1.5 Some related issues
It may not be possible for senior managers to know what is happening in the day-to-day social work interaction with hundreds of children in their area. Their role is more about strategic direction and budgets. However, some people would argue that they should resign when something goes wrong because their role is one of responsibility and accountability. It is not always possible for social workers to know when parents are withholding vital information. If Peter’s mother had not denied the existence of her new partner, maybe he could have been identified as dangerous and Peter removed from her care.
There is always the benefit of hindsight in such situations, which then provides learning points for all practitioners. One from this case is the need to be alert to the presence in the home of new adults and to check their background. Another might be to be more proactive in chasing up other professionals whose services need to provide evidence (e.g. the paediatric team in this case).
You may have noticed that Peter Connelly’s full name is used here unless quoting someone else. ‘Baby P’ is a term coined by the media which, arguably, diminishes a young boy who deserves more dignity attached to his life and tragic death. Further questions that may come up in discussion might be:
- Would introducing a criminal offence of ‘failure to report child abuse’ prevent more deaths?
- Should social workers have the right of entry into people’s homes in order to see children? This is equally an issue in adult’s social work, when the social worker may be refused entry by a third party to see an adult they are concerned about.