Everybody’s business

The horrifying murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells make it
clear that a narrow approach to child protection will never be

Child abductions by strangers are rare and rarely directly
preventable or predictable. But a tight focus on known risk
certainly won’t prevent them. Most serious case reviews concern
children who were not in the safety net. We need to extend the net,
and involve the community, first nationally in a debate about the
shape of services, then locally in a debate about needs and
resources. It is only by creating safe communities for all
children, with a realistic understanding of risk and a protection
strategy which covers everyone, that we can hope to make more
children safe.

Whoever in government is still clinging to the idea that a new,
national child protection agency is the way forward – or the way to
be seen to be doing something – should drop it now.

But the current system’s failure to protect Victoria Climbi’ has
made change inevitable. A system must be found which helps
professionals work together, rather than making it all too easy not
to do so. Dealing with the risks facing children is about more than
intervening in abusive families and increasing vigilance against
paedophiles and murderers. It is about poverty, education, leisure,
supporting families, informing and empowering communities. It would
be simpler to make a new blueprint for dealing with known risk, but
it would miss both the preventable and the unpredictable.

The question we ask when children are murdered is frighteningly
wide in scope: what sort of society have we made, if this can
happen? We must not let fear stop us trying to answer it.

This week’s discussion document from the Local Government
Association, NHS Confederation and Association of Directors of
Social Services attempts to look at what the components of a
child-safe society would be. It is to be hoped it will influence a
debate that puts children – not media-led demands for action – at
its centre.

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