The murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes is shocking, the details which emerged in court almost too difficult to read.
The depressing reality is we have been here before, and lessons have not been learnt.
Arthur‘s death has highlighted, once again, significant failings within child protection services. It is too early to know exactly what went wrong, but already parts of his case feel familiar.
The inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbie, killed in 2000 by her great-aunt and her boyfriend, found a complete breakdown of child protection, with safeguarding services failing to work together, and numerous missed opportunities to save the little girl.
In 2009, the case of Baby P – Peter Connelly – found similar failings. The inquiry that followed his death in 2007 found incompetence among all the agencies which were supposed to be protecting him.
Over a decade later and we are being promised another national safeguarding inquiry to determine what happened, and what improvements are needed.
The gloomy truth is, Arthur’s death has re-exposed long-standing problems and pressures exacerbated by the pandemic.
Urgent investigations will also look at all the local teams in Solihull who knew about Arthur, to piece together why they didn’t realise he was facing such appalling abuse, despite concerns being raised by his family.
A lot of attention will turn to social services, not just in the West Midlands but across England.
The latest figures show there are 31,900 children and family social workers in England, each with a caseload of around 16 children.
It is a difficult and demanding job, made harder by a high turnover of staff.
Figures from the Department for Education show there are 6,113 vacancies.
What’s more, staff are often inexperienced and overstretched. Of those who left their roles, a third had only been in the job for two years or less.
There are many questions about the death of Arthur. Something went very wrong. But until we have answers from the various investigations, his murder remains a tragic reminder of why reform is desperately needed.
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