The details of the torture and killing of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, at the hands of his evil stepmother and own father, have shocked us all.
I share the anger and frustration many are feeling. As someone with experience of child protection work, albeit many years ago, I disagree with being too quick to blame people on the front line.
I’m also conscious that these events occurred during lockdown, although that cannot be an excuse.
This poor child wasn’t the first, nor sadly do I think he’ll be the last, to suffer at the hands of those who should have been providing care.
I welcome a thorough inquiry, but as I was embarking on training, as a young social worker in 1974, we were studying the case of Maria Colwell, beaten and killed by her violent stepfather.
There have been too many others since, including Victoria Climbié in 2003 and Baby P in 2009.
The Labour Government launched ‘Every Child Matters’, as a major policy initiative to address some of these issues.
It set out to protect and encourage every child to reach their full potential by combining cross departmental resources and focusing on children’s needs. By 2010, austerity had left the policy in tatters and resulted in such swingeing cuts that even basic protection services were regularly failing.
We need to understand what happened at Solihull Children’s Services and the other agencies involved, but this government can’t deny the impact of underfunding for which they’ve been responsible for more than 11 years.
There’s an old proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. We all have responsibility for taking an interest in and supporting children’s welfare.
That means more children’s centres, support for early intervention and backing for social workers, especially when they’re confronted by aggressive or plausible but highly manipulative parents.
Leadership is also vital. As I recently said to the Secretary of State, we’ve got to tackle the senior managerial merry go round that allows someone to leave a failing children’s service and move to a leadership role in a neighbouring authority where a child subsequently dies.