Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Intervention Is Right

A couple of posts ago I said that David Aaronovitch's "instincts are fundamentally decent when he's not trying to defend the government." Today, he goes well beyond that, chucking reason and research (facts cited by columnist shock!) behind his decent instincts.

He kicks off aggressively: calling Martha Kearney 'admirable' and going on to say she 'was right'. Saying anything good about the BBC is a political stance in itself in the right-wing press these days.

For completists, the report Dave mentions was published by the Centre for Social Justice and there's a good write-up on ePolitix.

NB the Times hides most comments for a reason: they're especially ugly. One, which I hope is removed (I thought they were moderated; clearly not), reads "... Fortunately the names and photographs of the killers are widely available on the net. Justice will be done, I hope." Takes your faith in human intelligence away ...


Blogger Robin said...

I am not convinced that "too much form-filling" is irrelevant to this case at all. A recent letter to Private Eye alleged that social workers have to spend 60-80% of their time using their computers - is it not therefore plausible that they are not giving enough attention to families like Baby P's as a result?

11/18/2008 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm not sure about his assertion that social workers are not underpaid either.

Having said that though I think it's a good article and he's broadly correct, especially compared to those on the right bemoaning how the baby P case proves the irretrievable break down of our society.

11/18/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unity at Liberal Conspiracy has a very interesting perspective on the case (also based on research!). If that version of the timeline is correct, then there really is nothing that could have been done better, short of installing CCTV in the house, and even the "obviously mistakes were made" line loses validity.

Not wanting to be argumentative, but I'm also inclined to be wary of saying any profession is spending too much time at their desks. Desktime is partly (or should be) thinking time, and form-filling is (or should be) giving structure to the thinking. There's a balance to be struck between doing the real job as much as possible and doing it so much that you don't have time to really think and you make silly mistakes. Not that I know how this would work in social work; 60% may indeed be too much.

11/18/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I read Unity's piece - very interesting.

11/18/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Excellent article. Not sure I agree with all of it, but a reasoned and sane response of the kind you see too rarely in the media.

The response of the media has been positively pornographic. I have no idea why we had to see the child's blood stained clothes, or a mockup of the dead baby's injuries.

I have a lot of sympathy for social workers. Its a tough job, that is not particularly well paid in which you are exposed to stressful and upsetting situations (not to mention the ever present threat of violence). A lot of the time they have to make decisions where there is no "right" answer. Do you put the child in care where they will probably be damaged mentally, or do you leave them with the family where there is the risk of extreme damage, but also the chance that they might be fine? Who wants to make decisions like that?

11/19/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

An interesting point if you read the details of the case, is that the social workers involved were all quite heavily overworked (i.e. they had quite a few more cases to deal with than they were supposed to).

11/19/2008 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Off topic, but Nick's Evening Standard column has received a reply from its target. It's deadly dull stuff, however.


11/19/2008 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I nosed about the site in the spring, and the East End was alive with busy workers and optimistic residents. Not now.

So Nick hasn't been back. great journalistic work there. The site is still busy, Stratford is bustling pretty much non-stop.

Pretty funny, too, that Nick is berating a Surbiton resident for not having understood how th financial crisis is affecting the common suburban man and woman. There was me thinking that Nick's Standard columns - four in a row on the effects of the economic crisis - were based exclusively on him asking his generally very rich Islington chums how they had been affected...

Labour ministers were once on the BBC's side. I now see an ominous glint in their eyes when they talk about its over-mighty executives and stars.

and that glint is an acknowledgment that being opposed to these high salaries makes for easy PR. Let's face it - if you are losing your home, the licence fee is small change - exactly one of those minor worries that Nick is otherwise so dismissive of.

11/19/2008 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry - forgot to add - Nick seems obsessed, in his Standard columns, with the idea that people are endlessly fretting about money. And no doubt, some of them are, and a lot of them will be Stadnard-reading commuters.

