Saturday, May 23, 2009

No-win situation in child protection

On the day that the Badman review of Baby Peter was published, with Badman saying that social workers were not interventionist enough, a High Court judge refused to overturn a decision by the GMC to strike David Southall off the medical register for being too interventionist. True, the judge said that Southall was "speculating on non-medical matters in an offensive manner". I do not know the full circumstances to say whether Southall was offensive. I understand there was a social worker in the room at the time. Southall admitted that the mother may have perceived his questionning as aggressive and hostile, but he denied he had accused her of murdering her son. There are plenty of doctors who can be offensive, who don't get struck off.

The judge found the mother a credible witness. I am not saying she wasn't credible. To lose a son through him hanging himself is a tragedy. However, I don't understand why child protection is not a medical matter. Maybe the judge finds it difficult to appreciate what people can do to their children. Isn't this what the shock about baby Peter case is all about?

The danger is the polarisation in the debate. There needs to be open discussion about the issues. Our best hope is the Social Work taskforce. However, the position of Ed Balls, as secretary of state for children, schools and families, is compromised by his legal battle with Sharon Shoesmith, ex-head of Haringey's children's services. Hopefully, Balls will get moved in the cabinet reshuffle, but he can't go to chancellor yet, as he would like, I'm sure, if only because of his involvement in the MPs' expenses fiasco.