Broken Britain

November 12, 2008

Mother has seven children with five different fathers and lives in a Council home. Mother has no job and lives on benefits with partner. One evening while returning from school, one of mother’s children goes missing without any trace and without any obvious reason. Mother is in a panic and calls the Police reporting her daughter missing. The police immediately set up a search team and a huge operation is under way to find missing child.

Mother is distraught, in tears and appears devastated. She makes appeals on TV holding the child’s favourite teddy bear for the safe return of her child and pleads with her kidnapper for her release, the local community rallies to support mother and offer their support, a huge reward is put up by national newspaper for anyone able to locate the child, an appeal fund is set up by the family and hundreds of police and volunteers from the local communities take part in search for missing child. The press and media descend on mother’s home and keep country up to date with what is happening in the ongoing search for the child. The Local Authority also tidies up mother’s garden so it looks good for the cameras.

Nevertheless, some people suspect foul play, and whispers are heard about mother and family but these are dismissed and cast aside as the work of the middle class snobs looking down on mother – missing child is primary concern, class war can wait .

Against all odds and after worried filled 24 days fearing the worst, the child is found safe with a relative of mother who is immediately arrested and charged with kidnap and who later attempts suicide while in custody. The mother, her family, the neighbourhood, town and whole country breath a collective sigh of relief that child is found unharmed. Wild celebrations ensue and the millions of pounds spent in the search is regarded as money well spent by the Police who are congratulated for having done an amazing job.

Mother is overwhelmed at meeting child but the child is not returned to mother, initially to give authorities time to question the child but later because this is in the best interests of the child. The remaining children living with mother are taken away as mother’s partner is charged and later convicted of downloading child pornography on his home computer. Later mother is questioned about missing child, arrested and charged.

The neighbours, local community and the people of the town are at a loss as to what has gone on, their emotions moving from despair at the kidnap to elation at the discovery of the child to shock at the arrest and role of mother. They wait with bated breath for the outcome of the trial.

This unfortunately isn’t a well crafted storyline from a dodgy soap but a real story from the broken society of modern day Britain. The trial of kidnapped Dewsbury school girl Shanon Mathews’ mother Karen, and Michael Donovan has got under way at Leeds Crown Court. They are charged with kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. The evidence looks overwhelming but both deny all charges.

Brown’s Disgrace

November 12, 2008

David Cameron was absolutely right to ask Gordon Brown about the inquiry into the death of Baby P at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon. Brown’s response was utterly disgraceful. If asking for an independent inquiry into what seems an avoidable death is playing party politics then I’m sure most people in the country will want to play party politics. Cameron got very angry and rightly so. The computer generated images of the injuries to Baby P are enough to make anyone’s blood boil and for the PM to reply in the way that he did shows how out of touch with reality he really is. Most people in the country would want an independent inquiry and thereafter people held to account. Dismissing this as party politics was a disgrace.

Council Failures

November 12, 2008

After the Victoria Climbie case and the child protection measures put in place to ensure nothing similar ever occurred again, the mother who admitted her guilt and two men have been found guilty of causing the death of Baby P, a 17 month old child, despite him being the ‘subject of a multi-agency child protection plan.’

I recall numerous and extensive changes being made to Social Services in Kirklees after 2003 with the introduction of Every Child Matters to ensure all the required safeguards were in place so that such a tragedy would not be repeated. These measures were brought in by legislation and all Local Authorities had to comply. The expectation thereafter was that no child would be failed again in the same way as Victoria Climbie. Yet we learn of another catastrophic failure by the authorities which has led to a child being subject to extreme abuse and pain before eventually dying. This case is far worse than the Victoria Climbie case as Baby P was on the Council’s register of children at risk which should have ensured that his death was prevented.

A review of child protection has been ordered but Haringey Council on whose watch this tragedy happened has a lot to answer, not least why appropriate action was not taken when this child was visited on numerous occasions by officers from the Council. Despite the failure to protect this child, no one has been suspended or dismissed with two social workers and a lawyer only being given formal written warnings. Sharon Shoesmith, the chairwoman of Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board has quite incredibly said that ‘I am satisfied that the action that should have been taken was taken.’

When such a tragedy occurs, we begin to wonder how many more children are being let down by the authorities and are in danger – confidence in the whole system is affected and those people who are doing their jobs in a professional manner are also tainted. When a child dies in these circumstances, it isn’t sufficient to simply say that the system failed or that the right procedures were followed. People must be held to account especially where mistakes made such as in this case are proven.

More Unemployment

November 12, 2008

Latest unemployment figures show that 1.82 million people are out of work which is an increase of 140 000 in the three months to September. This is the highest figure since 1997 and is predicted to rise even further. Yesterday, several large companies such as Virgin Media, Yell, GlaxoSmithKline announced job losses totaling 5000 not yet included in the unemployment figures. The economy is shrinking and Brown’s claim of ending boom and bust looks sillier by the day.