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Baby Peter and the uncertainty principle

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Mark Easton | 13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

When one sees the faces of those who tortured and ultimately killed Baby Peter, we are looking into the eyes of the devious. Tracey Connelly in particular was a skilled liar, able to deceive and manipulate others.

Tracey ConnellyChild abusers can often be very convincing. In Connelly's case, she created the illusion that she was anxious to co-operate with social services to protect her child when, behind closed doors, she was cruelly abusing him.

Such people might be described as sociopaths, individuals with an absence of the social emotions - love, shame, guilt, empathy or remorse - but with a clear facility to deceive and manipulate others. (I wrote about this last November, you may recall.)

The people we ask to spot the threat could hardly be more different - natural carers, people who easily empathise with others. In some ways, one might argue, there is a risk their belief in human nature might get in the way.

In his 2003 inquiry report into the death of Victoria Climbie, Lord Laming came up with the phrase "respectful uncertainty" to describe the attitude social workers need to strike in trying to spot an abuser: that they must be much more sceptical and mistrustful about what might really happening behind closed doors.

The death of Baby Peter, five years later, is cited as evidence that children's services did not learn that lesson. Social workers remained "over optimistic" as Lord Laming put it - too trusting.

Since then, the profession has been looking in the mirror - trying to understand why its assessment frameworks and organisational systems don't seem to work with abusive adults who are adept at lying and deceiving.

The conclusion they have come to is that the frameworks and systems themselves are part of the problem: that the protocols create a fixed view of a situation and new evidence is dismissed.

Recent guidance to front-line social workers says this (Safeguarding: Briefing [105KB PDF]):

• The single most important factor in minimising errors is to admit that you might be wrong.

• There is a tendency to persist in initial judgements or assessments and to re-frame, minimise or dismiss discordant new evidence.

As a recent bit of research into the subject puts it:

"[O]nce we have formed a view on what is going on, we often fail to notice or to dismiss evidence that challenges that picture."

Social work has been described as a child of cultural modernism (Psychosocial Assessment in Social Work [79KB PDF]) - its processes are driven by a belief that science and rationalism can identify the risk and lead professionals to the correct course of action.

Framework diagram by the Department of Health, 2000

This diagram published by the Department of Health in 2000 gives an idea of the analytical models that underpin good practice in social work.

The question, though, is whether the science might be wrong - that professionals are blind to the possibility that the theories of the classroom do not apply in the homes of some children or that the situation might change even while a child is known to be at risk.

To encourage social workers to challenge traditional approaches, there is new guidance available on how to spot the skilled liar - the sociopath.

Table showing two main social strategies

The idea of a "fresh pair of eyes" lies at the heart of Lord Laming's approach. High-quality supervision, he argues, is critical to good practice. Only with oversight will social workers "develop and maintain critical mindsets and work in a reflective way", it is argued.

Despite this, a recent survey of frontline social workers found that most felt their access to adequate professional supervision was no better now than it was when Victoria Climbie died in 2000.

And more than a quarter felt that the situation had actually worsened, with greater emphasis on bureaucratic goals and meeting targets rather than encouraging "respectful uncertainty".

Perhaps a quote from the American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey explains the respectful uncertainty principle best. "Genuine ignorance is profitable" he said back in 1910, "because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness".


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  • 1. At 2:03pm on 11 Aug 2009, delminister wrote:

    social services have continually failed and the fault lies with these do gooders that chop and change the goal posts.
    baby P's murderers should be facing longer prison time and hard labour.
    may be the re introduction of capitol punishment will help.

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  • 2. At 2:21pm on 11 Aug 2009, U14049534 wrote:

    1. At 2:03pm on 11 Aug 2009, delminister wrote:
    social services have continually failed and the fault lies with these do gooders that chop and change the goal posts.
    baby P's murderers should be facing longer prison time and hard labour.
    may be the re introduction of capitol punishment will help.


    In fairness to the justice system they have been handed the thoughest sentence in british law. The respective 5 and 12 year sentences widely reported in the media are a minimum term. whether they ever get out or not is entirley at the courts discretion & i strongly doubt they will ever be released.

    Moving on to the blog, if that bizarre triangle digram is supposed to be any kind of guideline for good practrice by the social work authorities its no wonder there's confusion in the system
    - it looks like a serious case of 'when consultants attack'.

    Perhaps if they worried less about advice and input from outside agencies and consultancies and listened more to their own experienced employees then the whole system would work better.

    I doubt anybody knows the answer, but i've worked in local government and I wonder how many top level social work managers have a background in social work, or even child care?

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  • 3. At 2:33pm on 11 Aug 2009, kaybraes wrote:

    The sentence handed out to these disgusting people is ludicrous to say the least; Connelly will probably now be released within two years, given a new identity, housed and paid by the state for the rest of her life. Much as I abhor the idea of the death penalty, for a crime of this nature it seems to be the only true justice. As for the social services , there should have been a purge of everyone who had involvement in the case, god knows they were paid enough for the job they failed to do. If as they claim their caseload was too large, they should have had the grace to admit they could not cope with the job and resign. However they chose to continue taking the salary while failing to do the job properly and should also be charged with neglect.

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  • 4. At 2:49pm on 11 Aug 2009, CComment wrote:

    I'm sure in most cases front-line social workers do a very difficult job very well. But in terms of the framework of rules they operate under, I wonder if there's too much emphasis in trying to ensure that parents and guardians are non-smokers, not obese and willing to espouse gay rights and not enough emphasis on ensuring these same reliable, upstanding, politically correct individuals aren't beating their kids up. Caledonian Comment

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  • 5. At 2:53pm on 11 Aug 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    Once again people can't fulfill their job roles properly because of form filling, targets and a serious lack of good management. The triangle diagram looks like it was produced by a £600 a day consultant on speed. We have too many so called chiefs in govt organisations and not enough indians who are too often given a poor standard of support or none at all.

