Sunday, January 28, 2007

Another Victoria Climbé?

2 Children die in Hackney, did anyone know they were at a risk? Rather than fear the predatory peadophile that they do, parents could do with knowing that their children are at greater risk from them, especially when it comes to murder.

A murder investigation has been launched after two young children were found dead in a house. Police investigating the deaths have arrested a 30-year-old woman at an address in Hackney, east London, where the children, a three-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy, were found. She remains in custody tonight.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the murders. He said officers were called to the house in Pembury Close at approximately 9.25am. An ambulance crew also rushed to the address but the children were pronounced dead at the scene. Detectives from the Child Abuse Investigation Team are leading the investigation.

Risk avoidance is impossible, but I do fear this mother will have come to the attention of a social worker who might have been trying to keep the family together, despite the desperation this woman must have been feeling. She may have known she was unlikely to be able to keep her children, felt the pain of being unable to care for them adequately, or maybe they just shouldn't have been left with her at all. Speculation is useless, & I shall pray for her & her children tonight, as well as anyone who has been working with her.
I will also be hoping that the public lynching of a social worker can be avoided, it might be deserved, but Hackney has some of the worst economic problems of all the London Boroughs & I know the Pembury Estate well; it would challenge the best of us.

This time I do know we don't need any new law or guidance, the 1989 Children Act is a sound piece of legislation, & there is no ambiguity about the process which should be followed for a child at risk in guidance. Any falling through the cracks is the result of caseloads, which are often overwhelming in such a borough. This leads to high staff turnover & the problems which accompany it.

The social services team who will take your call, should you ring about a child, is called the Access team. In a much quieter (than London) countyshire office I learnt that the Child Access team can recieve 150 calls a week & the child protection team could cope with about 2 of those being passed on, maybe. Some calls can be screened out; people can't have their children being taken into care because they left the windows open again! Some are malicious ex-es or neighbours, & some require a follow up which happens within 7 days. It does happen, but after that, the Access team keep as many cases as they can, because can't refer them all on, even child protection is a concern.

Family Aides & Family Centres are fantastic, often supporting children & their families in very practical ways. Sometimes services can be put in place, referrals made to other agencies, & families emerge from their crisis. But the threshold for making a referral to the Child Protection Team is too high, because there are no resources, & cases escalate while people work very hard to keep the family together. Sometimes communciation fails in a way which really fails a child, & I hope that isn't what happened because we should know better.

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