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Fighting back! Re-establishing credibility in the aftermath of Baby P. Patrick Ayre Department of Applied Social Studies University of Bedfordshire. CDSCP Lunchtime seminar. Responsible journalism at its best.

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Fighting back re establishing credibility in the aftermath of baby p l.jpg

Fighting back!Re-establishing credibility in the aftermath of Baby P

Patrick Ayre

Department of Applied Social Studies

University of Bedfordshire

CDSCP Lunchtime seminar


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Responsible journalism at its best

“Today The Sun has demanded justice for Baby P — and vows not to rest until those disgracefully ducking blame for failing the tot are SACKED”

“The fact that Baby P was allowed to die despite 60 visits from Haringey Social Services is a national disgrace.

I believe that ALL the social workers involved in the case of Baby P should be sacked - and never allowed to work with vulnerable children again.

I call on Beverley Hughes, the Children's Minister, and Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, to ensure that those responsible are removed from their positions immediately”.

( (The Sun, 13 November 2008)


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Responsible journalism at its best

Nothing says ‘due process of law’ like torches and pitchforks


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How did we get where we are now? Deprofessionalisation

  • Part of a wider trend

  • Managerialism, McDonaldisation and the audit culture

  • Management by external objectives

  • Professionals not to be trusted


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How did we get to where we are now?

  • Research

  • Legal and adversarial context of child protection

  • Child abuse scandals


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Climatic conditions

  • Climate of fear

  • Climate of mistrust

  • Climate of blame


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Climatic conditions

  • Climate of fear

  • Climate of mistrust

  • Climate of blame


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Climate of mistrust

‘Child stealers’ who ‘seize sleeping children in the middle of the night’; ‘abusers of authority, hysterical and malignant’, ‘motivated by zealotry rather than facts’ or ‘like the SAS in cardigans and Hush Puppies’.

On the other hand, they are ‘naïve, bungling, easily fobbed off’, ‘incompetent, indecisive and reluctant to intervene’ and ‘too trusting with too liberal a professional outlook’.


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Climate of mistrust

The social worker who took a child away from its parents

The social worker who failed to take a child away from its parents


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Climatic conditions

  • Climate of fear

  • Climate of mistrust

  • Climate of blame


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Trusting procedures

  • Procedural proliferation

  • Blaming and training

  • The myth of predictability


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Blaming and training

Accident sequences begin with problems arising in management processes such as planning, specifying, communicating, regulating and developing. Latent failures created by organisational errors are ‘transmitted along various organizational and departmental pathways to the workplace where they create the local conditions that promote the commission of errors and violations (e.g. high workload, deficient tools and equipment, time pressure, fatigue, low morale, conflicts between organizational and group norms and the like’. In this analysis, ‘people at the sharp end are seen as the inheritors rather than the instigators of an accident sequence’ (Reason, 1995 p.1711).






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Media strategy (Call that a strategy?)

  • Paranoia

  • Avoidance

  • Leaving plenty of room for the ‘rent a quotes’.


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Media strategy: the boys in blue

  • Ongoing media strategy building understanding and positive perception

  • Confident, assertive, PROACTIVE

  • Drip feed good news

  • Quick and ready with a spokesperson (hardly ever the Chief Constable)

  • Go with the flow


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Fighting back

  • Reprofessionalise

  • Fight the fear, mistrust and blame

  • Build confidence and competence

  • Let the world know how much we are achieving


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