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  • 6. At 3:49pm on 11 Aug 2009, jollymuddles wrote:

    Excuse my ignorance but where do you get a consultant for £600 a day?
    We currently pay £1500 - 2000

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  • 7. At 3:54pm on 11 Aug 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    This 'uncertainty principle' is nothing new. It is very similar to the 'consciousness-competence' principle applied to any profession. It's basic structure is:

    New starter= unconsciously incompetent
    Trainee= consciously incompetent
    Fully trained= consciously competent
    Exceptional performer= unconsciously competent

    Being consciously incompetent is considered better than unconsciously incompetent, as the person in question recognises his/her limitations and is open to seeking advice and guidence when uncertain. In the worst case people are unaware of their weaknesess and unable to critically assess their performance, which results in perpetuation of unsafe practices. At this level, supervision must be sufficiently close to recognise the errors early. If advice from a supervisor is actively sought, then the person has alredy reached the next level and support, instead of supervision, might be more appropriate.

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  • 8. At 4:40pm on 11 Aug 2009, Rhubidium wrote:

    Social Workers are in a no-win situation. They take kids into care, who would be borderline cases, and the media treat them like kidnappers, as a result they try to leave the borderline cases with parents, inevitably one or two serious abuses or murders take place, the media now switch to treating social workers like murderers, this results in the borderline cases being taken into care etc. etc. like a merry-go-round without the laughter.

    We, the public, and the media have to accept that there are some nasty verminous scum out there who will do these terrible things to their children, we cannot stop them all, we can only reduce it.

    Blaming social workers for this poor child's death only serves to diminish the responsibility and guilt of the actual murderers. I understand the anger of society over these events and the need to cast around for someone to blame but blaming the authorities will only lead to children being taken into care when it is not necessary and the next "kidnap scandal" to sell newspapers, around 18 months from now I should think.

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  • 9. At 4:43pm on 11 Aug 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    I think it is far more fundamental.

    Don't forget all social workers are now trained in universities, picking up a degree in social work (not the old 'CQSW'). Social workers are being trained not far from me.

    Most of the 'education' (they won't call it 'training') is political. Example academic module.... 'theorising and challenging oppression'

    The courses are 'values based' ie rather than aimed at technical competencies, the students are being moulded (indoctrinated?) into acceptable values, for example 'anti-oppressive' practice.

    Let's be clear: social work education has not changed one jot. They are entirely satisfied that they themselves are the victims of an unfounded media frenzy / moral-panic. There is no intent to change in response to these very serious incidents. Please do not think that any changes are taking place.

    Remarkably the government response is to promise to spend even more on yet more social workers.

    A more radical and effective response would be to open this up to normal people. Lets have some people who have NOT done social work degrees working with the kids/families in a positive way, perhaps mature experienced parents. Lets have some retired police detectives working in the social services department to provide the sometimes necessary use of authority, necessary scepticism and investigative skills if the kids are at risk.

    End the social worker monopoly and open it up.

    (There are some early signs of this approach)

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  • 10. At 5:17pm on 11 Aug 2009, SSnotbanned wrote:

    The 2000 diagram,perhaps unintentionally,highlights one of the problems.The child's (''core regard''/welfare(?)),represented by a circle in the middle,is enclosed by the triangle of social work concepts thought relevant to the child's general well-being.
    It gives the appearance of 100% success in recognition of the child's needs,but similar to say,profiling,in reality,such rates are unachieveable here for various reasons.

    For example,change(of various sorts,e.g.parental social mobility, might leave a ''hole'' in the pyramid,peer pressure or other influences,say through fashion/celebrity magazines don't seem to figure).

    By this,I mean the diagram seems to represent a formula where the triangle always remains solid,whereas I think it is reasonable to accept that particular changes in some factors would,in some circumstances, break the triangle.

    This constant ''inward look'' is also an immediate and existing problem with other forms of profiling.

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  • 11. At 5:26pm on 11 Aug 2009, stanilic wrote:

    It is easy to judge others and even easier to scatter blame about like confetti.

    I think most social workers do a good job within the limitations that that the bureaucracy sets them. In my view they should be freer to make their own decisions; in other words be treated by their management as the trained professionals that they are. At the moment they are as limited as the bureaucracy that controls them and there is nothing more limited and limiting than a bureaucracy.

    There are always the sociopaths and there is not one of us whose has not been led up the garden path by one. Personally I would string them all up at a crossroads but such arbitrary behaviour is to be deplored.

    What angered me about the Baby P case was not that mistakes had been made as there but for the grace of God goes anyone of us. No, what angered me was that at the outcome of the Climbe affair Haringey management was whitewashed whilst the blame was put on junior staff who were obviously out of their depth. Then after umpteen reorganisations of the bureaucracy and the associated expenditure it happened all over again. This was management failure plain and simple but would the management resign? No fear: as they had ticked all the boxes and had the certificates to prove it.

    Our country suffers from appalling management. Ambitious people are encouraged to get to the top and are elevated there without necessarily ever doing a job which requires firm commitment, the ability to produce lasting results and the need to make a pay day. You just look at their CVs and it is eighteen months here and eighteen months there; always moving on before the consequences of their decisions become apparent. This is where the problems lie and there are massive problems as we know nothing works properly. This creates all sorts of opportunities for the sociopaths to play fast and loose with the rest of us.

    Is it any wonder our country is in such a shambles as to my way of thinking the sociopaths have taken control.

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  • 12. At 5:40pm on 11 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I think if there is even an inkling of possible abuse, children should be immediately removed from the household, or if unclear then cameras should be placed in the house. A year or more of surveillance will give social workers an understanding of a parent's M.O. and how they deal with stress. If you use the money at the beginning of a child's life you may save them from abuse and/or incarceration later life. I believe it would be cheaper to intervene earlier than later. In addition, all parents should have to have some form of training in early childhood development. If high school students are asked to do some community care, shopping for seniors, gardening, helping out in daycare, nursing homes, this teaches a child to be of service to others and gives them caring skills. Even giving children little responsibilities like feeding the goldfish, taking out the trash etc. is early preparation for taking on greater responsibilities as adults. Many parents curtail their child's development by either not giving them responsibility or giving them too much responsibility. Parents need to be educated about children's developmental stages and need Nanny 911 training in order to be effective at parenting well. I also think the school should be more proactive in children's lives. They could coordinate and oversee, a vulnerable child's care ensuring that they get doctor, dental care and that they get extra tutoring and after school activities.
    Many parents are clueless about raising their own children. Intervention needs to start very young. Also, now that its summer and I see harried parents trying to deal with their children, the one piece of advice I can share is that children need a lot of activities. Parents should plan their children's summer with inexpensive trips and activities. For example, free days at museums, beach days, swimming days, park days, exploring the city days, free concerts, farmer's market day. If you engage children and ask them to help you they are much happier. Ask your child to find the rhubarb or the turnips. That way they learn their vegetables and open up their experience. Children need and enjoy activity. Let them do most of the easy work while you sit back and enjoy them. For example, "Here's the duck food, I'll be sitting on the blanket watching you so you don't fall in while you feed the ducks." Kids are so fun and interesting to be around. You have to get involved and appreciate their unique abilities.

