I GENUINELY don’t understand the pressures that social work services are under. The case of “Baby P” in Haringey is so distressing and awful I find it hard even to watch any of the news reports. But I know that social workers are often in an impossible position – damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
Having said that, there can surely be no excuses for the appalling failure of care in this case. And I am left asking the same question that I always ask whenever such a case emerges: why aren’t very young children living in threatening situations taken permanently into care and adopted to caring, loving couples?
There are certainly plenty of such couples, childless for one reason or another, who could offer these tragic children the love and protection to which they have a right. So am I wrong in assuming that social workers tend to give the benefit of the doubt to biological parents in such cases? I ask this as a genuine query, because this isn’t an area I’m remotely expert in. Someone who physically abuses a child, or who allows someone else to physically abuse their child, or who is leading a chaotic lifestyle as a result of drug use, has no moral right to continue to be that child’s parent, and any legal rights to be a parent must surely come under scrutiny.
When I worked as a press officer for Strathclyde Regional Council, the social work department came in for a huge amount of criticism from the media when it removed a baby from a family in Glasgow’s west end and adopted the child to a couple living in another part of the region. How dare social workers play God? screamed the front pages. Return the child to its proper home, they demanded.
Having learned of some of the appalling circumstances of the case, I felt this was one of the few occasions when social workers had undoubtedly done a good thing, the right thing. The real tragedy was that the biological parents were allowed to retain care of their older children.
Baby P was in the care of brutal, evil monsters, one of whom happened to be his biological mother. No doubt there are those who will offer apologia on their behalf: they were ill-educated, poor, socially excluded. Undoubtedly there was drug or alcohol misuse involved.
I don’t care. They have no excuses for their monstrous behaviour. Whatever punishment they have to endure, it cannot be enough.
Social workers playing God? With all respect to the Almighty, it was He who decided that children can be born to, and be in the care of, witless imbeciles barely capable of looking after themselves, let alone a vulnerable child. If social workers choose to remove such children – permanently – from such a situation, then they would not be playing God: they would be doing a far, far better job.