I worked at the DfES (now DCSF) when the Every Child Matters programme was being put in place so I know the pains that were taken to try to strengthen child protection services in the light of Victoria Climbie’s death. It is a far from perfect system but the tools are there for local authorities to use and the emphasis on putting children’s interests first now runs through every branch of the child-related public services. So why is the response to Baby P’s death so predictable and totally enraging? An enquiry announced, another debate about whether or not we are demonising social workers and (at least as far as I can see) no heads rolling, no-one held accountable, no-one accepting responsibility. How well-paid, free of bureaucracy, supported by mangement and empowered to act do you have to be in order to realise that this is wrong? And how on earth can you not resign immediately it becomes clear that it happened on your watch?
Trying to drag this round to being a comms issue; I notice that there is no statement easily findable about this on the front page of the DCSF site – you have to dig about a bit to find this, or the children’s commissioner’s site (although you can find a statement from the Deputy Commissioner welcoming the new enquiry). Haringey’s statement is a click thorugh from a front page headline “Statement regarding government support for Haringey”, which implies to a casual reader that everyone is rallying round this authority which is having a bit of a bad time at the moment.
So, deep breath, rant almost over, red mist starting to clear… What has to happen before we get to the point where we can say “never again” with some confidence? Is that possible – or are there some people who are just so wicked that their actions can’t be legislated for? I really do appreciate how difficult the work of social services is, so what do we as a country have to do to support them to allow them to deliver better services? Is it just a matter of better funding? And if the response to disasters is always like this, how do we get people to swallow the tax-increases that might be needed to pay?