Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Culture of Fear?

What was most interesting to me about Martin Narey’s article in today’s Guardian ( was not his views on adoption but the aside he makes about social workers who have written to him in his role as a government adviser.

He writes: 
“Troublingly, those (social workers) who did (write) either wrote anonymously or pleaded with me not to identify them or indicate where they work. And this despite the reality that in almost all cases they were simply expressing their frustration with a safeguarding system which makes it so difficult for them to protect children.” 
These are chilling words. In my view there can be no excuse for employers who suppress the legitimate views of professional employees. Unless social workers are free to say what they find wrong with the child protection system it will continue to be difficult for them to protect children because the system will continue to be dysfunctional. A frightened employee is seldom an effective employee. And an employer who cannot listen to reasoned criticism is always a bad employer.

Creating learning organisations can only be achieved if the people who do the work, who understand the issues and the difficulties, are actually encouraged to speak out about their frustrations and anxieties. Having that type of information in the public domain allows us all to engage in building improved services and meeting the needs of abused and neglected children better.

But a culture of silence based on fear fosters the growth of organisations which do not deliver the goods. That results in less safe services, because senior managers only hear what they want to hear, not what they should hear.

Thanks should go to Martin Narey for speaking openly about this problem which urgently needs to be addressed. Perhaps he can mention it to ministers next time he is in Whitehall.