TELEVISION / BRIEFING: We never knew they really cared

As anyone who reads the tabloids knows, social workers are a nanny-state Gestapo with nothing better to do than snatch kids from their families. Meanwhile tonight's TRUE STORIES, 'Care for Dale' (9.35pm C4), looks at social work in the real world, and you don't get more kitchen-sink real than Bransholme Estate, near Hull. Peter Carr's slowly rewarding film, about as hopeful as it can be in the circumstances, centres on 12- year-old Dale, a sullenly Puckish solvent abuser who has a more familiar relationship with his solicitor than with his teacher. Dale's school eventually 'excludes' him (in my day he'd have got a damn good expelling) and by the time you want to shout 'Give him a smack', social workers, foster parents and police turn the other cheek (not, one hopes, just for the cameras). Carr also spotlights the case of Darren, whose mother can't cope with the added burden of a bouncing four-year-old, and two examples of 'Care in the Community': middle-aged Ernest, who claims he is being followed, and Barbara and Shirley, whose flat has just been trashed by intruders. Government cutbacks are not mentioned once, but they haunt the film silently.

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