By Brian Corby, Alan Doig and Vicki Roberts.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN 1 85302 895 9
The title of this excellent book belies the breadth of its
Not confining itself to an overview of public inquiries, it
explores the social, economic, political, professional, historical and human
factors and pressures that inform residential child care, and cuts to the heart
of many of the contentious issues surrounding child welfare and child abuse.
The text is extremely well laid out and cross-referenced,
the arguments clear, balanced, structured and fully developed. The writing has
an unusual organic quality that allows considerable insight into the nature of
state care and understanding of its many tragic, and often avoidable, failures.
Appendix I lists 81 (not including the north Wales tribunal) public inquiries
that have taken place in Britain between 1945 and 1999, alongside a repetitious
litany of recommendations begging the question of whether anything has been
learned in more than half a century.
The public inquiry is examined on many fronts: as an
investigative tool, a political expedient, a professional salve, a learning
instrument, a means to allay public disquiet. The capacity for function and
dysfunction is teased out, the many complex elements underpinning and
controlling state care are elucidated, not the least of which are the political
and professional agendas.
Considerable light is thrown on the tensions inherent in the
provision of state care and on its profound entanglements with, and dependence
on, economics, politics and societal values – a clear statement that such care
does not exist either in a vacuum or a professional capsule. Three chapters are
devoted to the north Wales tribunal, as the authors regard this as "an
excellent case example of the working of inquiries and an important event to
report on and analyse".
The authors support the need for residential provision, and
develop recommendations for the future from analyses of the past, making
crucial observations which are, in fact, very relevant to the care of all needy
and vulnerable individuals.
They have produced an exceptionally important and
enlightening work that should be required reading for all social work and
public service professionals and will no doubt become a classic in its field.
Alison Taylor was the child care social worker who
exposed abuse in North Wales children’s homes. She is now a novelist.