Over the last week or so the news headlines have included another child who has died despite “there being 18 possible times when help could have been given”. This case, like so many previously, was a tragedy. Before working in a school I would have heard the headlines and thought how awful it was and why weren’t people doing something, since working in a school I now think slightly differently.
I now know that as a school we do report things, we have robust systems in place for any staff member to report any concern upwards. We get them forms and decide, following the appropriate safeguarding guidelines, whether we need to speak to parents, contact social care or both. We do report things.
It can sometimes be difficult – you can’t ask a child leading questions and children are often more than unwilling to tell you anything. We can notice, we can chat, we can ask them to tell us about how something happened. We don’t promise not to tell anyone, we don’t promise to keep secrets, we have been trained, we do desperately want our children, all children to be safe.
What do you do when you have a feeling? A hunch? You can carry on being observant, you can carry on being a friendly face and building a relationship. You can work together with other professionals who work with the child or the family. We do not want any of our children to be “Child H” in a serious case review. I’m sure that all of the other services feel the same but still headlines say 18 (or whatever the latest number is) opportunities were missed.
Social care are also stretched. We work with some excellent social workers but the system seems to not want to keep children at Child Protection or Child In Need if they can avoid it. If this is because the child no longer needs protecting or is no longer in need, great, if it is because keeping them at this level costs money, that’s not great.
It seems that too much everywhere, in Education, Health and Social Care, comes down to money, to bodies on the ground who need resources and wages to do their jobs. Money that is not available. I don’t have any answers or practical suggestions, I can only do my job within the system as it is now. I am just concerned that children end up as Serious Case Reviews, these children are being let down. As well as being let down by the people who are bringing them up they are let down by an overstretched system run by overstretched people.