A Dilemma

In the news today, the Social Worker who was in charge of the Victoria Climbie case is appealing for her job back.

Normally, as with anyone who is involved with the harming of children – whether they are active or passive in the scheme of things – I would say they should be shot. But with this woman, it’s a bit different.
It’s not just about one woman’s job, indeed it’s not just about one child’s death either – the politics of the situation creep in, and maybe even our own values.

Two scenarios:

  • She gets her job back. If she is bothered about what happened, then surely her feelings of guilt come into play. She may look more carefully at all her cases, she may push for more positive pre-emptive action, she may test the management’s attitude toward all the lessons that should have been learnt following the case.To that end, if management are not conforming to what they should, she could become a thorn in their side, a liability to the department and the Council even. Strong case there – if the Council are paying just lip service to the required changes – to not re-employ her. But also, should she get her job back, then who has paid the necessary price for the death of the innocent young girl ? Are we as a society prepared to accept that people make mistakes, learn from them and should be given the chance to use that new found knowledge no matter what the mistake ? This isn’t about stocks, shares, profit and a Chairman resigning, it’s about a little girl known to our Social Services who was tortured to death. Or does her getting her job back send out the message that no matter what the scandal, just wait til the fires have died down and sneak back in ? Is that a message that we want sending to people who we entrust with the care of our most vulnerable members of society ?
  • She does not get her job back. Initially, that seems to be the right result. Had she acted differently, Victoria may still be alive. But it’s not so simple. The report that came out of this case – www.victoria-climbie-inquiry.org.uk – was scathing not in an attack on one Social Worker, but on the whole organisation. Maybe the SW was the necessary scapegoat, sacrificed to appease the public need for fallout in the heat of the moment. Maybe the SW was indeed badly advised – though I would argue simple humanity should have told her something more serious was afoot – but it is found that she should have acted more in keeping with the needs of the child than the machinations of her department. So they do not allow her back. We (the public) sit back satisfied, but so do management because then there is no-one to test their new resolve and actions. Isn’t this SW the best person – in some ways – to actually put in charge of potential abuse issues ? Will not she be looking constantly, probing, questioning, and ensuring that those cases are highlighted and acted upon in accordance with not only her feelings, but also Govt recommendations ?

What we don’t know – and will never know – is the SW’s motive behind this action. Does she see herself as guilty at all ? Does she seek some sort of redemption through saving a child in the future ? Does she want to challenge the system from within ? Does she want revenge on colleagues who she felt did not support her ? Is it about compensation ?

And the answer ? I have no idea.

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