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Bristol shines a light on the world of child protection
Release date: Tue, 24/01/2012
The usually hidden world of child protection will be in the spotlight this month in a new fly-on-the-wall documentary to be broadcast on BBC Two from Monday 30 January at 9pm.
‘Protecting Our Children’ follows eight Bristol social workers and the families they are working with for a year. To be shown in three one-hour programmes, the documentary illustrates first hand many of the difficult decisions that are made every day by social workers in the city to protect children from abuse or neglect.
Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Clare Campion-Smith, said:
“I hope that viewers will appreciate the portrayal of a subject that remains largely hidden from public view because of the sensitive and personal nature of the work. The films accurately illustrate the complexity and emotional demands of the job, as well as the circumstances of the families they contact.
“Referrals to social services have increased following high-profile national cases. These films should improve understanding of the issues that put children at risk of harm in all our communities and boost confidence in the work we do to protect them. It would be excellent if it also encouraged more people to consider fostering or adopting children who badly need a stable home.”
Bristol currently has around 140 social workers involved in child protection, including children in care, and 414 children are currently subject to a child protection plan, where different agencies come together to support children. Contacts from people who work with children or the public have increased from around 18,000 in 2009, to 20,600 in 2011.
Strategic Director for Children and Young People, Annie Hudson, said: “Child care social work involves finely tuned decisions about families who are often on the edge of coping. For this reason, it is a very private and generally invisible service.
“By working with the BBC on this documentary I think our social workers reflect the commitment and professionalism of the service and how they effectively link with other services, such as health and housing. Viewers will gain a privileged and unique perspective on child protection practice - in the words of one of our social workers, ‘shining a light’ on the profession.”
BBC Executive Producer, Julian Mercer, said: "We hope these films give a balanced and realistic impression of people on the frontline of child protection and the families they work with. It was thanks to our relationship with Bristol City Council and their partners that we were able to get so close to the situation.”
The documentary is made in partnership with The Open University and will be used to help train new social workers.
Open University Social Work Lecturer, Dr Barry Cooper, who worked with the BBC to provide expert input into the development of the documentary, said: “The programme provides a unique insight into five very different examples of child protection social work. These stories of real life social work practice dilemmas are profoundly affecting and they make for compelling and frequently uncomfortable viewing.”
Dr Cooper added: “Whatever resistance from adult parents and carers that social workers have to confront, their primary professional responsibility is to the child. It is this that must drive the decision-making.”
Ellen Parker is an experience senior social worker covering the east and central areas of Bristol. In episode three she is featured helping a mother and daughter living in a squalid flat.
Ellen said: “I hope the films improve understanding of how social workers are here to help families and achieve better outcomes for children.
“When I was with the service user it was very easy to forget about being filmed as I was doing my day to day job of helping a family out of a crisis. Viewers will see that we can be successful in working with families in times of crisis and helping them to stay together if that is in the best interest of the child at the time.”