6.5.09

SOCIAL FAILURES

The UK government's minister for children, Edward Balls, announces a £58 Million plan to reform social services.

It's chickenfeed in terms of the cash this government throws around (it spent similar sums renewing the disabled parking badge). It's also throwing yet more money at a social work department that failed.

Failed because it's 20 years since social services moved away from the old model of hiring experienced middle-agers, and replaced them with socio-students, cutting salaries in the process.

Probation officers and social workers used to comprise men and women who'd had their own kids, ex services types, those looking for a second career in which to use their people skill.

But such people were a threat to the aparatchiks, who hounded them out of the system. My own close relatives have experience of this, and it happens much more in the public sector than the more supposedly free-wheeling private sector.

Now Balls' £58 million will not go on social workers - beyond 200 sponsored university places - but it will be a plaything for the aparatchiks who will be reinventing their taskforces and their electronic case management systems.

At least they recognised the system needs to be "less prescriptive and offer more scope for professional social workers to use their judgement".

In other words a box-ticking process cannot replace men and women with life experience.

But the robot managers aren't about to give up! Even though they admit it has failed, I am sure they will spend a good chunk of the £58 million "improving" their multiple choice system. I can't see the modern manager giving up on box-ticking systems, can you?

This is a clear example of what's gone on throughout the public sector and why it should be cut.

This is what he had the balls to say: "Our ambition is for social work to be a high-quality profession, with the confidence and support of the public, but to do this we must give social workers the training and support they need to develop."

The commission under Lord Laming that reviewed the failures of social workers who overlooked the terminal threat to Baby Peter, tortured to death in north London in 2007, suggested a new postgraduate qualification in child protection.

Those skills are out there in experienced middle-aged, career-changers. Another qualification in Britain's devalued educational system will change nothing.

And the throw-money-at-it approach to government just goest to show that we are fools to expect cuts in public sector spending.

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