Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More On What Social Workers 'Actually Do'

What was most objectionable about Cameroonatic Tim Loughton abasing himself before the Milli Tants was the way he endorsed one of their most objectionable defences, namely the claim that the public are just too darn FICK to have a worthwhile opinion on the actions of social workers.

Never mind the essentially fascistic nature of this argument, the biggest problem is that the more we find out about the facts of a real case, the more it turns out that everything the critics say is right. Take this case - it sounded bad enough anyway, but the actual specifics are even worse.

For starters, there's the judge's comment about the lessons of the Cleveland scandal not being learned. You might have thought he was talking about general attitudes or approaches but no, he was talking about the self-same discredited techniques:
The doctors in the Eighties had relied on the discredited sign called Reflex Anal Dilatation (RAD), said to indicate sexual abuse.

Last year, the controversial sign was condemned as unreliable by the Government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, who admitted that its use had led to mistakes in Cleveland...

[American paediatrician, Professor Hegar] has examined 40,000 children for suspected abuse during a 28-year career.

"[RAD] is a common finding in up to 49 per cent of children who have not been abused. There is no research ... that supports the use of RAD as a sensitive or specific finding for sexual abuse."
So RAD is RIP, right ? Not exactly.
This time, the paediatrician conducted a physical examination, which included RAD. He wrote in his report afterwards: "I feel that the time has come for me to involve social services, because I am concerned about the possibility that she may have been sexually abused."
Since the point seems to evade alleged conservatives like Tim Loughton, let's spell it out: this kind of junk science would never be accepted in a real court.

It doesn't get any better:
Overwhelmed with worry, Craig and Donna were advised to get an independent second medical opinion on Jodie's condition. Therefore, their GP arranged for a doctor called Ruth Skelton to examine their daughter. This proved to be a disastrous move.

Dr Skelton had been trained by Dr Hobbs. As Mr Justice Holman commented in his judgment: "In my view, the selection of her was deeply regrettable. Dr Skelton lacked the complete independence that is required for a second opinion in these sorts of circumstances.

"She was being asked to review the previous opinion of someone who was a more senior colleague, then working daily at the same hospital, and who had been her own teacher."

It emerged that Dr Skelton had discussed Jodie's case with Dr Hobbs before the so-called independent examination took place in March last year.

Dr Skelton concluded that she could spot RAD.
Again, this is a use of the word 'independent' as recognised by no court outside North Korea. Consider too that this independent examination used the self-same technique - in other words, they were using a finding of RAD to corroborate a finding of RAD. Never mind the law - apparently, these guys don't even respect basic logic.

Lest it be argued that this case reflects badly on the medical profession rather than social workers, remember that Hobbs, Skelton and the rest of their loony cult would just have been a bunch of deranged ranters, absent a social work establishment keen to lap up any pseudo-scientific garbage they could use to conjure up bogus evidence of abuse. These doctors certainly wouldn't have been able to have this lunacy taken seriously if they'd had to advance their dingbat ideas in open court, rather than hidden from scrutiny in the family courts.

This is the central point that keeps recurring again and again. It isn't just about judgement in individual cases. The system is structurally corrupt. Forget all this talk of the public's alleged ignorance - there are no set of circumstances in which it is acceptable for an 'independent' examination to be carried out by an acolyte of the original examiner. Ditto, usage of a diagnostic tool which is only 1% more accurate than tossing a coin. This is why we hate them.

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