Accountability and blame in social work – The Story of Baby P

Ray Jones

In England in 2007 Peter Connelly, a 17 month old little boy – known initially in the media reporting as ‘Baby P’ – died following terrible neglect and abuse. 15 months later, his mother, her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s brother were sent to prison.

Media attention turned on those who worked to protect children; the social workers and their managers became the focus of the reporting, and of the blame. Years later, the press still refers to the case of Baby P when child protection stories arise.

Author Dr Ray Jones spent years researching the case for his book, ‘The Story of Baby P; Setting the Record Straight’, examining the way the case was told to the public and how the media became focused on the social workers; its threatening consequences for those who work to protect children; and its considerable impact on the child protection system in England.
His research highlighted the dogged campaign by the Sun newspaper to remove children’s services staff involved in the case, which in itself resulted in further trialling. Dr Jones’ research contributed to the exposure of media behaviour, and will shape the way cases like these are portrayed in the future. It also highlighted the continuing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff in the child protection industry; which he said is unsurprising, in light of the way this case was portrayed with such a degree of vindictiveness.

Dr Ray Jones is a Professor of Social Work at Kingston and St George’s, a registered social worker, and was Director of Social Services for 14 years. He was chair of the British Association of Social Workers and chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
A frequent media commentator, his book has had a profound effect on the social work profession. He continues to pioneer to improve child protection services and speaks with university students looking to enter the industry.

Dr Jones said there are many lessons to be learned from the case; in particular, for social workers to be wary of accepting how they are presented in the media, and for them to be collectively strong as a profession to ensure the realities of their work are displayed correctly to the public.

To read more about ‘The Story of Baby P; Setting the Record Straight’, visit: