This year marks the ten year anniversary of the death of ‘Baby Peter’. In 2007, at 17 months old, Baby P was found dead in his cot. In the months leading up to his death, Baby P suffered abuse by his mother; Tracey Connolly, stepfather; Steven Barker and his stepfather’s brother; Jason Owen. During this time, Baby P was reported to have been seen 60 times by various agencies and he was on Haringey Council’s child protection register, but sadly, the signs were failed to be spotted by all practitioners involved.
As a former safeguarding practitioner myself, I wonder what we have achieved over the last decade to better safeguard our children. I use the term ‘we’ with great purpose, as information sharing to safeguard those who are the most vulnerable is a responsibility for all; it’s about team work.
From what I can see, there is a triangulation of efforts from:
• central government – who have invested in improving policy and service delivery through three inquiries and a nationwide review of social care;
• local services – who continue to work tirelessly to deliver safeguarding services under budget and resource constraints with what appears to be ever increasing workloads; and
• compounding these efforts we have the media. This is our ‘weak spot’ which in my opinion, could be perceived as our point of vulnerability.
Within most, if not all serious case reviews (SCR) we have seen the media name and shame organisations, leaders and practitioners for their failings. My point here isn’t to criticise the press coverage of the Baby P case or similar SCRs, it is more about shedding light on the impact that the media plays beyond the articles that are published.
Articles naming and shaming social workers and police officers have reinforced a climate of fear affecting most, if not all agencies across the country. The challenge of the ‘blame approach’ is that it reinforces cultural barriers such as risk adversity, mistrust and confidence across partnership working. Perhaps we could re-think our media coverage around such cases, implementing appropriate and sensitive communication strategies that deliver the facts to limit unwanted impact.
Culture cannot be changed overnight, it’s a sensitive concept that requires time and an invested buy-in at all levels of seniority. In order to stand the best chance of safeguarding children we must be in a position whereby we are working effectively and efficiently as a team. The responsibility lies with central government, local places and the media to work together to change the conversation and make information sharing everybody’s business.