The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Unfortunately Wrong-footed

I've come late to the online kerfuffle about the blog criticising CYFS workers, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it.

Those who have waded in so far include David Farrar, who wrote about the CYFS Watch blog and why he isn't linking to it. Conversely Idiot/Savant linked to it, and thinks suppressing it is a dangerous thing for our democracy. (Others who have written on this, please feel free to add your link in comments).

The Social Workers Registration Board has put out a release on Scoop about their accountability processes, which served to highlight that registration does not appear to be compulsory for their profession.

It's not often I find myself in disagreement with Idsy, but this is one of those rare occasions.

I take his point about freedom of speech. I think it is very important. But what's also important here is the rights of these workers, and I believe that both could have been respected if the CYFSWatch blog had been done differently.

In particular, if it did not include the names and personal details of the Child Youth and Family (CYF) workers and if it omitted the high level of personal abuse - if it focused its anger on the employer rather than the workers, basically.

There should be processes within CYF to raise concerns and have them addressed. As someone who deals with similar processes in a different setting every working day, some people will not have a legitimate grievance but will persist regardless. Others will have a strong case but not pursue it. Such a process will need to be able to soothe the former and encourage the latter. It will also need to respect the rights of the workers to natural justice and fair process, or the vicious circle will simply continue with a new person wearing the mantle of the aggrieved.

The process also needs to recognise that sometimes (I suspect often) the concern that has come about is due to flaws that go beyond a single social worker. Which is why the CYFSWatch blog is so wrong-footed. Because ultimately who can effect change to the system that is CYF? The individual social workers? Not so much really, particularly not if they act alone.

The blog has done some valuable work in raising awareness of the high level of frustration and rage felt by some who have had dealings with CFYS. There is always room for improvement, but I hope that the angry blogging has not prejudiced the ability to see the causes of that seething as something bigger than the actions of this social worker or that one.

I also sincerely hope it has not led to threats against any of those named on the blog, or their families. We have a chronic shortage of social workers, registered or not, and this kind of scrutiny, which goes against natural justice and makes those workers vulnerable, is hardly going to help.


Make Tea Not War said...

This is the first I've heard about any of this but I do worry about who CYFS are appointing as social workers. I know a woman who was recently. She is in her mid 20s, has a undergraduate degree in psychology and no training as a social worker whatsoever. In the first week they assigned her a case load and she was right into the thick of it. My point is not that she is to blame for any of this. She is a good person, very smart, down to earth and genuinely loves children and wants to make a contribution. I think she would make a good social worker- but surely needs some kind of training first. But apparently they are just so short of people they are taking anyone.

I wouldn't be suprised if she burns out really fast too. I believe the the burn out rate for even propery trained and mentored social workers dealing with child abuse is higher than any other. I can't imagine that the website you mention is achieving anything constructive or making CYFS workers who genuinely are trying their best feel good about staying in their jobs. I expect there are some bad apples but the real problem is the system.

Oliver said...


My comment iss completely unrelated to your post. I've commented on your blog before and now you can comment on mine:

Span said...

My word Oliver, that is quite spectacularly off topic. You might find it more effective however if you set up a Blogger profile and put a link to your blog in that.

Thanks for your comment MTNW. I confess I have not read the CYFS Watch site, but I have read a lot about it. I felt it was probably a bit hypocritical to not link to it but read it myself - I'm funny like that sometimes.

But I don't really see what lasting good it can do, beyond a knee jerk reaction from Government which papers over the cracks. I did naively write originally that I thought that blog was doing something valuable in raising awareness of the concerns, but in hindsight I'm not so sure. I just hope the CYF workers have a decent union, and that at the very least people's personal details are removed from the site.

Oliver said...


Cheers for the advice, I'll put something there before this time tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder what would happen if a blog was set up by disgruntled people giving names and addresses of police officers.

The right would be in a lather.