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  • 13. At 5:44pm on 11 Aug 2009, Carrots are not the only vegetables wrote:

    As someone who is against the death penalty on principle, I realise that this means that vile, evil individuals must continue to draw breath.

    But the idea that the perpetrators of such a callous murder should ever be freed is utterly repugnant.

    And, I hope that the prison authorities have recruited a dietician to establish the calorific and nutritional needs of the criminals concerned, and will ensure that they receive NOT ONE CALORIE more than that needed to sustain their lives.

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  • 14. At 6:13pm on 11 Aug 2009, fresherhomes wrote:

    why do tax payers have to keep these sort of people if you can call them people it makes me feel so sick, when you have children as parents we are there to protect them

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  • 15. At 7:22pm on 11 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Carrots and Other Vegetables,
    I agree that their acts are heinous but what type of nightmare are people living in to perpetrate such heinous acts? The only solution, I feel, is in prevention and education. The more education and awareness a parent receives the better ability they may have to catch themselves before they commit such a heinous act. Many children grow up never taking responsibility for their own acts and prison is the first time they actually had consequences for their bad behavior. Helping the next generation of children become more enlightened and better parents, will help a generation of children. I don't really care how long these parents spend in jail but at least they should learn how to be a better human being while they're there.

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  • 16. At 7:28pm on 11 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    These people are part of our society whether we accept it or not. They are there too remind us to do better and to reach out to every child. A person doesn't just grow up and decide to become a child abuser. They've often had a long,sad history of abuse themselves. As long as we choose not to spend money on educating and improving the welfare of children, these heinous acts will continue. Early intervention is key to helping the lives of children and it can't be done on the cheap.

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  • 17. At 8:54pm on 11 Aug 2009, silver6054 wrote:

    Joan Olivares wrote:
    I think if there is even an inkling of possible abuse, children should be immediately removed from the household, or if unclear then cameras should be placed in the house.
    What a great idea. Allow any social worker to decide that there is "even an inkling of possible abuse" (the mother looks like one of my old teachers who was a bully, the father looks tired, maybe he is on drugs, they have a Conservative party sticker on their car, etc) and take the kid away to a foster home, or a state-run center, both of which are always much better than leaving the kid in the inkling of possible abuse home. And if there is less than an inkling of possible abuse, put them under constant video monitoring for a year. After all, if they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide.

    The real truth is that there is a balance between protecting children and protecting the innocent families. Unless we take all children away from all parents at birth, sometimes a family member will hurt or kill a child.

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  • 18. At 9:05pm on 11 Aug 2009, CecilParkinspace wrote:


    Nice comments. Especially the bit about "18 months here,18 months there".
    The UK has turned into a world of Croziers. I just saw Iannucci's new film last night. He got it about right.

    "The more education and awareness a parent receives the better ability they may have to catch themselves before they commit such a heinous act."

    Are you joking?

    Yeah,like my mum was just on the point of sticking a cigarette in my eye and she stopped herself cos she had received just enough 'Education' to stop herself.
    Nonsense. An insult to the MILLIONS of NORMAL mums and dads everywhere that raised their kids who didn't turn into a Thief,Rapist,Killer.
    Yeah OK,they might have strange views, a lot of them(i don't mean mine btw!) (Religious,Race or otherwise). But how 'Uneducated' do you have to be to turn out the way some people do?

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  • 19. At 9:17pm on 11 Aug 2009, CecilParkinspace wrote:


    What makes you think that a Labour government(of all people) doesn't spend millions on improving the welfare of children?

    If the councils prefer to spend it on consultancy,6 figure middle management wages,then that is their own decision.
    The money is there,just like the money is there for a whole host of things in society.

    It gets siphoned.

    "Part of the same society" comment,as if we all live in this nice cosy Stoke Newington world and theres a few stray people causing chaos in society.

    If anybody wanted to stop this kind of behaviour (its not plural by the way,anyone reading),then simply stop putting chemicals in food,stop showing violence on TV,stop showing depressing soap operas. Theres loads.
    You yourself (and,i imagine,plenty of liberals) suggested getting the kids to go and get the rhubarb.
    I bet you any money that you have got,that not one of these people have bought any rhubarb or cooked it.
    But they will all have eaten monster munch.

    In case there is any middle class Labour politicians and consultants reading this (and not eating a Tapas in a nice restaurant)...
    Its actually a cesspit outside of the world you inhabit.
    Thats why these crimes happen.

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  • 20. At 9:47pm on 11 Aug 2009, CecilParkinspace wrote:

    This poverty argumnent is c**p too.
    I grew up in a council flat,my dad was a dustman (then redundant in the 70s=unemployed.i got free school dinners:Yesss!!)),my mum cooked all the dinners.She was just Victim Of Sexism housewife. Just bog standard.
    Neither me ,my brother, or my sis have got criminal records. We've never mugged anyone. Not addicted to drugs and are not by any stretch obese through laziness and junk food.
    Poverty is not an excuse for any of this stuff.
    Sorry,thats a fact.

    You show me a burglar and i'll show you someone with expensive trainers on.I know loads of them.Unlike politicians.

    "18 months here,18 months there".
    Desperate greedy bores.
    I know people who were Socialists in the early 80s,got jobs in the health service and now they lick the behinds of people who say the health service is inefficient etc,and that it needs Part-Privatising,an Internal Market.(oh and by the way,the wifes cleaning company just got awarded the contract)
    Well thanks for your commitment!
    They keep their jobs while 'rationalising' others.
    These are the desperate turncoats who direct policy in this country.

    Politicians are in a different world.
    "Jack Straw was contactable to make the decision to release R Biggs from his holiday" (see BBC news story about PM holiday and who is running it while hes an holiday.)
    He was so out of touch with the public (right or wrong) that he had to do a complete u turn.
    IE: The public decided to release R Biggs.

    Imagine that though:the public getting angry about politicians and the justice system being out of touch,while MPs are getting their second home decorated.

    Labour and M-Class M-Management. Clueless.

    Im a grandfather so i know a bit about kids myself. And I am a dyed in the wool leftie,not a reactionary. So,no,im not bothered about hanging anyone.I can understand most of the publics anger over stuff like this.
    I,personally,just cannot deal with any more pussyfooting from middle-class,fusion-restaurant-frequenting,catchment-area,phoney liberals masquerading as caring.They just constantly evade making tough decisions.
    Education. Health. You name it.
    As long as their kids end up in a nice school....
    'Liberals' now a bad name cos of people corrupting the true meaning.
    A liberal = Someone feathering their own nest whilst sitting on the fence and not rocking the boat. And loads of other metaphors and cliches meaning Wet-Lettuce.

    The general public are ungrateful arent they.
    Just like a mob aren't they?

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  • 21. At 9:47pm on 11 Aug 2009, CecilParkinspace wrote:

    PS: Sorry peeps,i may have gone slightly away from the topic at points.

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  • 22. At 11:45pm on 11 Aug 2009, Rodders2210 wrote:

    Arguing for purges every time there is a failing within the social services will do nothing but dissuade young people from entering a career that is lowly paid and heavily criticised. Whilst the social sector seems to be slated in every corner of the press on a regular basis, anyone with a background in this area would know that it is far from easy, and that the vast majority of staff are worked hard for little reward.
    Inevitably there will be cases where a child's abuse goes unnoticed. This may not be a comfortable fact to accept, and we should constantly work to improve the system, but it is a harsh reality. We need to get a little perspective, and stop jumping to damning conclusions about people who, on the whole, do a very good job.

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  • 23. At 00:17am on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Siver6054,
    Social workers don't just rip children out of their homes willy nilly. The family in question often has a long history of complaints filed on them and social workers have generally spent countless hours and numerous visits to the house. My point is that its better to immediately protect the child, make assessments and provide services for families in need. Many parents with loving intentions harm their children by not providing a stable home and clearly defined limits and consistency. This is a more subtle aspect of child care that requires certain "tricks of the trade" that most parents don't possess. My hat goes off to the millions of parents who raise emotionally healthy future citizens but for those who are clueless and need help, then society should help them acquire skills needed to raise their own family ,or not, depending on the individual situation.

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  • 24. At 00:33am on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Parkinspace,
    I agree that poverty or even wealth is no excuse for such heinous behavior and the government spends a lot helping families in need. However, there is a cycle of abuse that seems to recurr if people are unconscious about the abuse they heap on others. Unless you're an enlightened individual and get yourself the help you need to end this cycle of abuse then we, as a society, need to help families learn to cope with the stress in their lives. I believe that is through education
    and support. People aren't born caretakers. They might have the best intentions but they need skills to go along with their good intentions.
    Training people to be good parents doen't necessarily come naturally to some people. Sometimes they will never make adequate parents. I'd rather see that the best interests of the child come first. Protect children first, sort out the details later.

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  • 25. At 00:42am on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear CecilParkinspace,
    I learned a lot and I believe I became a better parent after I went through a teacher training course. You learn all about developmental stages and how children learn. The knowledge is invaluable. So yes, I believe people can become better parents with new knowledge and a little foresight.

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  • 26. At 02:04am on 12 Aug 2009, twilkinson wrote:

    Even though it is cold comfort, I will tell you in the US the police wouldn't even have caught the perpetrators. Often the family has to prod the police to solve cases like this, and if the family themselves are the murders, they're certainly not going to pressure the police to solve the case.
    Our judges too, will rarely remove a child from his/her home, even if a doctor opines that the child is being abused. It seems the judiciary is willing to err on the side of the parent even if it results in injury to the child.
    I don't know the answer to these types of problems but I hope the criminals in this case are jailed for a very long time.

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  • 27. At 03:31am on 12 Aug 2009, tarquin wrote:

    So basically I should be a social worker..

    I'm distrustful and cynical - but the idea of caring for people professionally is not appealing to one such as me, meanwhile those who like to care are naturally more trusting - how ironic

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  • 28. At 05:40am on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Twilkinson.
    I disagree with the police not catching parents who abuse their children in the U.S. Laws are very stringent here regarding the abuse of children. You make a good point though in that the judiciary often sides with the parents in these matters which is why so many young people have serious emotional problems because they weren't removed from the home when they should have been. If society wants to continue relatively smoothly as its been then this issue needs to be addressed because there are so many angry, disturbed children who will grow up in ten years angrier and even more disturbed. To me, this is the issue of the century and is why the world is so mentally unwell. Abuse of all forms needs to end.

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  • 29. At 08:54am on 12 Aug 2009, mikeyawheel wrote:

    Sarah Miller's report on today's BBC news front page about social workers in Luton ends

    But despite the pressures of the job, many of the social workers in Luton remain committed to what, for most, is a vocation."There are days when you think, 'What am I doing?', when your views are over-ridden by process and procedure," says Sancha Thomas. "But it's what I've always wanted to do and when you see a picture of one of your children thriving in foster care, it's worth it."

    Depressing that this seems to be the best outcome imaginable rather than the child thriving in her own home amongst her own family ...

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  • 30. At 09:15am on 12 Aug 2009, busloadofffaith wrote:

    Interesting article in The Guardian by Paul MacInnes today about optimism which supports your article. It quotes Chris Goodall on which suggests that we have a hard-wired bias to accord undue value to the most satisfactory possible outcome. It says that the Department of Transport's guidance document also warns against 'the demonstrated, systematic tendency for project appraisers to be overly optimistic." It's not just a matter of people empathising - thought this may be an additional factor - it's the way our brains work.

