24/11/12 DON’T PANIC!! Or…Damned if you do…

In my near 20 years in the social workering profession I can honestly say that the vast majority of my colleagues were thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate who didn’t suffer terribly from the ‘political correctness gone mad’ label.

That said…I blogged earlier about how social work training can be a little scary at times, where political correctness knows no bounds, can get individual students into a bit of a pickle for fear of saying the wrong, slightly right wing of Marx, thing.

Today, the media has exploded with a story of the Rochdale foster family who’d had 3 children in their care removed, seemingly, because they were UKIP voters.

Now, back in the day, we were told that placements such as this must take into account the child’s background, including their ethnicity, cultural and religious needs.

Obviously when the words ’emergency’ and ‘placement’ occur in the same sentence the absolutely perfect care may be difficult to find.

Add to this the fact that there is was shortfall of around 9 thousand foster carers in The UK at the beginning of the year, the words ‘any’, ‘port’ and ‘storm’ spring to mind.

Throw into the mix austerity measures and increased caseloads for social workers then really, we are waiting for a pickle to happen.

But this couple in Rochdale weren’t just any port – they had 7 years fostering experience, apparently being described as exemplary carers by the very social work department who dived in stating,’ er, on second thoughts…’

Having trawled the interweb, it would appear that emergency foster placements can last anything between a couple if days and 2 years.

This particular foster period lasted around 8 weeks.

The story, as far as I can draw from the spreading media hysteria is that – 3 children from a European family were placed with the couple as an emergency.

Someone saw fit to ‘tip off’ the social work department that the couple were UKIP voters.

The social worker department had a choice here –

They could have been satisfied that the work done to train the couple, to select them as suitable foster carers, and to place the children with them as an emergency was perfectly satisfactory…

Or they could decide to ‘DO SOMETHING!’

Ok, let’s play at social workers – YOU receive that call – obviously from someone very concerned that membership with UKIP has negative connotations when considering the placements of children from the European Union.

What do YOU think of UKIP?

What do you know about their policies on Europe?

Should any of that matter?

What would your thoughts be if they told you the couple were members of the BNP (which they’re not – just pretend)?

What happens if you do nothing and SOMETHING happens?

So, according to reports, the social workers wandered out and rescued these kids from…er, what exactly?

UKIP has an anti-European (i.e. regarding UK membership to the European union) stance – this does not necessarily equate with ‘UKIP don’t like Europeans.’

Not a particularly subtle difference, but apparently one missed by one of the social workers who alleged UKIP are a racist party.

Is this a pickle you’d have found yourself in?

For 2 years social work training pounds students with anti-discriminatory practice.

The product should be a social worker who doesn’t act out of prejudice…

Ok, let’s forgive the social worker for a minute…let’s say the tipster was particularly vitriolic, lets say their caseload was huge, let’s say it was easier for their conscience to do something rather than nothing…

What were their line managers doing?

Well, they were supporting their workers – right from the top, Joyce Thacker, the director of children and young people’s services justified the removal of the children on the BBC with nothing more than the couple’s membership to a mainstream (ish) political party.

That’s why we have a management structure in social work – we need a boss to occasionally guide us to say, ‘You’ve been an arse,’ ‘You did what?’ but most of all in this situation they should be asking,’WHERE’S THE RISK?’

There should have been apologies, there should have been a very clear and single voice leaping out if Rochdale that membership of a political party should not, in itself, preclude people from fostering anyone.

If it did then surely it should be part if the assessment process of the foster carers.

Joyce Thackery admitted that asking such questions would be an infringement of the carers human rights – and yet…

Holy guacamole…

What was a local problem that could have been sorted with good line management has EXPLODED beyond all recognition.

Ok, Mr UKIP, Michael Farage, was right to show righteous indignation – to have all of his supporters dismissed as racists must have chafed a little – but for him to then launch an attack on the Labour council in Rotherham…?

And then…cue the big guns…Michael Gove dives in with…

“We want to make it clear that you should not allow ideological matters to preclude what’s in the best interest of the child.”

Vacuous – really, what does that mean?

We wouldn’t let a couple who held a white supremacist ideology look after black children – or would that be letting ideological matters…?

The head of Rochdale council, Roger Stone, and councillor for children, young people and families, Paul Lakin, are demanding that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

All of the above are not only demanding heads on plates, but they want the whole world to know that they’re DOING SOMETHING.

Sounds familiar. Just as the original phone call demanded that something must be done we have a whole bunch of people mindlessly shooting from the hip without any consideration for the collateral damage.

All this yelling and posturing has led to the usual polarisation which means well, meaningless, ill considered arguments….

A quick scan of the interweb reveals that nobody has asked where the children have ended up…

Who knows, it might be somewhere nice?

This was a typically, media fuelled, management problem that should have been dealt with as soon as it started.

What all these politicians are doing wading in is anybody’s guess.

Don’t panic

Keep calm and

Walk a mile

Chris

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