Sunday, 28 March 2010

Save Us! Save Us From The Online Mob!

The hounding of social workers by the press for being "baby-snatchers" if they take children into care is a predictable story. But now such persecution has taken a new twist with online campaigns by families protesting about child protection intervention.
'Hounding'..? ‘Persecution’..?

They really don’t want to be held accountable for anything, do they? How dare anyone question their authoriteh!
A proliferation of blogs and pages on social networking sites have sprung up.
Oh noes! The grubby unwashed can have their say!this is unprecedented!
In some cases, the blogs make for uncomfortable reading. Social workers and managers are named and vilified, accusations are hurled at councils, and court injunctions banning the identification of the families and children are flouted.
Hey, if you’ve got nothing to hide, right..? Or does that only work for other people?
According to Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, websites devoted to attacking social workers are a growing problem.
Yes, it was so much easier for minions of the state to do their dirty work in secret, wasn’t it? When the only hope they had of getting their side of the story told was to convince a reporter or BBC tv crew that there was a human-interest story in it...
"They illustrate the difficulties of the social workers who are damned when they do and damned when they don't," he says. "We get many complaints from people who feel very threatened by the publication of sometimes vitriolic criticism of them, and really very unpleasant personal abuse."
Oh, it’s the ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ whine again, nicely summed up by DumbJon:
See? They're fair-minded: they don't just ignore the guilty, they also persecute the innocent.
And they seem to know there’s no closing this particular floodgate:
Managers are almost powerless to stop what Simon White, director of children's services in Suffolk, describes as "floods of information about the council that is completely false and misleading".
What's your problem, Simon? The competition with the bilge that your council's PR department pumps out?
Some of the blogs are hosted in the US, where the constitution's first amendment, guaranteeing the right to free speech, makes them all but untouchable.
Ah, if only people could be forced to register them in this country, where we don't go in for that free speech stuff, eh?
White's concerns about the content range from the impact on the targeted social workers and the reputation of the council to the effect the content of the sites may have on the cases and the families involved. "There's quite a lot of abusive and personal stuff aimed at named individuals," he says. "Some is clearly defamatory, and obviously we have duties to those staff. And when you get into the wilder edges of it, you are sometimes worried about their personal safety."
Oh, of course.

They've figured out that whining about people being mean to them might not garner the sympathy they feel they deserve, so how about inventing a spurious threat of violence - even though there's no evidence that any social worker has had to face anything more threatening than harsh language...
White also fears that an online campaign might be contagious. "If it started to become commonplace that whenever we did a pre-birth conference, families would consider leaving the country, it would force a change in practice," he says.
You mean you'd stop whisking away the babies of young mothers who'd done nothing to...

Oh, right. Of course that's not what you mean:
"We'd have to be much less open with families."
Wow, that's a convincing argument, there. Along the lines of 'Shut up, or your civil rights get it!'
One Suffolk employee who has been named on a blog says the experience is not just personally upsetting but has a knock-on effect on other cases. "Other families are aware of what's being said and they will bring it up, and that's difficult, especially when people may be making sensitive decisions," the employee says.
You mean other families might become aware that any promises or assurances you may give them might be worthless?

So what? We hear all the time how people need to be made aware of dangers, don't we? Dangers from terrorism, dangers from conmen, dangers from sexual predators. All warning of the possibility of misrepresentation and false promises.

Suddenly, that includes the authorities themselves, and you don't like it one little bit, do you?

But you know also that you can't put the genie back in the bottle (yet - though if Labour get a fourth term...), so what's that leave?

Spin, of course:
White does not think there is much that can be done about the way information spreads, but he would like action beyond the individual local authority when allegations about conspiracies or financial inducements are made. "The profession, or the government, needs to respond," he says. "They need to defend the arrangements and processes, and put right mistakes and misapprehensions."
They already do their best at this, but that pesky Freedom of Information Act keeps turning around and biting them where it hurts...
The BASW works constantly to address the myths about social work, Dawson says. He has recently written to every local authority in the country offering to help them communicate to communities and the local media what social workers do.
Hint: people know what they do. They know what they don't do too. They don't like either.

Publicity isn't going to help you here...


Antisthenes said...

Having read the Guardian piece that you linked to this caught my eye "Some of the blogs are hosted in the US, where the constitution's first amendment, guaranteeing the right to free speech, makes them all but untouchable".

My first thought was we could do with of one them amendment thingys that guaranteed the right of free speech. My second thought was that bit about untouchable because under this amendment thingy is it you are allowed to tell lies or was it because it was the truth.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...


These nasty bloggers are telling the truth; that's what annoys the SS so much.

Pat said...

The proper defense for social workers is that they have a literally impossible job. It is simply impossible for any organisation to guarantee the safety of vulnerable people everywhere, as it is also impossible for an organisation attempting this not to tread roughshod over the rights of many poor and innocent people. The State has been attempting this, not only in this country since before I was born- if the thing could be done they'd have cracked it by now.
The real crime of social workers is to continue to accept salaries on the premise that they can in fact achieve this- but I guess they've got families to feed too.
The answer is for society at large to grow up and recognise that shit happens- that the only people guilty of say baby P's death are the actual perpetrators- and stop employing people just so that politicians can posture as caring supermen which is what social workers are actually paid for- well that and the risk of being thrown to the wolves whenever things go wrong.

Chuckles said...

Engenders thoughts like this from one of the Douglas Adams books:

"`You know they've reintroduced the death penalty for insurance company directors?'
`Really?' said Arthur. `No I didn't. For what offence?'
Trillian frowned.
`What do you mean, offence?'
`I see.'"

Remarkably apposite.

JuliaM said...

"My first thought was we could do with of one them amendment thingys that guaranteed the right of free speech."

We certainly could,

"The proper defense for social workers is that they have a literally impossible job. It is simply impossible for any organisation to guarantee the safety of vulnerable people everywhere..."

Except that, in each of the recent highly publicised cases, they have failed in the most basic of tasks. They don't meet their own procedures or requirements, time and time again.

That's why they are vilified, not for the out-of-the-blue, couldn't-be-foreseen cases.

It's the ones that anyone with an IQ above room temperature could see going south long before the point of death.

John Pickworth said...

'Hounding'..? ‘Persecution’..?

I've noticed this a lot recently. Even the current Pope (and former patron saint of child molesters) is at it too:

Pope 'not intimidated' by sex abuse claims

Intimidated? Or 'not' as he claims... which means he is feeling intimidated really.

The Pope then said that faith in Christ “helps lead us towards courage which does not allow us to be intimidated by the chatter of dominant opinions”.

In other words; he's not quiting. He'd make a good Labour politician.