WHO would be a social worker, especially one dealing with children at risk and their inadequate and unco-operative parents? Take a tough line - and you risk being accused of over-zealousness. Show too much understanding - and you may be in trouble when the case proves to be more serious than you thought. Getting the balance right is very difficult indeed. The social workers in Haringey, North London, handling Baby P's case clearly did not get the balance right. He suffered 17 months of almost unimaginable cruelty at the hands of his mother and two of her boy friends, all of whom were found guilty on Tuesday at the Old Bailey of causing or allowing the child's death.
At Prime Minister's Questions yesterday there was an unseemly clash between Mr Brown and David Cameron who used all his four questions to press for an inquiry into Haringey's handling of the Baby P case. Several MPs thought it a subject that would have been better handled outside the bear-pit of PMQs. Mr Brown was at fault by implying that Mr Cameron's strong interest in the case derived from the fact that Haringey is a Labour local authority.
It was in Haringey that the similar case of Victoria Climbe occurred in 2000. An extensive inquiry by Lord Laming made several sensible recommendations to prevent a recurrence. Another inquiry will not do more. The problem is not procedures but the quality and judgement of the social workers doing this difficult work.