Closing Ranks in Rotherham Won’t Protect More Children


Update: This is a link to a story that highlights the tension between upholding professional ethics and standards and the competing interests of agencies. I still can’t fathom why the only thing the social work union has come out against the local authority with is bullying, when so much worse occurred to those vulnerable girls.

This is not thought policing. This is fraud, failure to protect, and failure to uphold any professional or legal standard.

Worse, it is a complete abdication of responsibility.

The Rotherham government’s police and social service authorities’ reaction to the report of 1,400 intentionally groomed, savagely raped, and profitably trafficked girls by Pakistani Muslims has been awful. The girls are reported to be British, white, and vulnerable due to current abuse in their homes or past abuse resulting in foster placement. As is frequent for trafficked girls, these victims are unable or unwilling to identify the perpetrators, a result of fear and trauma. The trafficker have been identified as “Asian,” in reference to their being Pakistani, and the report indicates blatant refusal to act on allegations of abuse and trafficking was due to racial tension, or “not wanting to rock the boat”.

To respond to this by ordering a social researcher to sensitivity training is outrageous. It is scapegoating to the worst degree. The only party deserving of sensitivity in a scenario like this is the group of victimized young girls. The perpetrators’ demographic profile should be the least of anyone’s worries.

Workplace bullying, coercion, and intimidation (which may have occurred; something in the culture permitted the rape and trafficking of these children in spite of a few sounding the alarm) is a reality in public and private sector work. So what is a social worker to do, who brings concerns to superiors but is either unheeded or actively shut down in his or her efforts?

The function of a profession (like social work) is to set standards and monitor the integrity of those who have the training and qualifications to practice within a given profession. What professional board has jurisdiction over these employees who allowed this abuse to go unaddressed? The British Association of Social Workers is the primary (perhaps the only) professional association of social workers that would have jurisdiction. The BASW statement on Rotherham glosses over the professional negligence as “ethical dimensions” that need to be addressed, following a list of apparently more immediate concerns, including inadequate training and lack of funding for children’s services. It seems condemnation and disciplinary action for social workers and social care staff who did not adequately protect these children would be in order.

Is there a climate that prevents members of the social work profession in Great Britain from reporting unethical and dangerous behavior of others in the profession? Even if not, there appears to be a climate that allows many who had been directly involved at the time of this widespread abuse to remain in positions of importance to children, as indicated in this article. It is apparent that closing ranks and blaming whistleblowers will contribute to unsafe conditions for many more children under care in the UK.

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