I really did not know what to write about in this blog. Not for the fact that there has not been plenty to write about – from the Fritz family in Austria to the vote on whether or not MPs were going to vote for a reduction in the abortion law. It was just a matter of choosing which one to write about until I heard the dreadful news report of a little girl who had died, apparently due to neglect.
My first thought was that of the tragic case of Victoria Climbie, a beautiful little girl whose parents had put their complete trust in Victoria's great aunt who was to bring Victoria out of poverty and uncertainty to a better life with education and a quality of life that many families from the Ivory Coast can only dream about.
Victoria was failed on all counts by the very people who were there to protect her. Her murder sparked massive public outrage and led to a public enquiry, which at its cessation produced major changes in the child protection policies in England and Wales, including the introduction of the Children's Act 2004, the creation of the Contact Point project – a planned government database that will hold information on all children in England and Wales, and the creation of the Office of the Children's Commissioner. The formation of the Every Child Matters programme aims to have a new approach to the wellbeing of children and young people, and every child in the country, regardless of background and circumstances will have the support and encouragement to be healthy and happy, stay safe, make a worthwhile contribution and have economic wellbeing.
Is it me, or is it reasonable to assume that the agencies that failed her so dreadfully were given the structure and support so that another child's death almost too awful to contemplate would be prevented? The answer, as far as I can tell, is apparently not.
Now it would appear that the children of this family had been withdrawnfrom the school they were attending to be "home-schooled" some 10 weeksago. Listening to the radio this afternoon, Michelle Elliott from"Childsafe" was interviewed. During the interview Ms Elliott confirmedthat the local authority was not under any "obligation" to visitchildren whose parents had decided to home school them and thereforethere was going to be no social input from the state. Effectively,children can be withdrawn from school with no way of "policing" theirwellbeing, education or growth.
It is true to say that the full facts of this case are yet to be heard. Reports suggest that the two people who have been arrested and charged are the child's mother and boyfriend – they have appeared in court in Birmingham and sufficient evidence has been given that they have both been reprimanded in custody until the end of May. The other children were also taken by ambulance to hospital, but have been released and assumingly they have been put in the safe keeping of foster parents. (Can I at this point applaud the work that foster parents do? This is not an easy undertaking and very often they are dealing with confused and frightened children who have been taken from the family home – the only home they know – into a stranger's home.)
It is all well and good to have policies and government agencies being set up to prevent dreadful tragedies. How many times has a public servant stood in from of a TV Camera, or being interviewed on radio and said "we must do everything in our power to prevent this type of tragedy happening in the future." My question is: when are lessons going to be learnt and how many more innocent lives have to be destroyed by people they love and trust before something is done to stop it?
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