In opposition, politicians demand more openness when it comes to child protection tragedies. By the time they are in government, as it became clear today, they want "closure". And well they might, because the longer the seemingly interminable Baby P saga continues, the more the politicians involved appear opportunistic.Politicians opportunistic..? Get out!
The things you learn in the ‘Guardian’, eh?
The coalition's publication of the two Baby Peter serious case reviews (SCRs) is on the face of it an exercise in transparency and openness, and as ministers put it, an attempt to achieve "closure".Only ‘on the face of it’..?
They add interesting detail, and in places they describe well the frightening complexity and difficulty of child protection work.They also tell us how woefully bad at it so many of those supposedly professional and experienced and qualified public servants are…
I mean, even when the mother puts her violent boyfriend’s name down as next of kin, these bungling ‘care professionals’ don’t twig!
But in truth they tell us little we didn't already know about the events leading to Peter Connelly's death, not least that his death was avoidable, and that errors by doctors and police officers – emphatically not just social workers – were in different ways responsible.But we didn’t know that.
We could guess and infer, oh, indeed. After all, it’s been a feature of many of these cases. But the whole point of this second release is to show that it wasn’t widely publicised that it wasn’t just social workers dropping the ball (if indeed they even knew there was a ball).
What's curious is that the first SCR, written under the auspices of Shoesmith, comes to the same conclusion about the culpability of the various Haringey safeguarding agencies, from Great Ormond Street hospital to the Metropolitan police.Gosh, I wonder why it would be in Shoesmith’s interests to spread the blame game a bit?
Gosh, I wonder why it would be in Balls’ interests to focus the blame on one department?
This raises the question why Balls, along with a compliant Ofsted, declared the first SCR to be inadequate, and ordered a second "official" SCR to be written.
This second report, at least in summary form, reframed Peter's death as essentially a failure of social work practice, and largely ignored the failings of the police and health services.
I see you’ve managed to answer that, at least:
Why did Balls work so hard to discredit the first SCR? It is easy to suspect that Balls was anxious to justify his sacking of Shoesmith, and distract attention from difficulties with Labour's child protection reforms, which were supposed to prevent the very inter-agency failings that the SCR described.Quite…
And yet, Patrick falls back on his mantra of ‘it was all the fault of the politicians!’ once more:
… behaviour of politicians in this case has been dismal, right from the start. It was David Cameron, whose cynical prime minster's question time intervention on Baby Peter in November 2008 set the frenzied and hysterical political tone of the ensuing debate.What the hell did you expect, Patrick? That this should all have been brushed under the carpet? That the incompetent Shoesmith should have been allowed to preside over yet more Baby Peters?
…given the epic mismanagement of the Baby P fallout, perhaps we should be asking, not for closure but what politicians can learn and do better.Politicians didn’t screw up and let a hopelessly-inadequate mother and her violent boyfriend kill anyone.
We should remember that.