Panorama and Baby P

November 17, 2008

I’ve just finished watching Panorama on the events leading up to Baby P’s death and the biggest concerns raised were

Management overruling Social Workers according to one of Haringey Council’s staff speaking anonymously, with lack of funds being cited as one of the reasons for management decisions.

Insufficient number of social workers and a high turnover of staff.

High levels of bureaucracy with 60-80% of staff time being spent doing paperwork.

Breakdown of communication between the Police and Haringey Council with differing versions of what was discussed and agreed.

The number of cases being dealt with by each social worker being too high.

The doctor who examined Baby P failing to examine him properly when he was bought into hospital.

Many of the reasons given by social workers referred to in the program were similar to those expressed by the manager of social workers who I mentioned in this post. The lack of sufficient funds, inadequate training and more cases than the recommended amount being given to each social worker being the obvious ones.

While all the concerns highlighted in the program and elsewhere need to be looked at and dealt with robustly, especially as they don’t seem to be specific only to Haringey Council to avoid a repeat of this tragedy, I remain of the view that the death of Baby P was undoubtedly avoidable. While the system remains inadequate even after the Climbie Report recommendations, the failure of individuals to flag up the glaringly obvious concerns in this case is why Baby P remained exposed to violent individuals whose behaviour eventually killed him.


Future Tax Rises Inevitable!

November 17, 2008

‘Isn’t it the case that Labour’s borrowing bombshell will soon become a tax bombshell? And let’s be clear about what that means. Borrowing £30 billion now will mean an income tax bill for the average earner of nearly £1,500 later.Everyone knows the prime minister is planning a Christmas tax giveaway, but tax cuts should be for life, not just for Christmas. We need real tax cuts not tax cons.’

(David Cameron in the commons responding to Gordon Brown)

Whether Gordon Brown calls it a ‘fiscal stimulus’ or simply ‘additional borrowing’ the taxpayer will have to pay it back with interest in due course. But our PM doesn’t care as long as it gives him a chance of winning the next election.


Broken Britain II

November 17, 2008

In September 2008, a poll showed that 63% of all those questioned agreed that British Society is broken. Two recent cases shed light on what is happening in parts of the country and how dysfunctional families are living. The first is the trial of Karen Mathews who is charged with kidnapping her own daughter and lying to the Police about it, and the second is the case of Baby P’s guardians who await sentencing for neglecting a child who subsequently died.

Within both families like many others, there was no stability in the home, with a constant stream of partners moving in and out of the family home. Children unfortunate enough to be caught up in this cycle have a biological father who is often absent and several non biological ‘fathers’ who they presumably call by their first names unable to develop any sort of parental relationship. There is often a dependency on drugs and alcohol by the adults and the needs of the children aren’t even recognised, let alone fulfilled.  This inevitably leads to children being neglected and in worst case scenarios abused. The Government is left to pick up the pieces by finding foster homes and dealing with children with psychological problems which remain well until adulthood. Children’s educational attainment suffers and they are unable to break away from the cycle of state dependency and benefits which means that one generation after the next remain in this culture of broken homes and families. There are no aspirations and there is nothing except despondency and despair.

But is there any way out of this? The Government has been fiddling about with tax credits and schemes such as Sure Start with little success despite its claim to the contrary.

The answer according to Iain Duncan Smith MP is straightforward: If you want to save the child, you must save the family – strengthen the family unit and the child’s chances in life increase dramatically.

The Centre for Social Justice which Iain Duncan Smith set up has produced an interim report on changing Family Law aimed at strengthening marriage and reducing family breakdown. This comes behind a stream of other policy initiatives from the Centre for Social Justice, many of which have already been adopted as policy by David Cameron. Iain Duncan Smith argues that:

Today 25 per cent of children in this country live in single parent families and this trend is set to accelerate. These children are three to six times more likely to experience abuse. A recent US study found that children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents.”

And the Report notes

“This review is working from an underlying assumption that marriage should be supported both in government policy and in the law and that, related to this, fatherlessness (or motherlessness), far more likely when relationships are informal, should be avoided…”

“Marriage also acts as a stabiliser and a signal. Married couples are far less likely to break up than couples who live together without getting married. This is true even when allowance is made for the influence of such factors as income, age and education. The correlation between stability and marriage is strong and widely acknowledged amongst experts.”

Encourage and support marriage, and stabilise the home and family. It’s a simple and effective message that the Government should heed when implementing policies.


Panorama and Baby P

November 17, 2008

A BBC Panorama documentary on the circumstances leading up to Baby P’s death will be shown today at 8.30pm on BBC 1. It will allege that after a hospital visit in 2006, Baby P’s social worker did not want to return him to the family but taken into foster care. Haringey Council has many questions to answer and it will be interesting to see if they respond to any of the accusations made against it in this program.


Pakistan’s Economic Woes

November 17, 2008

Confirmation here that the IMF has agreed to loan Pakistan a sum worth £5.1 billion. Its economy is in a perilous condition and as I have previously mentioned the collapse of Pakistan’s economy would lead to disastrous consequences – and not only for Asia. Pakistan is a nuclear power and with the growing number of militants and Islamists actively undermining the rule of law and democracy, a further weakening of the economy could lead to more violence and further destabilisation of the country. Do read this weeks article in the spectator by Elliot Wilson who concludes that:

‘Fading hopes of a fiscal rescue rest on a financial injection from the IMF and World Bank in Washington — assuming, that is, that the US-centric institution feels like bailing out a country now cozying up with Beijing. The bleak situation is summed up by Farrukh Sabzwari, the head of Pakistan’s largest stock trading house, KASB Securities. ‘Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong, from currency reserves to skyrocketing energy prices to terrorism and the rising threat from the Taleban,’ he says. ‘There is a crisis of confidence in every part of the country.’