“Dear Diedre…”

January 29th, 2009 § 1 comment

The Mail

An agony aunt has been appointed to a taskforce aimed at improving social services following the Baby P tragedy.

No. No. You’ve got to be kidding?


This week, ministers announced the 11 people who will join chair Moira Gibb and vice-chairs Andrew Webb and Bob Reitemeier on the taskforce, which is due to report this summer.

Unison and BASW on social work taskforce

Along with The Sun’s agony aunt, Deidre Sanders

Not everyone’s happy about it on CommunityCares’ discussion forum (the individual posts don’t have permalinks unfortunately)…


My colleague has just suggested that if the social workers go out to collect information they could then write to Diedre and she could in her commonsensical way tell us what to do next! She clearly has both the common touch and the ear of the government, what more could we want to help transform our profession? [Wink]


More frontline social workers? What would we know about social work? No, the appointment of Dierdre Saunders is clearly inspired and anyone who suggests it’s a populist concession to tawdry media-led witchhunters is obviously a middle-class elitist with a dubious value base who should be drummed out of the profession forthwith.

I look forward to the day when scriptwriters from Casualty and Holby City are appointed to the professional bodies of nursing, medicine and allied health professions to raise standards of practice. It can only be a matter of time before one of those nice actors from Waterloo Road is appointed to the General Teaching Council.

No, it is clearly so eminently appropriate to have celebrities on professional bodies that I am left with only one question: why can’t we have Jeremy Kyle too?


I’m also concerned about what message this sends to people about the function and role of social workers more generally if an ‘agony aunt’ is on the task force. Are we to be perceived as ‘talkers’ rather than ‘doers’. Actually the more I have thought about it, the more irritated I become.


Let’s get one thing straight – the summary dismissal of Sharon Shoesmith was not in the public interest – we had a right to hear the facts – we could have learned some vital lessons in safeguarding children and that this evidence could have been heard within the disciplinary context and this would have established whether Ms Shoesmith is a culpable party in this matter.

The Sun’s campaign against her was clearly a witch hunt – people did not just write into The Sun to complain of this evil woman, The Sun actually invited people to write in and tell them the politicians how evil she is.

As for Dear Diedre’s statement “those working in the professions in the public sector can get cut off from what are seen as common-sense values in the real world where, if you get something wrong, you lose your job. It’s what would happen to me and it’s what would happen to most of our readers”

What planet is this woman living on? I have been spat at, kicked, punched, abused, chased by dangerous dogs all in the line of my duty of protecting children; for these reasons, I stopped this area of work years ago (but I really do admire most of my children and families colleagues for having to do such a dreadful job. I guess most of us have to such nasty sharp-end violence, and that this demonstrates that if anyone is cut off from reality it is her! As for the bits about losing one’s job if you get something wrong – then all the country would be unemployed and unemployable.

As for The Sun getting things wrong – it does it all the time – it is a paper which always seem to be in the courts over allegations of lying and invading privacy – such is the moral compass and voice for the downtrodden masses.

Then Dear Diedre goes on to state “A big problem after Baby P was that Haringey didn’t even want to say sorry to start with, didn’t seem to accept responsibility”

Well in the climate of hysteria generated by The Sun, individuals and organisations get immobilised by the moral panic with which they are beleaguered – apologies – my guess is that no one in the Local Authority wanted to get in Sun’s firing line, for fear a mob would be beating a path to his / her with a view to stringing him / her up from the nearest lamp post.

Dear Diedre concludes

“If our campaign was seen as a mere witch-hunt in the social work sector, it illustrates the communication gap we have in society”

This is exactly the problem – I have this to say The Sun’s campaign against Ms Shoesmith was vindictive and vitriolic – it harked back to Cromwell’s England when Major Generals, our own Taliban, wandered the burning witches or drowning them in ponds. The Sun is a very much like that – it breeds a climate of fear – sure, there is a communication gap between us and The Sun and this is for good reason. An entire city, Liverpool, has stopped this nasty little rag following its rather nasty little piece on Liverpool following the Hillsborough Tragedy.

As for Dear Diedre saying that she was not responsible for the editorial content with regard to Ms Shoesmith, this is bit like saying “I am not responsible for the gas chambers in Auschwitz, I merely stoked the ovens” These “no flies on me” kind of statements sound quite disingenuous.

And as a parting shot to all those those Sun apologists, what kind of filthy little rag has headlines “only ten days to go, Lads, before we can bare Lisa’s boobs?” Surely, it encourages filthy old men to commit sexually illegal against young women.

The interview “fx7” references is here.

I’ll leave you with the notion that it could just be a damage limitation exercise by ministers, as Emma Maier muses…

… giving The Sun the inside track on the taskforce could be a clever because it is always more difficult to slate something you are involved in.


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