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Thursday, December 2, 2010

The effect of a high profile death

The case of Baby P in England continues to have a long term effect. While there is no question that Baby P's death was a horrible and no child should die in such circumstances, it is his legacy that is of note. Since his death, there has been a growing number of cases reported to child protection cases in the UK.

The latest numbers come out of Wales. "There were 2,700 children on the child protection register in March 2010, an increase of 31% from 31 March 2009, the Welsh Assembly Government figures found. The figures show an even more marked rise on statistics for March 2008, eight months before the Peter Connolly case hit the headlines, when 2,320 children were on the register." (Source: BASW news, December 1, 2010).

What is perhaps most interesting is how again we see the link between child protection concerns, particularly neglect, and poverty. A report reviewing child protection in Wales, From Vision to Action, notes that while social workers are often overwhelmed with caseloads, and budgets from governments often more limiting, there are powerful societal trends at work. "...the From Vision to Action report by the Independent Commission on Social Services in Wales which points to a calculation that 51% of looked after children in Wales live in the 17% of neighbourhoods identified as the most deprived (BASW).

The Welsh report wisely notes that budget cuts in services to vulnerable populations will lead to some long term costs. "Retreating into core services and away from prevention and collaborative improvement would undo gains made in recent years and would quickly become unsustainable" (p.6).

One of the more delightful insights from the Welsh report is how the bureaucratization of child welfare (often a response to high profile deaths) is counter productive. "Current assessment systems for adults and children are overly-bureaucratic, too concerned with process, poorly served by IT and do not assist professional judgment about risk" (p.7).

I am very struck by a quote in the Welsh report that puts into context the world in which services and programs for children and families operate: “ People want a life not a service” (p.27). If we are busy serving the bureaucracy and protecting it,how well do we really serve clients?

Welsh report:
Pearson,G., Jones, J.,Williams, R.H. & Robson, P. (2010). From vision to action: The report of the independent commission on social services in Wales. Downloaded December 2, 2010 from

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