Jeremy Laurance; Social services cannot recruit because of the Baby P effect

May 30, 2009

Last week was a grim one in the annals of child protection. On the same day that Baby P’s abusers were sentenced following one of the grossest professional failures in recent memory, the controversial paediatrician David Southall, who pioneered covert video surveillance to detect child abuse, learnt that his career was over. His appeal to the High Court against a decision by the General Medical Council to strike him off the register was dismissed.
The criticism of the professionals in the Baby P case was that they did not act swiftly or decisively enough to protect the 17-month-old when signs emerged of his ill treatment. The criticism of Southall was that he acted too swiftly and decisively to protect a child he believed to be at risk acting in an “offensive” and “unjustified” manner.

The end in both cases is tragedy a baby has lost his life and a crusading paediatrician has lost his livelihood. The hope is that these events will improve the protection of children. But will they?

Social services departments cannot recruit to their benighted profession, because of the Baby P effect, and there is an alarming swing against parental rights, which means more children judged “at risk” will be removed from their homes into the frequently damaging realm of state care.

Meanwhile paediatricians with one of the toughest jobs in medicine distinguishing accidental from non-accidental injury are left badly undermined by the spectacle of a doctor of international renown suffering professional extinction.

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