Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Social Injustice?

There has been much in the news recently about "Baby P". Baby P was a 17-month old boy, who it appears, was systematically, physically, abused by his mother, her boyfriend and a lodger, all of whom have been convicted of causing or allowing his death, although none were actually convicted of murder.

As a result of this, the Government has ordered that there should be an inquiry and review of Social Services and their practices, particularly in Haringey, an area of London, where this all happened. But what will this achieve.

In 2000, an 8-year old girl called Victoria Climbie died after suffering systematic abuse at the hands of her Guardians. The Government carried out an inquiry and review of Social Services and their practices, particularly in Haringey, where this all happened.

So what we are seeing is a child dies, there is a very expensive (£3.8m) public inquiry and the upshot is that less than eight years later, another child dies in the same Borough.

It has also transpired that there were several warnings prior to the latter child dying, when a Social Worker who had worked for Haringey wrote to the then health secretary. Nothing was done. And the Council's reaction when this piece of information came to light was to slap an injunction on the ex-Social Worker. Actions like that immediately make me think that someone has something to hide.

What we have seen is various senior council officials being wheeled out to apologise. But what will that achieve? Nothing. Their time would be better served investigating why there was this catastrophic failure in the first place, and, if appropriate, getting rid of the person whose fault it is. Having said that, I don't mean in a 'We have found a scapegoat and are getting rid of them' fashion, but doing so internally, only going public if it is found that criminal negligence was the cause, and then the person concerned will need to face the full force of the law.

However, I think that none of this will happen. No-one will lose their jobs, and no-one will face criminal charges, because I guess the same will happen now as happened in 2000, and will happen the next time some poor child is killed under the noses of a Social Services department. The department will close ranks and protect each other.

We've already seen union officials stating that Social Workers don't want to make mistakes, but are human and mistakes happen. True. But what about nurses. Making a mistake as a nurse can lead to that nurse being struck off. Or servicemen. Making a mistake as a soldier can lead to that soldier not only being dismissed the service, but also going to jail. Why should Social Workers be any different.

There is a reason for my stance. In 2006 my ex-wife absconded with two of my children, and refused me any contact whatsoever with them. It took me very little time to track them down as she was staying with her latest boyfriend at his house. Now the problem was that I knew that he was 'flagged' by Social Services, although I was unable establish why. I therefore contacted his local Social Services and was greeted with total indifference. The only time that I was able to get any other response was when I suggested that their department was no better than the one that had allowed Victoria Climbie to die.

At this point, the Social Worker with whom I was talking became very annoyed, started shouting and threatened to report me to the Police for harassing them, because I phoned very regularly. I countered by informing them that I had taken the names of every Social Worker that I had spoken to and would go to the press, naming all of them, in revealing their incompetence unless something was done to ensure the safety of my children.

It was after this conversation that I started to receive regular updates on the children's welfare from Social Services because they began visiting them, at home and at school, on a weekly basis.

However, I should never have had to resort to this to ensure the safety of my children. Making Social Workers properly professional, by having properly trained and accountable Registered Social Workers, may reduce the incidences of child deaths as a result of abuse.

It also appears that another Social Services department have been negligent in their duties, in this case Brighton. This year a man was convicted of murdering his wife. Her body was found in a car roof box in the back garden. His young daughter became increasingly upset about the disappearance of her mother, and was able to speak to one of her teachers. The teacher, following procedure, informed the local Social Services, who treated her concern with utter indifference (pattern emerging?) Eventually, some weeks later, a Social Worker did visit the house, Police were called and the husband arrested. Fortunately, the daughter suffered no physical harm.

Sadly, the only question now is how long before we hear about the next child that has died as a result of abuse.

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