    Interestingly too, the structures and interventions outlined are, as you say, highly rational, scientific and empirical, yet the culture of social work is relativistic, post-structural and multi-cultural. It can't be easy weaving through these different methodologies.

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  • 31. At 09:52am on 12 Aug 2009, U14099710 wrote:

    I've been a social worker for 5 years and throughout that time I haven't seen a penny above what I do get paid that constitutes the 'big salary' that people above feel that we get to do a job 'we fail to do'. We are considerably underpaid considering the stress and years of training we put it into perspective, if I was a doctor or lawyer, i would have done the same amount of training that I have now but be getting paid about £10,000 - £15,000 grand a year more. I certainly don't do this job for the money. I do it because I want to work with children and families, primarily to keep families together (if it is safe to do so) and if it's not, then to help children thrive in alternative home environments. The triangle above, if used as guided, is actually a VERY good and helpful tool to ensure that all aspects of family life are looked at when assessing the needs of children and their families. I myself would welcome a drop in the amount of paperwork that I have to do as I strongly believe that I am more likely to be able to get to know and engage with a family if I spend time with them, more than I am writing about them. To those people above who are so ready to criticise us social workers I ask the following.....Are you aware that we protect and help thousands of children a year with very effective and positive outcomes, probably not, but where does this ever get reported so you could know about it? Do you do everything in your job 100% right 100% of the time or do you, because you are human, make mistakes? Have you ever stepped inside a social work office and observed the day to day stress that we are under to protect EVERY child that exists in our areas? Do you, in fact, have any idea of what our job entales or do you just listen to the media vilification? Please people, have an opinion by all means but please let this opinion be well informed and based on truth not hype and rumour and vilification. If this does not start to happen, and soon, many social workers will contonue leaving the profession due to the increasing stress of just having to defend ourselves, and/or people will cease to enter it all together. This leaves even less people available to protect the vulnerable children in our world who so desparately need this protection. Thank you.

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  • 32. At 09:58am on 12 Aug 2009, elfrieda wrote:

    surely if a child is on the "at risk" register ,why cannot a weekly or two weekly checkup be made seen by a doctor and physically checked for abuse, oh i forgot the pc and human rights thing, ok lets leave the poor little soul with their tormentors in case we upset them . but i guess money comes into it , and of course the service is already overwhelmed etc etc , but have no fear "lessons will be learned " its amazing how much cash can be found for quango this and that , or for new wallpaper .

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  • 33. At 11:13am on 12 Aug 2009, tarquin wrote:


    You need to do ten years of training to be a social worker?

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  • 34. At 11:20am on 12 Aug 2009, U14099710 wrote:

    Dear Tarquin. Re the training.... it's 8-10 years to become a fully qualified level 4 social worker.......I did 3 years training to become qualified at level 1 and 2 and have completed 5 years of post qualifying training. I am now a level 4 so able to take on the most complex cases. I have another 18 months left to do my practice teacher training. As far as I am aware from my doctor friend, in all it's the same number of years just in a different set up.

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  • 35. At 12:14pm on 12 Aug 2009, newSweetMonkey2 wrote:

    Firstly woman (as they rarely have a male partner that sticks around) who are identified by healthworks or teachers to be either low IQ or low level mental health and are pregnant should be monitored closely, from the time they give birth to bringing up the child. They should have lessons how to care and emotionally connect with their child.

    Though even if all this was put in place there are so many other factors which contribute to neglect of chidren it will never be stopped completely and then the authorities have to step in - but again if they take away a child too soon they are condemned, and if they leave the child with the family it could have terrible consequences. I would hate to have to put in that position and have to make a decision which could be a disaster if wrong.

    May be parenting classes for teenagers where again they can be identified easier if there is a mental health problem. Clearly there was in this case and I suspect in a lot of violent crime. Intervention earlier, identifying these people and getting them into the correct programme before this happens.

    The same sort of thing happened with Karen Mathews who obviously was below average IQ and I suspect most of the men she went with. It's just a downward cycle of despair which ends up with excessive drinking, taking drugs, viewing porn and raking in the benefits.

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  • 36. At 12:17pm on 12 Aug 2009, Carrots are not the only vegetables wrote:

    With a heavy heart and shame that we have come to such a place, I find myself wondering how many children were last night left in 'at risk' situations (never mind actually being abused) simply because councils are afraid of being sued when the parents' innocence is demonstrated.

    (twilkinson's reference to American 'disinterest' in such cases is surely not unrelated to the litigious nature of US society.)

    I would rather see children taken into care without cause (as would certainly happen) than that ANY child suffer because of a social worker's fear of getting it 'wrong'.

    And NO social worker should maintain personal contact with a particular case beyond 15 months' duration, to help avoid the risk of 'going native' and becoming too friendly with the parent/guardian.


    Closing down children's homes (on the basis that children are invariably better served in a family environment) was pretentious, politically-correct nonsense, and serves only to place a vulnerable child in unremitting terror, with not even a peer group to whom to turn for comfort.

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  • 37. At 12:25pm on 12 Aug 2009, unbewildered wrote:

    "Respectful Uncertainty" Hmmmmmm.
    I was married to social worker and watched as the career and incompetent performance driven managment brutalised her and made her unable to see anyone (including me) with a view other than "potential abuser". Not only did this destroy our family life - she is now the archetypal demon - ex wife (I get letters of sympathy from Heather Mills) but the lives of others to. I've seen her write reports before a visit was made to justify a decision made long before.
    Social work (and while we are at it family law)are a complete disgrace int his country and need to be addressed. What do we really want for our familes and young people - what do we really want social services to do and how will we empower them to do it? Avoiding the really big hard questions can't go on any longer - can it?

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  • 38. At 2:16pm on 12 Aug 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    There are many comments here about the ability of young parents to properly raise, care for, be there for a child. This has been a topic since time began, but I think there is food for thought in that argument too.

    I see a lot of parents who cannot cope, but they put their kids first. I see single parents who say 'I could kill for a good nights sleep', but they never do - they love their kids. Good parents are all over, everywhere, but of course, never get noticed. Only the bad ones get that privilege.

