The Meandering Social Worker

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Archive for the tag “abuse”

She did not groom him

I am writing at the risk of adding yet more verbiage to the reporting on the latest unbelievable ignorance by a member of the judiciary.  I am of course talking about Judge Greenberg in her summing up of the trial of Stuart Kerner for having a sexual relationship with a 15/16 year old girl pupil.  Stunningly the judge admitted she did not really know if it was the right word to use as she suggested the girl had ‘groomed’ Mr Kerner.  It wasn’t the right word to use and now, fortunately, she will be subject to an inquiry.

But let’s take a step back and consider the aspects of the case that are publicly known along with what we know about child and adolescent development and normal human behaviour.

The girl was 15/16.  An adolescent.  It is normal for young people of this age to be developing their sexual identity.  It is normal for young people of this age to develop a ‘crush’ or ‘infatuation’ with one or more of the hopefully ‘safe’ adults in their lives (same or opposite sex), often at a ‘safe’ distance in the form of a pop star or football player, etc.  It is even normal for young girls to experiment with flirting with (heaven forbid) their dads, older brothers, uncles, teachers.  It’s a part of growing up.  It is not normal for those adults to respond by getting into a sexual relationship with that child/young person.

It is quite possible this schoolgirl thought she was in love with her teacher and acted in a way that let him know of her attraction towards him.  Assuming he is a normal male he would have felt flattered by the attention and sexual interest of a younger person.

But he was also a professional in a position of responsibility.  Another of those relational facts of life is that some (many?) women find men in a position of responsibility attractive.  Films such as An Officer and a Gentleman help illustrate this idea but there are plenty of everyday vicars and doctors and surgeons and police officers and therapists, as well as teachers, who have to deal with the attentions of vulnerable people who are attracted to them because of their position and role in society. That’s why these professions have codes of conduct.

Mr Kerner should not have succumbed to the flattery of the attention of a young girl.  He should have recognised his responsibility towards her as a pupil.  His own emotional vulnerability while his wife was pregnant should never have come into it. As a teacher concerned about a pupil’s behaviour and attentions he should have spoken to another, more senior, member of staff in confidence according to his school’s procedures.  He and his seniors would need to acknowledge that in a tiny percentage of cases the girl could have made a false allegation against him for denying her advances.  They should have worked together to support the girl and ensure that everyone was appropriately protected from an inappropriate relationship.  Clearly that didn’t happen.

This young woman, now 19, should be able to sit down with her friends and giggle over a glass of wine about the time she had a crush on the RE teacher, old Mr Kerner.  Instead she has to face the memory that he took her virginity in a cleaning cupboard and that some nutty old judge turned around and blamed her for it.

All heterosexual references above can equally apply to same sex relationships.


Social worker suspended again despite domestic violence plea

Social worker suspended again despite domestic violence plea.

There is something particularly sad about this case, a social worker suspended from practice resulting from problems that arose when she herself was a victim of domestic violence.  No doubt there are some gaps in the story, there always is, but on the basis of what has been reported here in Community Care it appears that this social worker has been rather harshly treated.

In a nutshell, “the social worker’s misconduct involved being intoxicated, verbally abusive and obstructive to police who were called out to her home”.  She lied to the police by taking responsibility for an incident her partner committed because of her fear of reprisals and had been “subjected to a long period of violence by her partner”.

The HCPC concluded that the social worker concerned “did not have insight into how her behaviour in her private life could damage the reputation of the social work profession” and had not submitted evidence of “remedying her conduct”.

This report from Community Care raises a lot of questions.  What is not clear in this report is what is meant by ‘remedying her conduct’.

Does it refer to recognising that being verbally abusive and obstructive to the police (who are fellow professionals) was not appropriate?  I can only hope that the social worker concerned would agree that it wasn’t appropriate.

Does it mean ending the relationship?  What’s not clear from the report is whether the relationship is still ongoing and what support she (and possibly her partner) has received regarding this relationship, if any.  She should have some understanding of the impact of domestic violence on victims (including the children of victims), not least through her training and work experience and hopefully would want to protect herself from continuing to be a victim in this situation.  However, as we all know, all the training and knowledge in the world doesn’t make it any easier for the victim to escape from a violent relationship.  Considering the high level of stress caused by being in a DV relationship and considering that social work is a stressful occupation I would have thought being on long term sick might have been an alternative, and more caring and supportive option, than suspension (there is no indication whether or not that was considered).

Or does it mean demonstrating how her relationship and the consequences of her relationship is damaging the reputation of the social work profession?  This is a challenging one, on which much of the HCPC decision turns.  Yet I cannot help but wonder how much it really does damage the profession.  There are certainly some who would appreciate knowing that social workers are human and can suffer the consequences of difficult situations, while others might find it a reason to look down on them.  It certainly shouldn’t be current behaviour but for it to have been experienced in the past should be seen as valid experience rather than something that damages the image of the profession.  I wonder if the panel considered how she would handle a situation of a service user asking her about her own ‘run in’ with the police?  It could be used as a discussion point on what is not appropriate and why.

Or does it mean that social workers should not become intoxicated (woe to social workers, police, teachers, nurses, doctors and most other professionals in that case!).

Elsewhere it has been commented that social workers’ lives are no more ‘squeaky clean’ than most people’s.  But sometimes it feels as if the message is that they should be.  And, social worker or not, short of more information, this report looks rather like a case of victim blaming: a victim of domestic violence she has been blamed for the consequences.


