pretty soon, we would have no doctors. Either (a) they’re locked up or (b) they stop practising for fear of being locked up. This is because even the best doctors will make mistakes sometimes. Lord knows, I’ve seen enough stories of this type on local news programmes about mistakes of diagnosis and failing to take concerns seriously enough.
So, let’s apply that to social workers. Not only are social workers vastly overworked, underpaid, and undersupported in the current system, but they also invariably get heaps of blame regardless of whether they act or don’t act. There’s a lot of “push” away from being a social worker as it is. To choose that career, a person has to have a strong motivation to help others, which means they are likely to be what we would want to call a “good” person.
Right. Good people are trying to help, in circumstances where it’s almost inevitable that sometimes they will screw up.
Let’s lock some of them in prison.
What effect will that have on good people trying to choose a future for themselves? What career advisor is going to be able to sell social work as a career option to a kind, caring, young teenager and suggest this is how they should plan their education and future? How many good, conscientious, people are going to want to stick around in a career where one mistake could earn them a criminal record and a spell in prison? And if they do stick around, what is the impact on their mental health likely to be?
Pretty soon, you will have far fewer social workers, and no guarantee that the ones you do have are the most competent ones (more likely, they will be those who couldn’t find any other employment). And an ever greater strain on the service, meaning that more cases of abuse slip through the net and go unreported or undetected because there just aren’t the people available to do the job.
What’s needed is more money, and better support for the people on the front line.