    All parents have been children themselves, and I think this needs to be looked at. What sort of upbringing did Connelly have? She was taken away by Social Services herself as a child due to neglect brought upon her by her mother. What sort of message did Connelly receive about a mothers responsibility toward her own child? Her experience showed her nothing to be proud of, I expect. Connelly's mother was a drug addict and alcoholic.

    She was placed into care until she was, legally, able to fend for herself. This, again, is an issue. What is to say that just because you have attained 16 years of age, that you are automatically a good upstanding adult, capable of making all those decisions.

    Most of us attain our eduction through our childhood years. Social eduction, as oppose to academic education, is generally provided by our parents and peers. That structure is natural and has worked for millenia - each person in a child's life being a role model that benefits the child's welfare or learning.

    This seems not to have happened in Connelly's case. Her mother was a drunk and a drug addict, although the specific substance is not mentioned. What help was given to Connelly in her early years? She was placed into care. What role models did she have?

    Our society is broken, and it is that way because it is micro-managed when things are seen to be wrong, but wrongly managed when things actually go wrong.

    I've aimed this at Connelly herself, but there are, of course, Barker and Owen - they were undoubtedly an influence on Connelly. What is their background?

    Parents that have, themselves, been a victim of abuse during their own childhood, specifically those that have then been taken into care as kids, would be more likely to mature with a loathing for Social Services, especially if they were let down by the process. They'd maybe even develop a fear of it. Someone who was failed by the system is worse off - likely to totally disregard or manipulate the system in some warped self preservation mentality. Couple that with the fact that Connelly had no regard for childhood because of her own experiences, and anyone with a modicum of common sense would see she was a risk.

    But common sense does not prevail when micro-management and rule books to fit all occasions are in play.

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  • 39. At 2:49pm on 12 Aug 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    15. At 7:22pm on 11 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:
    "...Many children grow up never taking responsibility for their own acts and prison is the first time they actually had consequences for their bad behavior...I don't really care how long these parents spend in jail but at least they should learn how to be a better human being while they're there..."

    Hi Joan.
    Agreed, but to add, in support of my previous post, it should never get that far - prison I mean. Being a decent human being is something that our parents, family and peers should be indoctrinating into our children. When this doesn't happen we end up with dis-functional children who can grow up to be dis-functional parents.

    I don't know what the answer is, but as with most things in life, education (social education) is important. Where this is missing, the person affected needs coaching and positive role models to adapt otherwise they don't have anything to base their behaviour upon.

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  • 40. At 3:09pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I think the trend of keeping children in abusive families and the closing of children's homes might have more to do with saving money than anything else. As a teacher I was warned not to let parents know about special services the school could provide for their child at no cost because the school district didn't have the money to pay for it. It's such a travesty that children have to endure years of mental suffering when they could have had strategic help when they're young that would have given them the skills and tools they needed to become caring, productive members of society instead of sociopaths. I also feel that social workers are overworked and need help. If the school could interview a vulnerable child every week as well as coordinate services,like counseling,tutoring, activities, I think this would be a big help to the social workers who could receive a weekly log of a child's general well being. This service could be done as an internship by a clinical psychology student from a local college or even a parent volunteer. To me, schools are the best place for various services because apart from the home, children spend a large portion of their day at school. I just feel that the more eyes watching a child's well being, the more involved a community becomes in each child, the greater likelihood they will have to succeed and live a fulfilling life.

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  • 41. At 3:42pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I think there is emotional damage that occurs early in a child's life that can't be repaired, that's why early childhood is so critical and as a society, we need to get it right. These are the most formative years of a child's development and they are the basis for all future healthy development. Intervention at this stage is critical to a child's well being.

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  • 42. At 4:22pm on 12 Aug 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    40. At 3:09pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:
    "...I think the trend of keeping children in abusive families and the closing of children's homes might have more to do with saving money than anything else..."

    Joan, I agree. It comes down to money all too often. Why?
    Is it because everything we do in business today is costed down to the last paperclip or phone call? The emphasis is wrong, misplaced or simply ignored in favour of keeping within budgets. From a business perspective, this is best practice, but when people, particularly vulnerable people, are concerned, there should be no such limit as a budget.

    You mention schools, and I agree there too. Schools are so important as a stable influence on children. Admittedly, this would not have helped in Peter Connelly's case as he was too young to enter the school system, but go back 15 years or so, and where was the support for Tracey Connelly? I don't want to sound like I'm taking pity on her, considering what she has done, or allowed to be done, but it should not be disregarded. Her upbringing must be considered - she is, as are we, a product of our childhood, our family, our society.

    Social services are important, but they should not be the front line. That role should be provided by the daily constants in life. For children, that is parents, family, peers, schooling. I remember having counsel available to me at school, albeit upon request. There was also a scheme where teachers could refer any child to counsel if they deemed it necessary. This is the front line, and Social Services should be there, ready, but in the background, to support the infrastructure of the parent-family-peer-school system.

    It's too late for Peter, but if the right lessons can be learned, it might not be in vain.

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  • 43. At 4:58pm on 12 Aug 2009, KennethM wrote:

    I suppose it is the usual BBC blindness that makes you write a blog like this. And nothing I or anybody else will write here (if you read it) will make any difference. I suppose it is endemic in the BBC. You seem to see the solution and problem as all being with the public services. If you were reading up until this point, I presume you have stopped now.

    I shall continue regardless. I fear that tragedies like this, albeit extremely rare, will not be prevented until we focus responsibility back onto the family. I am just not talking about close relatives where there may be dysfunctional behaviour, what I am saying is that most people have uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews as well as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers etc.

    Self policing within a family is something that has been weakened through increased mobility. However it is been much further weakened by the State taking more and more responsibility for private lives, letting the rest of us off of the hook. Add to that the elimination of the family as an economic and political unit (we all vote and pay taxes as individuals), what we have is a whole load of single people (whether they are married or not) with an individual relationship with the State; and the more the State take responsibility for us, the less responsibility we take for ourselves and our kin.

    What is more, if family members were held responsible for the bad apple in their midst – and I mean financially responsible as well as morally - I think there would be less need to look at the wider family, as things would be sorted out closer to the source and the problem would be less likely to be passed across the generations. Within the family we potentially have a massive police force ready to nip problems in the bud.

