Said Lord Laming in his report of the Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie in 2003 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-victoria-climbie-inquiry-report-of-an-inquiry-by-lord-laming Since then, I have carried that mission, wholly and completely. I committed myself to that principle, and have shared it with countless organisations, professionals, and practitioners whilst delivering child protection and safeguarding consultancy, policy development and implementation, and training ever since. It was an excellent and thorough report that shaped mine and a generation’s work.
That was almost 20 years ago. Not enough has changed. Mistakes and oversights remain a feature of the landscape. Family-facing, management and leadership capacity is stretched to the limit within a climate of increasing demand. Yet we must continue to be vigilant, observant, demanding, and assertive when working with children and families, or coming into contact with them through any of life’s various activities. It still is, and so it should be, everyone’s role and responsibility. And within that principle we should all have equal power and place.
Theory and policy is one thing. Practice is the most important. This is the frequent pattern and trend of inquiries or reviews when things don’t work as they should in this field. It is taking appropriate and timely action that makes the biggest difference.
Today was one of those days when I stepped up. I had developed a concern and I made a personal report of the concern of a child, having taken what now feels like too long to do so. Watching and observing from a distance I had witnessed an extended period of unhealthy household behaviours through a lens of distant sceptical analysis. Being fully aware of the details of rising intervention thresholds and increasing caseloads and pressures on services, I was more than a little deterred from taking the action that I instinctively knew to be right and proper. That cannot be right – it doesn’t help any of our resilient agency. I hope that we all can work together better to encourage more of such dialogues, particularly around the fundamental basic right of children to be cared for and for them to thrive through their formative years.
Today I reported my concern about the welfare and possible neglect of that child. The process (of course) was careful, right and appropriate. I was supported to share my concerns, and to describe them specifically, accurately, and objectively. All information shared was confirmed. The next steps were outlined, and the important consents agreed. I was thanked for playing my part in sharing information, that would in turn be given to the relevant children’s services. The phone call ended. Then I cried, sat alone in the private room I used to make the call. I wondered why? It felt like one of the most important things I had done for quite some time. Because it was. It was also a difficult thing to do, even though I have done it before. An action that felt full of judgment, accusation, assumption, and raw emotions. Sentiments I recognise were around anger, and a sense of injustice, helplessness, and despair. All things that can get in the way of anyone, no matter how confident and experienced, taking the time to make a referral their business and to realise Laming’s mission.