Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Cost and Consequence

There is news today of an English local authority facing a £1 million compensation settlement for failing to protect children from sexual abuse by their father. The case dates back to the 1990s. Significant errors appear to have been made in assessing the risk posed by the father, who had a previous conviction for sexual abuse. As a result the children were allowed access to him, during which time they were abused.

The costs of poor quality can be very high. The prospect that cases that have not been handled properly can result in costly litigation is one that all child protection agencies need to take very seriously.

But there is also news today that old habits die hard. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) reports that employers are making it “impossible for social workers to practice ethically”, by insisting on “unrealistic and unmanageable” caseloads. In a survey of members 81% expressed concern at unmanageable caseloads and 56% said they were very concerned.

Saving money in the short-term is often counter-productive. And it can have catastrophic long-term consequences, not only for organisations that have to make huge compensation payouts, but more importantly for children who have to live with the consequences of abuse that could have been stopped.