Question: What have a banker, a cobbler, an environmentally friendly undertaker, a market researcher and a software engineer got in common?
Answer: They have all tried to tell child protection social workers how to do their jobs whilst in role as Minister for Children.
In case the news passed you by as you were focusing on more important things such as Love Island, trying to manage a caseload of 30+, actually seeing your own family from time to time, or wondering how much longer you can eke out your current quality of life before a climate emergency-induced collapse of society sets in, we’ve got a new children’s minister.
Yes, I hear you cry, another one!
Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle (aka, stock his front bench with Brexiteers) has seen Kemi Badenoch succeed Nadim Zahawi in the Department for Education post responsible for children’s social care.
This means that we have had the following people overseeing children’s social workers since the Conservatives assumed power in May 2010.
Deep breath… Tim Loughton, Edward Timpson, Robert Goodwill, Nadhim Zahawi and now Kemi Badenoch.
Their careers before entering politics:
A banker, an owner of a chain of shoe repair and key-cutting shops, a managing director of a company which offers environmentally friendly burials, a co-founder of the market research firm YouGov and a software engineer.
Now… I don’t know about you guys, but that doesn’t strike me as the most fertile of backgrounds for recruiting children’s ministers from.
I mean, maybe I’ve got it twisted here, but wouldn’t you hope to see people with backgrounds in education, social care, childcare or, God forbid, even social work in there?
(To give due credit, Timpson grew up with two adopted siblings and his family have fostered over 90 children)
Seeing this latest appointment to the role- a software engineer with a law degree who lastly worked in the private banking sector before becoming a politician- doesn’t fill me with any optimism at all that things are going to change in social work any time soon.
If I was a cynic I’d say that Badenoch has been appointed on the basis of one simple fact- she wants to leave the European Union and is keen for Brexit to succeed at any cost. Which is easy for someone as affluent as her to aim for, with no thought for the rest of us who face the prospect of a weakening pound, spiralling living costs, job losses, recession and further marginalisation of our human rights.
But, as much as this personally harms me in my professional role, I’m far more concerned about what this says about the disdain with which vulnerable children’s needs are held by the ‘powers that be’.
We have more children than ever before in care.
The Courts are breaking under the pressure of escalating care applications.
We are short of around 10,000 foster placements.
50% of all social workers are looking to leave the profession within the next 18 months.
20% of all child protection roles are vacant.
4.5 million children in the UK are living in poverty.
Suicidal children are being forced to wait months for mental health support.
Teachers are having to take food into schools to feed malnourished children.
Over 500 children’s centres have been closed in the past 8 years.
And who have we been given as the political figureheads responsible for addressing such pressing issues… bankers, cobblers, undertakers, market researchers and software engineers.
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
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