Poisonous Policy Failing Children

(I wrote this a while ago and forgot about it in my Draft folder.)

I woke this morning to the news screaming about more calls for inquiries, investigation and legislation to protect children from abuse. Organisations are failing, and have been for decades. Rules have been broken, nets have been slipped through, and “lessons” need to be learned.

I sighed.

The Children Act 1989 is now virtually 30 years old. It was a landmark piece of legislation introduced when the flavour from government had switched to hyper-regulation being able to solve everything. Perhaps we should have seen it for what it was back then: not a solution at all — but a bloody great big carpet to sweep all the foul-ups under.

It’s no coincidence that the National Curriculum came into being in 1988-`89. In theory, on paper, it should provided a baseline of quality upon which all children could be built from. Another net, perhaps. But as with all nets, getting the gaps to be the right size was always going to be the problem. Unlike a fishing net, which is left in the carefully trained, skilled hands of a fisherman, the net for the education of our children was fumbled by politicians.

Thirty years ago we had two of the biggest pieces of legislation for the protection and education of our children, and yet we have spent three decades failing them.

What have we learnt in all that time? There is a pattern. The more our successive governments are allowed to interfere with the serious task of child protection, the worse the situation seems. Take one simple example of the Tory obsession with privatisation.

G4S Oakhill

Rather than ensure that qualified, trained, and skilled, professional prison officers managed Oakhill, a prison for some of the most dangerous and at-risk children, it was sold off to the “heroes” of G4S. The reports from Ofsted and CQC spoke volumes of the horrendous mess that was made of that. Will anyone hold the government to account? No. All they do is call for “inquiries” and repeat that phrase which makes my blood boil: “lessons must be learnt,” as they quaff their tax-payer funded champagne.

In 2004 the Children Act was updated and reviewed, and as a writer myself I presume that a new draft should be an improvement. Right? Add tot he fact that we had years of working with the Human Rights Act (ECHR), Unicef Rights for Children, UN legislation, and so much more. You’d think there was simply no way a child could be at risk from anyone.

In 2014, the Children Act was renewed again, as if the UK was a hot-pot of ideas of how to protect children. Rich with ideas, policies, strategies and so much more. Just how many more times do you need to meet to talk about how to protect children?

And this is the cool hardy truth. We will spend £Billions on a paintjob for the Houses of Parliament; doing up a Big old Bell tower to please our Tourists (and offend poor Mr Rees-Mogg by its silence), and we will throw £hundreds of Millions at our Royal buildings, and we’ll find money to cover tax loopholes for the top 1%, and pay 10% payrises to politicians …

Whilst at the same time…

  • Millions of children live in poverty
  • Hundreds of thousands are homeless
  • Looked after children are quite literally dumped out on their own at 18

And above all…the most embarrassing truth of all…

NO matter how many rules or checks, DBS, legislations, policies and prodcedures we put in place, what it simple boils down to is people.

And we, as a nation, simply don’t care enough about our children. We make so many cuts to budgets we won’t even afford a free school meal, and we spend more on food for convicted people (including, ironically, paedophiles and child killers) than we do for children. We also strip back the number of staff to protect them to dangerous levels. We cut budgets to the police, so there is no-one to protect the children. We red tape social services into the ground, make it into a 9–5 job of hell, and leave Baby Peter, Daniel Pelka, and so on to be brutually abused and killed by their own flesh and blood. And it is at home where children are overwhelmingly at the most risk.

At home (if they are lucky enough to have one).

The one place where legislation never touches until after the fact. Until its too late. Until the self-privileged few seek to patronise the many and promise, that which they have the power, but have no plan nor proclivity, to provide. So they hide behind the poison of policy and the pride of party politics, whose eyes are set firmly on the prize of re-election.

And the children?

They simply don’t pay enough.

Until they pay with their lives — by which time, it’s too late.

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Self Published author, also writes as @inasmanywords. Campaigner for justice: especially supporting the falsely accused, and children.

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Colin Ward

Colin Ward

Self Published author, also writes as @inasmanywords. Campaigner for justice: especially supporting the falsely accused, and children.

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