    What worries me now is that the main broadcaster in the UK, the BBC, has a tendency not just to report facts but also to pass its own comments. This is bound to have an affect on us all. Companies spend vast amounts of money to get ads on tv, radio and the internet, so we know that what appears, even in this blog, will make a difference.

    While the BBC concentrates solely on the responsibility of the state and ignores other vital players and especially the family, this has a tendency to feed back to the public and back to politicians and yet again we see policy itself being driven by the media and yet more identikit political parties all saying virtually the same thing.

    I think the safest thing to do is keep your comments to yourself as I believe, over time, this kind of thing damages our society.

    Of course, like everybody else, I so wish this terrible tragedy had never happened.

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  • 44. At 5:25pm on 12 Aug 2009, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    Unfortunately U14099710 (#31) we don't tend to hear many of the stories of social services 'effective and positive outcomes', but are instead bombarded with enough tales of the way that political dogma seems to increasingly dictate who feels the sharp end of the parenting police to start believing that at least some of them may have a foundation in fact.

    A child like Baby P can live for months in a hovel surrounded by flies, faeces and no doubt this will be overlooked as (in another case from a few years back) 'just how working class people live', and yet a disproportionate amount of time seems to be dedicated to harassing smokers, 'the obese' and those with traditional views on religion, homosexuality etc when in reality these are not child protection issues and should be no business of the State. (The day I see an anorexic child removed from the parents who've encouraged her through obsessive dieting and negative body comments is the day I'll possibly countenance the idea that an 'obese' teen in a loving and well-run home is in 'immediate danger' and warrants removal).

    Of course it's not about that - the head of the LGA himself stated that the targetting of non-abusive parents under the minutiae of the 'Every Child Matters' framework was more about 'setting an example' - but then as always it's targetted at the wrong people; the likes of Tracey Connelly seem to be too deluded or too indifferent to be fazed by the prospect of losing their children, and given her narcissistic personality type may even see it as an advantage.

    The simple truth is that there are too many children being pushed out by the wrong type of people, usually for the wrong reasons (benefits, access to housing, lack of alternative options, the commodification of every aspect of society). Given that these types of people (the slovenly, criminally-minded, abusive, workshy dregs of society) have not only been allowed to thrive unmolested by successive Governments but also statistically produce many more children than those who value education and stability, I fear that it's already much too late and that within a few years the problem will reach nightmarish proportions.

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  • 45. At 6:22pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear SHLA2UK,
    Hi! Finally, I can agree wholeheartedly on the points you make in #39. You're absolutely right. That is why I feel good teachers are well placed at sniffing out children who are in need of services and bringing care down to the school level. This makes sense to me because then the whole community can rally around the child to help him. For children who are vulnerable or just need a little boost from services. If say, the soccer coach knows that Peter received a C on his last math exam and he gives him words of encouragement for the next exam, that would go a long way to help a child's self esteem. If parents can't give children the positive help that they need then I think the community can step in to do that. Recently a smart student I know failed algebra. I asked my brother to tutor him over the summer because I felt he also needed some strong male influence. The few times my brother helped him he brought his grade up to an A. This is the type of strategic intervention that can really make a difference in a child's life. The fact that he feels the love and support of my brother and myself. Our influence helps his mother cope but it also empowers him because he knows all of us are rooting for him. I believe all children need some support in their life. Sometimes the support is quick and immediate, sometimes it takes longer but these little interventions can make a huge difference in a child's life.
    One thing schools could do is to show off the talents of their students more by public concerts, science, literature workshops. Send the students out to show or teach the community what students are learning in school. For example sending the drama club to act out a short play at the local mall. The students attract a crowd. The audience applauds and is entertained. The students receive attention and kudos for their hard work. It's a win-win for all involved. Students feel they play an important role in their community. These are simple things that can be done that don't cost much and can have a great affect on a child's life.
    In the absence of money, people just need to draw more on their creativity so that children feel loved and honored by the communities they live in.

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  • 46. At 8:01pm on 12 Aug 2009, KennethM wrote:

    #45. Joan Olivares

    Personally I think that one of the best ways of restoring self esteem to young people is to allow them to work and earn money at a much younger age than happens now.

    Young adults become economically active from the age of about 14. At this age they should be employed and earning a wage, even if it is part-time.

    I know that putting on plays and so on can be great, but I think we should value young people far more and allow them to earn money and do real jobs alongside education or even as full time workers.

    This is where most western countries get things badly wrong in my opinion and I suppose it may be a symptom of a well off – some might say decadent – society where we can allow perfectly fit people, albeit young people, to remain virtually idle for many years.

    Most countries in the world expect teenagers to be working, either around the home or in real jobs. This is the normal human condition in most places. Here we complain of feral youths and vandalism when, although I condemn it, this is a pretty likely outcome for a considerable minority of kids if they are not valued and not trusted to do their bit.

    When do you hear of teenagers whose parents or grandparents have come here from the Sub-Continent vandalising bus stops or phone booths? I reckon that most of them are working. That, for many, is a family tradition. Many are helping to keep the family business alive. Many are in part time jobs in between their educational studies.

    I often hear cries of 'get them off the street'; 'give them a skate park'; 'give them a youth centre'. I reckon we should say, 'give them a job'. If we do not value youngsters, how can they value themselves? For that matter, can we expect youngsters to suddenly switch from an unvalued, unwanted teenager to somebody who is suddenly given responsibility, whether this is the responsibility of raising a child or doing a job of work? We all need some grounding and coaching. No better way than to give responsibility to youngsters at a far younger age than we do right now. I am not talking about being given the MC mic for the night at the youth centre or picking the football team, I am talking about real life responsibility with real rewards

    I think that holding responsibility as a teenager is more likely to help a youngster who is already disturbed. I agree that support and encouragement is important but surely any one will be a little suspicious if they feel in themselves that they haven’t earned that praise. Surely the most important thing is for them to feel they are doing something that is having a positive effect on their lives to the point that the praise will come from within.

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  • 47. At 9:15pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear SHLA2UK,
    It's amazing. We actually agree with each other for the first time.

