Both Tom Sharpe and that late icon of the liberati John Mortimer have mined the rich vein of humour provided by social workers. Well meaning but ultimately deluded busy-bodies, prodnoses, boiler-suited members of some great lesbian collective, they would descend on some wholly innocent community to inspect the rectums of children under five, or search for satanic symbols in a flurry of case notes and inpenetrable jargon. And all the while they remained something of a joke, all the while they were regarded as ineffectual, as surplus, unrequired and the manifest self-indulgence of a Welfare State doing no real good and some harm, they were fine.
As a young man, some of my older friends were social workers. We used to sail dinghies together on the Orwell; their work commitments didn't extend to more than twenty hours a a week or so, leaving plenty of time to sail, smoke spliffies and sit in the pub. They were relaxed and good natured, their caseloads were a source of humour and not of stress, the County Council provided them with a car and in some cases with a low-rent cottage in the Suffolk countryside (the Council having a large agricultural land portfolio) and it seemed a pretty good life.
Fast forward a few years to Haringey and the tragedy of Victoria Climbie. To the heartbreaking death of Baby P. Social work was no longer the good life, and no longer a joke. It was deadly serious, stress-filled, impossibly compex with at least half a dozen competing State agencies all proving equally disorganised. The public (or the popular press) demanded heads for failure. No wonder, then, that Haringey can't find social workers to work there. A desperate plea from that council's new childrens' head to London's other thirty councils for each to lend Haringey a social worker drew a blank.
As bastardy has grown exponentially since the late 1970s, and as central Statism has created an underclass even less capable of self-reliance than ever, so child abuse has grown from a rare aberration to something common on our sink estates. Social workers are no longer there to smooth out the wrinkles of the less-well socialised, but as the State's front line in saving innocent lives.
The failure of social work in Haringey is the failure of the dependency culture, the failure of the central State, the failure of Welfarism and the failure of Labour's corrosive destruction of neighbourhoods, communities and local institutions. And with the blind stubborness of the truly stupid, Labour's answer is not less State but more State. The spat between the speccie's Fraser Nelson and blogging Labour MP Tom Harris this week is proof of that.
As Haringey's remaining social workers are all desperately mailing their CVs in search of escape from the place, how long is it going to take Labour to admit that welfare isn't working? How long before they admit that the billions of wasted resource in lunatic social engineering experiments haven't improved things one iota? And how long before another innocent child suffers death from its disfunctional parent?