In response to the Daily Mail

Today’s Daily Mail (28 October) claims that Cumbria Councy Council tried to keep the death of baby Poppi Worthington a secret in order to protect its social workers.  According to the Daily Mail the judge has stated the secrecy is to protect the identity of Poppi’s siblings and to prevent future criminal proceedings being prejudiced.  Needless to say the Daily Mail doesn’t accept this view.

This news report coincides with the BBC documentary “Baby P: The Untold Story” broadcast last night (27 October).  And it’s significant.

No doubt Peter’s death was harrowing and preventable.  A Serious Case Review, longer and more in-depth than usual, largely agreed that Peter’s death was a coming together of independent errors that alone would not have led to his death but in combination were fatal.  Several agencies and professionals were involved.

If Cumbria want to keep Poppi’s case a secret in order to protect their staff it may be because of the role of the media in what followed the public announcement of the outcome of the trial of Peter’s parents.  The tone of the media reporting, and the public and political response, led Peter’s name to be shamefully abused in his death as he became a media and political football, with demands that ‘heads should roll’. It became a witch hunt, the chasers baying for blood, social workers in their sights while other agencies scattered to lick their wounds.  The findings of the Serious Case Review were dismissed as a cover-up.

But there was one thing that struck me in particular from the documentary – the situation in Haringey’s health services.  So difficult was recruitment of qualified medical staff into children’s services in Haringey it had to be done under cover of Great Ormond Street Hospital.  And the reason for that was because of the fallout of an even earlier high profile child death, Victoria Climbie, which also led to vast swathes of negative media coverage.


People who should be working in what are undoubtedly difficult and high pressured jobs at the very edge of making important, life and death decisions, about the welfare of vulnerable children, don’t want to work there.  And those who stay, or join, find themselves in an excessively pressured atmosphere trying to keep the wolves at bay.  It is not an atmosphere that is the most conducive to saving the lives of other vulnerable children.

So, Daily Mail, before you start your campaign calling for heads to roll, for social workers to be punished and sacked, think about what you are doing not just to the rest of the social workers who are trying to do a good job, but also to the other professions, the police, health and education services, who work alongside social workers in trying to do their jobs to protect the most vulnerable members of our society and prevent further tragedies.

Gaslighting: Three Tactics Used to Gain Control of Your Mind

Some sound observations in here – no need to add further comment.

David Ruffley in the news

Reports of the incident of common assault by Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley on his then partner from the Daily Mail online.

Ending victimisation and blame comment on the news that MP David Ruffley has been convicted of common assault on his now ex-partner.

Ending victimisation and blame comment on the Jeremy Vine interview with local conservative party member defending his MP David Ruffley on his recent case of domestic violence against his now ex-partner.

After pressure from a number of different quarters on what David Ruffley described as a “private matter” of his caution for “common assault” this incident is now being re-branded for what it was, “domestic violence”.  As reported in the Independent online, a result of these pressures is that David Ruffley has decided to resign at the end of this current term in Parliament, blaming not his own actions but “the protracted media debate” and “the unrelenting orchestrated intrusion into [his] private life”.  The Telegraph online further quoted Joanna Spicer, local party member and former chairman of the Suffolk Domestic Violence Partnership, supporting David Ruffley’s decision to continue in his role until the next election, saying “[he] has been a very good MP for many years and has earned a great deal of affection and respect” and “given the wide debate locally and nationally about domestic abuse and the high standard of expectations we have of our political leaders I feel that he has made a sensible decision.”

Although David Ruffley has apologised for his actions he is not resigning because he believes what he did was wrong.  He is resigning because his position in Parliament has become ‘untenable’.  What is surprising is that even the ex-chairman of the Suffolk Domestic Violence Partnership is placing weight on the media pressure that has arisen out of his case.

The petitions and media pressure have called for his resignation and although that is being deferred to 2015 they have achieved that initial goal.  But what do we really want?  Is resignation alone right or enough?  Will David Ruffley go off in to the wilderness for a few years, until the current furore has been forgotten and he comes back as a consultant or even an MP again?  Will the argument be that he has served his penance in losing his job? A job he apparently loves.

Just consider the question of why anyone would want to become an MP in the first place.  Modern politics is a power game.  Although not exclusively it attracts men and women who want public recognition and power.  Of course that’s only public recognition for being good – as David Ruffley’s case demonstrates as soon as the publicity becomes negative they want to retreat into ‘personal privacy’.  But power is another matter.  Power can be used for good or bad.  Power is behind bullying whether in schools or employment.  Power is behind domestic violence.

In his exile will David Ruffley be given the opportunity to consider his actions, the misuse of power, and whether the way he treated his ex-partner was appropriate, whether ‘common assault’ of anyone let alone ‘common assault’ of someone you purport to love and care for, your partner, your wife, your husband, is appropriate.  From the comments of her friends this was not an isolated or first incident.  Or will he be allowed to fester in his resentment at the public furore that didn’t understand the private nature of his personal life and so forcing him out of a job he loves, embedding in him a sense of self-righteousness?

Just questions?  No need to answer them.  The answers are pretty obvious.  I expect to see David Ruffley back in the public eye in due course, having served his ‘undeserved sentence’ and without having addressed any of the reasons he got the ‘sentence’ in the first place.  I hope I’m wrong.  In the meantime let’s support the messages from Ending victimisation and blame.





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