But there's a reason why there have been four slow-burner news stories in the press in recent weeks which have lingered far longer than these stories would typically - Deripaska, Baby P, and Ross/Brand, Obama. It's because the news was dominated for ages by an econmic crisis which ultimately makes for depressing reading, few 'scoops', and general incomprehension, and the press is desperate for anything else to talk about. Which is why this is so mistimed:

Sir David Hare's Gethsemane at the National is set during the cash for peerages scandals of the Blair years, and I had to shake myself and wonder if that was all I thought readers had to worry about.

Yes Nick. Party funding hasn't been in the news at all recently...

11/19/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Nick's belief that a Surbiton resident journalist's sympathetic piece about the effect of the recession on white collar areas like Surbiton represented a sneer from the BBC against the middle class mostly demonstrates the danger of watching television after coming home from the pub (or after that one glass of six o'clock unwind-wine turned into an evenings-worth)

11/19/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

The PM's £189,000 pa is a bit of misdirection. The PM also gets two houses with staff. I'm not sure what that's worth, but I'd say a lot. (BBC execs also get chauffeurs.)

And the BBC *is* in a market. It sells a lot of programmes (and programme formats like Strictly Come Dancing) abroad and earns a great deal from these.

11/19/2008 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Utterly OT: the bad sex award nominations going to Alastair Campbell and Isabel Fonseca (Martin Amis's wife) piece is hilarious.

11/19/2008 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paragraph 8 is a rebuttal of Mad Mel's piece in the mail on 17/11, so it would be useful to know the source of DA's statistics.

11/19/2008 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the cash for peerages scandals of the Blair years...

Makes it sound like "the Blair years" were ages ago, doesn't it? Rather than, say, last year.

Of course, if Blair was still in power and awarding peerages for cash every second Tuesday, I'm fairly confident Nick would find a new reason to dislike what David Hare was doing.

Unless a peerage went to someone from the Muslim Association of Britain, in which case Hare would be a hero for our time.

11/20/2008 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Anon (above Alex H): that's a fair point. I would like journalism to be more academic if you will. If statistics get quoted, sources should be given. (Turning in his grave, George Orwell is.)

However, a quick google for 'child homicide rate uk' gets as first suggestion the Key child protection statistics (December 2007) on the NSPCC site. All Aaro's facts are there. (I scanned it, decided that it didn't go back to the 1970s and certainly didn't compare with previous decades and looked at several more hits. But it's there: "While the number of child homicides fluctuates each year, the overall child homicide rate in England and Wales has remained broadly similar since the 1970s. Creighton and Tissier (2003) Child killings in England and Wales. London: NSPCC Research briefing.")

Anyway, I'd trust Aaro over Mad Mel any day. There's *that* cute pic of Baby P in the Mail article, clearly included to heighten the outrage. The problem with it is this: he doesn't look like his spine is broken or his teeth have been knocked out. Why did social workers miss his abuse? Look at the photo and you tell me.

Baby P's mother herself has shown no signs of remorse or shame. Instead, all three of these child-killers displayed a chilling absence of the most basic humanity.

I'm not saying that the mother is remorseful, but AFAIK, she hasn't been near the press, so how the hell would MP know?

Further she cites a "recent American study [which] says a child is 50 times more likely to be abused by a non-biological parent." I've got to say that that sounds dodgy. What's the definition of 'abuse'? Would this include child custody cases "My daughter says my ex-wife's new boyfriend slapped her so I'm refusing to pay any alimony and I'd like the kids permanently" sort of thing? MP really has this thing about the family being destroyed and will use any statistic.

11/20/2008 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the point of David Hare's play is to remind us that we ought not to forget the scandals of the Blair years even if they are rarely talked about now.

Moussaka Man

11/20/2008 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor old Mad Mel. It's hard to know where to start when she writes things like:

Thus, women had a God-given right to bear babies out of wedlock.

I wonder what she used to do during Biology lessons ....

11/20/2008 04:45:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home