When the balance sheet is drawn up of Labour's attempts to reform public services – its massive increases in health and education, children's centres and Sure Starts – there is one sorry tale that needs to be added to the deficit column. It is an unedifying story of idealistic ambition's unintended consequences, an obsession with accountability, a deluded faith in technology, alternate penny-pinching and enormous flamboyant unfunded commitments, and always a preoccupation with playing to the Murdoch media. This has been the poisonous recipe that Labour has applied to child protection and by the time the full extent of this chaotic legacy becomes clear, the party will probably have long since left office...
She goes on to say:
...This constant revolution has been compounded by intermittent bouts of intense media hostility to social workers. Ed Balls' collusion with the witch-hunt of Sharon Shoesmith, director of children's services in Haringey in 2008, is the most egregious example.
The result is a social work profession in turmoil: there is a national recruitment and retention crisis – some local authorities have been struggling with vacancy rates of 30 to 40%. The reliance on agency staff is chronic, and the churn rate in many areas makes continuity of case supervision impossible. Meanwhile the longer term legacy of Baby Peter has been a sharp increase (20%) in the number of children taken into care, yet no increased funding is on the table.
Every child only matters if you put in the money and the people who can make that meaningful, otherwise it's the equivalent of putting an "I care for the planet" sticker on your 4x4. Social workers have been given an impossible job; you have to be mad, desperate or heroic to want to be one. But it is abused children who will end up paying the steepest price.
So there we have it, a pretty damning indictement of Labour's 13 years in power and their contribution to children's social care.