Filed Under (Health Policy) by Paul on 13-05-2009
An interesting article by Camilla Cavendish in the Times prompts the following thoughts…
The death of Baby P has quite rightly led to all the government agencies involved looking closely at the way in which they work. Common sense says that this case like so many others raises awful questions about the failure of several agencies to work together. As with Victoria Climbie, the problem seems to be too many professionals in health and local government just not talking to each other. So each one fails to spot the pattern.
That’s why it seems to be common sense to talk about co-ordination. It is certainly the case that if all the professionals’ interactions with an abused child were logged the evidence for the patterns of abuse would be much clearer.
But there is a problem that seeing ‘co-ordination’ as the problem brings. If the main responsibility that everyone has for a child is to tell someone else about an event, then the gaze of the professional and their responsibility moves from the child to the process and the system. If a professionals responsibility is to ‘tell someone’ that’s an easy task and given the hue and cry that will happen if something goes wrong its an easy responsibility to demonstrate to the tabloids that you have carried out. But that means everyone is looking sideways.
All of this information comes together at the level of a senior manager who really never gets to see the child and whose job quite rightly is co-ordinating information and looking for patterns.
There needs to be someone who is not looking sideways, not giving information but has the clear responsibility for the child. Social work used to do this. The gaze of the professional, their concern is with what is going on for the child themselves. Social workers pick up masses of information because of the depth of their interaction and they take responsibility.
Of course the problem with the witch hunt is that they may not always get it right. They may not get it right because what we have come to understand about the world of the abuser is that whilst sometimes they are chaotic in their behaviour and can be easily uncovered. Sometimes they are cunning to an appalling degree hiding their activity, shielding and shadowing their evil activity. They are clever at being bad.
And our society needs some people whose job it is to protect children from those people who are clever at being bad. This is not a nice job. You have to be suspicious of many people who do not deserve it, but that’s the job.
Taking responsibility for the child and taking responsibility for uncovering hidden bad behaviour is the work of a real person not a process.