From grooming gangs to child abuse: is social work working?

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Saturday 15 October, Church House, London


The high-profile murders during lockdown of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, killed by those supposed to care for them, shocked the country. A national review into their murders and an independent review of children’s social care have called for an overhaul of child protection, earlier and more decisive intervention, and improved workforce skills and knowledge.

The government’s Care Review highlighted the rise in killed and injured children, during the lockdown periods between April and September 2020, and some agencies have predicted that, within the next decade, 100,000 children could be in care. The former education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, promised ‘system change on a national scale’ – but will it make any difference?

Is the system skewed to crisis intervention? Are social workers under- or over-intervening? Does the system need to address underlying issues, such as child poverty, domestic abuse and mental health? Or has a society-wide preoccupation with safety culture distracted agencies from protecting those children most at risk from abuse and neglect?

Tom Bewick
chief executive, Federation of Awarding Bodies; presenter, Skills World Live; co-founder and chair, board of directors and trustees, BEYOND

Dave Clements
policy advisor; writer; co-editor, The Future of Community

Dr Rakib Ehsan
author, Beyond Grievance: what the Left gets wrong about ethnic minorities

Susie Hawkes
senior lecturer in social work, University of Wolverhampton

Dr Ken McLaughlin
former social worker; academic; author, Social Work Politics and Society: from radicalism to orthodoxy and Stigma, and its discontents