Despair was first my reaction to reading the thoughts of Sharon Shoesmith (the ex-director of Haringey children’s services who was sacked in 2008 following the death of Baby Peter Connolly) on government proposals on introducing mandatory reporting or a duty to act.
Community Care reports Shoesmith as saying that the proposals, which might result in social workers and other professionals facing prison sentences when child protection cases go wrong, are an “opportunity” for the social work profession “… to communicate the challenges of the job and to mount a proper legal defence when social workers come under attack”. Apparently she believes that introducing new criminal offences could provide an opportunity for social workers to obtain a fair hearing.
As far as I can see that amounts to saying that a culture of blame and fear is best tackled by providing more opportunities to blame and instil fear. But perhaps Shoesmith’s puzzling remarks are an attempt at what psychologists call paradoxical intervention, a technique in which the patient (in this case the government) is encouraged to do the exact opposite of the desired outcome!
We can but hope.