Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sharon Shoesmith: Victim or Indicator of Social Services Culture?

The fact that Sharon Shoesmith has won her case is a reminder to me of my own personal dealings with social services departments. I think what she is trying to say in her "I accept responsibility but don't accept blame" stance is that she was only following orders. 
As with other social services managers I've met, she seems the same sort of hard-faced kind whose job it is to ultimately deny services to those families chewed up and spat out by their departments. So what she's ultimately saying is yes, she accepts responsibility for denying the provision of service to that family, but don't blame her because she was only following policy from on high. 
Its also the reason why she's adopting the victim mentality when it comes to her sacking. "Why should I be sacked, I was only doing the job I was told to do..."
That she has taken things this far rather than accept she was at fault for management failings and deserved to be sacked shows exactly the sort of people social services are employing and families have to deal with on a daily basis.

In the end she has only won her case on a technicality. She won because proper dismissal procedure hadn't been followed. 
Which also says volumes about the character and judgement of Ed Balls, who thought he could act like god, wade in and force her dismissal.
Now we face the unpalatable prospect of her winning a substantial amount of compensation, sucking even more funds from the public purse.

However, she is an indicator of something far bigger and vastly more rotten in the state of social services in the UK. On this blog, by far and away the most read and commented on post is the I Hate Social Workers one (Type "I Hate Social Workers" into Google and its ranked second). Its a testament to the amount of ill feeling and sense of unfairness that is generated by the Social Work system, the family courts... in fact everything to do with the emotive subject of state intervention in the affairs of families. I originally wrote it months ago and yet people still comment on it now. 

One thing that is striking is that in some instances, there seems that a huge corrupt, profitable business has emerged around the social services departments of some local authorities.

For instance, if local authorities have adoption quotas to fill, where are they going to get a supply of very young, adoptable babies from? Of course the social work system, where they can snatch babies from families. Is there not a conflict of interest at work here? On the one hand government forces local authorities to maintain levels of adoption and on the other forces them to remove babies from families at the slightest (often manufactured) signs of impropriety. Isn't the logical conclusion that in some instances policy formation could lead to babies being snatched by local authorities purely for the purposes of reaching adoption targets? Or to put it another way, place babies taken from families into the adoption system too hastily.

There are several issues about the provision of local authority care, but here's just one: If for instance a child is referred to an independent care home, isn't it in the interests of that care home to magnify the report of the slightest of inferences by the child that results in the child staying in care? The company running the home makes money from each child in care and the more children it "processes" the more money it makes. Isn't that a conflict of interest?

I've already commented about the family courts issuing hyper injunctions but I'll reiterate here: Isn't it unconstitutional that a court interprets bad law in a certain way and then forbids the victim of that bad law seeking to change the law by talking to their MP about their case? Isn't that yet another conflict of interest, where the courts seek to uphold a system that operates bad law in secret by banning the reporting of the situation to the lawmakers who could change that law?

Am I nuts are am I the only person who sees the issues around this emotive subject? From the strength of feeling in the comments on that one thread of this blog, maybe not.


  1. Which also says volumes about the character and judgement of Ed Balls, who thought he could act like god, wade in and force her dismissal.

    I always believed it would come to this and Balls must have known it as well, considering all the high profile cases of dismissals overturned prior to this, certainly his advisers would have told him. So I think it was planned.

    Also due the way these Fabians and Common Purpose look after each other. Balls got his day in 'The Sun' a couple of years go by and Shoesmith gets the expected 6 figure payout

  2. The same thing did cross my mind PC. I mean, who's been looking after her while she's been fighting her case? I bet she's not had to resort to benefits.

    By winning this case she can spin it and say she did nothing wrong, aiding her return to highly paid work. I'm sure someone in local government, a quango or faux charity will hire her, as they're all hotbeds of Fabian nepotism.

    It'll be interesting to see where she ends up.

  3. I never thought of it from that angle Cat but I'm sure you're far nearer the mark than my view which was she is just a nasty piece of work.

    Del, you know these people far better than I do these days. My experience of social workers was way back in the 70s and early 80s when most were genuinely helpful. I say most of course because the vocation attracts those with large egos. Rather like the teaching profession.

  4. Subrosa, in my experience, social services managers are only there to deny service and avoid spending money.

    In my case it was us that were referred to social services, attended all the meetings and then heard that the decision was we were going to be helped with respite care.

    It took 4 years, 2 official complaints that upheld my view that we had been denied services and eventually me dropping my son and a bag at social services reception in order to get anything from them.

    Even then the hardest meeting were those with a manager present, who I had several heated discussions with.

    In fact our social services managers were so hard faced, at least one social worker had a nervous breakdown after constantly being piggy in the middle.

    The best advice I can give to anyone involved with social services is to get a decent independent lawyer on the case from the outset.


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