SOCIAL workers should speak up for themselves, the controversially sacked former head of Haringey’s children’s services has told Bradford students.
Sharon Shoesmith, who lost her post with the London borough council in 2008 after the death of 17-month-old peter Connelly, known as Baby P.
Earlier this week Dr Shoesmith, who won a case for unfair dismissal, spoke to social work students at Bradford College about the politics involved in child protection.
She also talked about her experience of dealing with the media.
She is also called for the social work profession to better defend and promote itself to counter the scapegoating and vilification of social workers.
Following the tragedy, the former council boss completed a PhD and last year published a book, Learning From Baby P: The Politics of Blame, Fear and Denial.
Baby Peter suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on Haringey’s child protection register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over the eight months before his death.
His mother Tracey Connelly, her lover Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen were all convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child.
Dr Shoesmith said she hoped that by speaking to future social workers she could encourage them to work to improve the perception and reality of the profession.
She said: “Social workers do a very important job with a very wide range of families, particularly children and older people.
“Many of us are dependent on the skills that they bring to manage different family situations.”
And she added: “Sadly, they are too often vilified in the media and I would like to have social workers speak up for themselves and talk to the public more of about the importance of their work.”
Brian Mitchell, a social work tutor at Bradford College, said it was a thought-provoking session.
“The more we can have a broad dialogue about how many perceptions there are about social work the better it will be.
“Listening to Sharon would have given our students another perspective on social work and in particular the political pressure in which social work operates and the impact on the person when it goes wrong and the importance of communication,” he said.
In the aftermath of Baby P’s killing, Ms Shoesmith became the focus of public blame following their conviction.
Baby P had seen a number of social workers, police and health workers before he died, but the toddler had not been into care.
A serious case review that investigated the conduct of social workers, GPs and police involved in the case found: “The practice of the majority, individually and collectively... was incompetent,” and his death “could have been prevented.”
Bradford College runs a number of courses in social work, social care and community practice.
Anyone interested can attend an open day on Saturday, March 18 between 11am and 2pm. Other open days are planned at the college for Saturday, July 1 from 11am to 2pm and again on Thursday, August 24, 11am to 2pm.