Social Workers Get a Bad Press - but Make a Vital Contribution; Vilified over Baby P and Other Failings, Social Workers Are under Scrutiny like Never before. So Why Would Anyone Do It? Here, Colin Turner, Who Returned to the Profession after a High-Profile Role Elsewhere, Explains Why He Came Back to the Job He Loves

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 21, 2010 | Go to article overview

Social Workers Get a Bad Press - but Make a Vital Contribution; Vilified over Baby P and Other Failings, Social Workers Are under Scrutiny like Never before. So Why Would Anyone Do It? Here, Colin Turner, Who Returned to the Profession after a High-Profile Role Elsewhere, Explains Why He Came Back to the Job He Loves


WHEN I announced I was returning to Wales to work in social services, after four years in London as the head of safeguarding and child protection at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, my colleagues thought I'd lost the plot.

Don't get me wrong, I knew it was going to be tough but I've always thrived on challenge and couldn't wait to get started. But being away from managing frontline safeguarding services for many years meant I was going to be on a steep learning curve.

I am often asked why I have stayed in the job for so long. People see the bad press that social workers get, the truly tragic, awful stories of Baby Peter and Victoria Climbie, which, in my view, paint a rather distorted picture of the good work that most social workers do in really difficult circumstances.

The reality is that there are literally hundreds of untold success stories where social workers have made a positive impact on the lives of children and families - but of course these don't make news stories and I guess it's right that they don't.

These are private to the children and families and should be kept that way.

Nevertheless, I still find it interesting that when a lifeguard saves a child from drowning it makes the front page of the local newspaper, but when a social worker rescues a child from abuse or neglect, it is never reported.

Make a mistake, however, and social workers are vilified. They're criticised for interfering in family life and criticised when they don't. It's not easy.

The tragedy of Baby Peter will, quite rightly, live with us all, and probably with social workers more than most.

But during this year's Social Care Week - an event unique to Wales and one which also celebrates the work of home carers and many more in this invaluable social care sector - I would love the public to take a minute to consider that social workers can and do transform the lives of many children.

They often work under considerable pressure with minimal resources, but are rarely given the recognition they deserve for turning round chaotic, dysfunctional family lives and for helping vulnerable children break free from the cycle of abuse and neglect.

Social work is one of the top 20 degree choices for school-leavers, but in Wales we continue to face the challenge of recruiting and retaining permanent social workers. The social workers we have got do a fantastic job and we are really fortunate to have them.

Despite, or even because of, recent high-profile child abuse tragedies, I believe there has never been a better time to become a social worker.

But at the moment, social workers are like gold dust. It's one of the rare professions where you will not be without work if you want it.

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Social Workers Get a Bad Press - but Make a Vital Contribution; Vilified over Baby P and Other Failings, Social Workers Are under Scrutiny like Never before. So Why Would Anyone Do It? Here, Colin Turner, Who Returned to the Profession after a High-Profile Role Elsewhere, Explains Why He Came Back to the Job He Loves
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