This book represents a case study in power. Child abuse, like so many other forms of abuse, involves a strong element of abuse of power. While child protection professionals have a degree of power (in the form of legal authority), there are also significant limitations in terms of the power to prevent or respond to incidences of abuse. There are also relative power issues to consider in relation to the professional groups involved in child protection – for example, health, social services and police. All these power issues feature strongly in this book, but perhaps the most striking aspect of power to feature is that of the media – in this case, the capacity of a newspaper to influence public perceptions and, quite possibly, the workings of government, not to mention the quality of life of social work staff involved and, indirectly at least, the safety and well-being of children and young people.
The death, through abuse involving over 50 injuries, of Peter Connelly (aged 17 months) came to be known to the public via the media as the Baby P story. This book provides important background information about the case and, more importantly, about the sustained campaign of vilification against the social work staff involved on the part of the Sun newspaper.
Ray Jones is a former Director of Social Services now serving as a university professor. His experience and expertise come shining through in this important book. He provides a compelling narrative that is balanced, well reasoned and clear.
That narrative tells of a highly difficult and demanding case for the personnel involved and oversimplified understandings of the complexities involved being put forward by sections of the media, with highly distorting and damaging results. The consequences of the tabloid campaign that emerged make for both worrying and depressing reading. As if child protection staff did not have enough pressures and challenges to contend with!
This book will be of interest to anyone involved in child protection work as well as students of sociology and media studies. It raises a number of important issues relating to the protection of children, issues that go far beyond professional practice to include the role of the media in shaping public expectations on the one hand and encouraging low morale and defensive practice among professionals on the other.
Ray Jones deserves credit for providing such a thorough and compelling exposé about such an important topic. If you are involved in protecting children you need to read this book.