While services intended to protect Arthur Labinjo-Hughes were involved with the family, we do not yet know what could have been done differently to prevent his death; it is the object of a learning assessment. I do not condone bad practices; we need to recognize it and fix it. However, we have to appreciate the context: the system in England is “a 30-year-old Jenga tower held with Sellotape,” according to the chairman of the Independent Child Welfare Review.
I have facilitated workshops for practitioners working with child neglect throughout the pandemic. These practitioners are running on empty and yet have found inventive ways to ensure that children continue to be protected. However, this comes at a significant cost.
I have seen workers cry in frustration, struggling with limited resources created by year-over-year budget cuts. Others are at risk of Covid, violence and assault, and feel pressured to visit on weekends and out of hours to keep children safe. I have heard supervisors working long hours in front of a screen trying to support workers and virtually manage their workload. All staff grapple with their current workload as a tsunami of new cases arrives as the pandemic wreaks havoc on families who can no longer cope.
The contribution that health and social service professionals, vendors and others have made during the pandemic is widely recognized. This is not the case with the contribution of those who work to save our children. What does this say about our company? Unless we recognize the need for adequately resourced services and value the contribution of these practitioners, children remain vulnerable.
Professor Emeritus in Child Welfare, University of Sheffield
While agreeing with most of Harry Ferguson’s findings on the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case (December 3 Opinion), I am disappointed with the narrowness of the analysis and the focus on the agency. and individual practice.
As a retired social worker with 30 years of experience, I have watched with helpless fury and despair the recent crowding out of social services by governments engaged in budget cuts and privatization.
During my career, the work priorities have shifted from care, support and prevention to intervention and cleaning up damage. Social work before the 1980s was sloppy and fuzzy, and in need of an overhaul, and value-for-money auditing had to be one of them. What it didn’t need was to be transformed into a skeletal emergency response service, forced to create thresholds even to respond to suggestions of neglect and abuse.
Professor Harry Ferguson’s article says: “Visitors to health, early help and therapy services that normally support young children and parents have pulled out of their homes and gone online or stopped altogether. “
The use of the word “retirement” implies that it was voluntary. The visitation service has been classified as a ‘partial stop’ service in the NHS Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response program – up to 63% of visiting medical representatives have been redeployed, some to administrative tasks. It was not our choice, and those who remained carried huge burdens in an already underfunded facility. As always, service to families was the priority.
President, Institute of Health Visiting