On the BBC News at Ten this evening the headline news story featured a picture of a beautiful blonde boy smiling happily at the camera looking very smart in his school uniform. Staring at this picture, it was very hard to believe that the boy had been tortured and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather. Details of the catalogue of offences leading up to his death must have made parents the nation and world over sick to the stomach. Drownings, beatings, poisoning, starvation, the list of torture this 4 year old boy suffered was endless. Social workers and teachers were all aware of these separate incidents but had not pieced the puzzle of neglect together. How they must shoulder the responsibility of his fate now must be anybody’s guess but I am glad I am not in their shoes. Apparently the mother was very good at keeping the authorities at arms length and giving them what they needed to hear. The outcome of the enquiry into the Baby P case recommended that social workers adopt a compassion combined with scepticism approach to enquiries. Read the full story on the death of Daniel Pelka here.
Having also watched tonight’s ‘Neighbourhood Force’, a programme following the staff of Birmingham City Council as they deal with the day-to-day issues of council tenants, it is clear that the system is still not right. The most memorable incident in tonight’s programme was the housing officer who was called to a flat after receiving a message about an abandoned dog. It turned out to be a serious child protection issue as the flat had a mother and newborn baby living with a boyfriend and his staffie dog in an environment where dog poo and wee littered the floor, even in the kitchen where they were preparing food and the baby’s bottles. I know from having children myself that within a day or two of giving birth a midwife visits your home followed a few days later by the health visitor. The baby in the programme looked at least a couple of months old so why had it taken an enquiry from the public about a totally unrelated incident to raise the alarm?
It is easy to point fingers at the social workers and individuals working for the authorities but it is the system as a whole that needs to be seriously examined. I suspect the root of all the problems can be found at Government cuts and an understaffed and overstretched care system.
A finger also needs to be pointed at society as a whole. Going back to Daniel Pelka who was killed by his parents, he lived in a terraced house with neighbours either side. Did they not hear his screams night after night? The teachers reported several occasions when he was raiding the school bins for scraps of food to eat and the mother explained it away with the excuse of an ‘eating disorder’. Too often we believe what we want to hear because the truth is too difficult and disturbing to comprehend. But when the truth concerns the safety and wellbeing of a child, there isn’t one adult that does not have a duty of care towards a child, whether they are a neighbour, teacher, social worker or passer by.
The housing officer in ‘Neighbourhood Force’ questioned whether she should still be doing that job as she approached 65 because society wasn’t getting any better, in fact she thought it was getting worse and found it depressing to witness.
It is a depressing conclusion to another awful day in British Society’s history. In remembrance of the little boy who died at the hands of someone who should have loved him the most, this blog is dedicated today to the NSPCC. So if you feel able to support their campaign to put an end to cases such as these please donate now.
Thanks for reading.