There are three important issues that underpin the context in which this appalling murder has occurred.
Firstly, a large part of a family social worker’s effectiveness is their instinct for when things don’t look right in a family. This ability, gained through experience, to form a view about the risks facing a child has been sorely undermined by the difficulty in securing face-to-face contact with children and parents during the pandemic.
Secondly, our research estimates that tens of thousands of children across the country are dropping off school registers each year. Children who are off-the-radar of teachers and services that notice and can help are extremely vulnerable behind closed doors.
Finally, over the last decade funding for local authority children’s services has dwindled in real terms as demand for help has risen. This has inevitably led to thresholds for accessing support from social care teams to become sky-high, with early intervention, when professionals can step into nip problems in the bud, withering away.
The National Children’s Bureau has warned about these problems repeatedly, four years ago we exposed the issue about funding and thresholds. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care needs to come up with recommendations that will help children at risk become everyone’s business, so that local authorities, schools, the police and health services can keep children safe at all times.”