The day in the life of a social worker as sector reels following Arthur Labinjo-Hughes' death

Social workers exclusively invited ITV News Central behind the scenes to lay bare the daily pressures of the job.

Social care and the way we protect our children are under intense scrutiny.

Last week saw a damning government-led review into the circumstances of the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

According to the report, Arthur's case was not an isolated one. 

But it also said the system was not broken and acknowledged that every day many thousands of children are kept from harm by conscientious and capable social workers, police officers and other professionals.

So what is it like to be a social worker on the frontline in 2022?

ITV News Central set up studio at the offices of Birmingham Children's Trust Credit: ITV News Central

Birmingham Children's Trust, which took over all children's social care from Birmingham City Council in 2018, gave ITV News Central exclusive access to its social workers over three days.

The Trust was not involved in Arthur's life when he died - his care came under Solihull.

We met up with a group of six men and women who had all left other careers, including law and teaching, to retrain in social care.

Their passion and commitment was obvious -  as was their frustration about the narrative that is often attached to the term 'social worker'.

Leah Campbell said she always likes to ask new families at the outset what they think her role is, as it's all too easy for people to misunderstand or make assumptions about why she might be there.

ITV News Central's Lucy Kapasi speaks to social workers about the challenges of their jobs. Credit: ITV News Central

Mason Poore told how when a death of a child is reported it 'rocks the social work world.'

The response of social workers everywhere is "never a careless one... and does hurt and damage them" as well as damaging their "reputation as professionals".

Our cameras also followed three social workers as they went about their day.

Junior Johnson, a former engineer who realised as a 'people person' social work would suit him better, said: "I give myself a pat on the back sometimes because if I don't do it, no one else will."

He has many professional relationships with young people who've been in and out of care that stretch back years, and refers to himself as the 'responsible relative'.

Jessica, not her real name, started working with Junior when she was 11.

She told us how she only realised, now at 19, how lucky she'd been to have him in her corner.

Another mother Junior supports has just had her child returned to her home after being out of her care two years.

Speaking in a park as the meeting took place, she admitted that when she first met Junior her guard was up and she didn't take to him.

But over time she realised he had the best interests of her and her child at heart and now says his support has been "fantastic".

Harry Ferguson, a social work professor at the University of Birmingham, told us that having a workforce that is "really well taken care of" - where staff mental health and needs are handled in a humane and sensitive way - is crucial to good social work.

And with his work life balance in mind, Junior is learning to play the piano as a way of helping him wind down from the demands of his job.

We also spent time with Jasmine Newton Howells, who used to work with young offenders, and said social work felt like a natural progression.

For her, it's about advocacy and helping young people and families through difficult situations.

A string of recent high profile child deaths has driven demand to hold social services departments to account when mistakes are made.

But, Mason Poore told us families also need to hear about the important role they play in protecting children.

Because, if "all they hear is that social workers are there to take their children and we don't talk about the support and advocacy we provide to families, by the time we come round to knock on their door the barriers are already going to be up".

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