Like many people today I read this report with great sadness:
Two aspects of the criticisms levelled at professionals struck me.
Firstly, in this climate of cuts, how will services ensure that this does not happen again? Social Workers, who I have regular contact with in my capacity as a Nursery Manager, are stretched to the limit. There are not enough staff to cover the workload so they have to make extremely difficult decisions around prioritising cases on a daily basis. Sickness levels are high because of the hugely stressful nature of the job and the blame apportioned to social workers when things go tragically wrong. There are now lower grade unqualified Social Workers taking up some of the case work (locally these are called ‘Social Work Resource Officers’) and although they do their best, they surely cannot provide the same level of service and thus the same level of child protection as qualified professionals. I worry that with swingeing cuts to the public sector there will be more moves towards employing a higher proportion of unqualified, cheaper staff.
The second thing that struck me was the culture of complaint there is these days and the impact this seems to have had in this case. This article details the way in which Khyra’s mother kept professionals at bay by making threats and complaints. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/27/khyra-ishaq-review
I can imagine how staff would feel reluctant to actively and aggressively pursue the mother with a complaint hanging over them. People fear for their reputations and their jobs. I have experienced this as a teacher with parents making complaints which are unfounded but are taken seriously. I have ‘backed off’ when I knew I was right. Here, though, the consequences were absolutely appalling.
And let’s not forget that at the end of the day it was Khyra’s family who abused and killed that innocent child, not social workers, teachers or home education support staff.