    Dear KennethM,
    I think you're right. Working is a good thing for most people especially the young. My dream program would be to start with bricklaying then the construction trades, then car, motorcycle and boat engine repair, then computer repair. Could you imagine how skilled our children would be if they had had a basic understanding of these professions? By the time they're 18-19 they could build their own house. I wish I had learned these skills when I was younger. It's very fullfilling to work with your hands. I have a university degree but I feel so dumb because I lack these
    common sense skills. If my sink clogs, I should be able to fix it. If my toilet leaks, I should be able to fix that too. To me the best education would be a combination of both academic and practical skills. Both are needed to be functionally educated, I believe. I think any work/study program should be organized like a carrot on a stick. If you went through bricklaying and your attitude was positive, you worked hard and you learned something then we'll consider letting you into the "Muscle Car Class". That way students can take responsibility for their own attitude and learning scheme. I wouldn't willy nilly hand out opportunity. It has to be earned based on a change in attitude. The only problem in giving money to teenagers at a young age is that they can get a "God" complex where they feel that they are earning money and therefore no one can tell what to do. I think you have to tailor the program to the child.

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  • 48. At 11:39pm on 12 Aug 2009, tarquin wrote:


    Would you not think that a doctor has it slightly tougher? you may have undergone ten years of training, but so can any profession - a librarian could do the same, the length of training does not mean anything, it is the quality and difficulty of the training that matters

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  • 49. At 11:59pm on 12 Aug 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    Sending a child who should be in the care of Social Services to Eton School for a year costs about eight thousand pounds less than sending them to prison for a year should they commit a crime when they become adults.

    How about instead of waiting till these children grow up to commit crimes as adults we stepped in when we see they are growing up in unsuitable families and send them to a high quality residential school ?

    Although we could also benefit from changing our attitude to abused people in this country.
    Mention an abused child in this country and people will go on at length about how terrible it must be for them and how we should do all we can to help them, unfortunately this sympathy only seems to extend up till their 16th birthday, from that point on they're abandoned by the state and should they end up making mistakes will be plastered over the tabloids as the scum of the earth.

    I'm certainly not defending the people in this case, but at the same time I'm not going to condemn them with the limited information I've got about them and this case.

    A guy I grew up with grew up in a family where his mother ignored him and the only attention he got from his father was when he came home drunk and beat him up, he lived in these conditions from about age eight or nine when his sister died (I think it was leukaemia but it was a few years ago now so I could be wrong) and his parents had a breakdown. He had no other family and was looked after by neighbours most of the time. Social Services checked up on him but because he was fed and clothed with few obvious signs of abuse no action was ever taken.
    In primary school he'd been a normal kid but by the time we left highschool he was a very unstable person who had no qualifications and very few friends.

    When I went to sixth form he moved into a council flat and went onto the dole, I didn't see him for about a year till I met him while shopping and he was by that point a very scary looking person, he'd begun drinking heavily and had several obvious cuts & bruises from what I guessed was fighting.

    I never saw him again but heard a few months later he had murdered someone. He'd been out drinking and when he ran out of money started walking home, he ended up alone on a road with a man who he then tried to mug so he could use the money to buy more alcohol. The man had no cash on him and when he refused to tell him his cash card PIN number he started to beat him up and ended up killing him.

    When we were in primary school you'd have guessed we'd have turned out the same way, we were similar kids of the same age in the same class with similar abilities but while I carried on getting the love and attention I needed from my family he ended up with neither.

    I've often wondered how our lives would have been different had my sister died instead of his, would he still have ended up killing that man while I was trying to get in to University ?
    Would I now be sitting in that jail cell instead of him ?

    I've also found it very hard to condemn him, I accept that what he did was a terrible crime that has cost many people a loved friend or family member. Murder is murder and there is no excuse (other than self defence) but would he have ended up in that situation had his childhood been different ?
    Would he have developed a drinking problem and a tendency to deal with situations with violence had he not been subjected to so much violence himself from a young age ?
    Would he have even been out that night had his parents supported him through school or would he too have been home revising for his A-Levels as I was that night ?

    I know this is a lot of "what if's" but when this happens to someone you know it is hard not to ask these questions.

    I'm not going to pretend I know the answers to them, or the wider social problems either.
    My plan above could be one part of it but there's so much more needs to be done and most of it will be very expensive or controversial.

    Should we all have the right to reproduce ?
    Should we allow the government to take more children away from their families ?
    What do we do with all of those children, and the adults too ?
    How do we educate and support children, all children, not just those we consider important, good or worthwhile ?

    Social Workers are in a no-win situation at the moment, they have neither the resources, powers or support needed to do their job properly and every time they make a mistake it could end up costing another child's life either immediately as in the case with Baby P or many years later as is the case with his mother and her boy-friend.

    People often refer to these people as sick but they don't mean medically, they use the term as a simplistic label that allows them to think of these people as some weird, inhuman monsters.
    The reality is that many of them are actually sick with severe mental illnesses and psychological scars but should we ever suggest this then the usual tabloid readers start going on about you being a loony liberal or bleeding heart, none of which helps us solve these problems but as it makes them feel so morally and intellectually superior with their hang 'em high solutions they fail to see the bigger picture or even attempt to find a lasting solution.

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  • 50. At 01:17am on 13 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Secretariat makes a great point. At least there is some semblance of a family in boarding school. For some children this would be an appropriate placement and it would help struggling schools survive this economic crisis. Eventhough most of us who went to boarding school ended up a bit weird.

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  • 51. At 09:02am on 13 Aug 2009, markaval wrote:

    It is extremely easy to find fault with this situation, but the simple fact is that most of us do not have to deal with the complexity of situations that social workers deal with. We all say 'How could they miss this? How could they have not spotted that?' - ridiculous workloads and understaffing combined with devious people who are good at lying and manipulating as were involved in the Baby P case, are just some of the reasons why we all need to take a step back and stop being so judgemental. Social workers have the most difficult and unenviable of tasks, and unfortunately, they won't always get it right.

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  • 52. At 10:18am on 13 Aug 2009, newthink wrote:

    Im just a normal parent of 2 teenage kids that is still married to my partner, so I may not be the best qualified to comment on this debate however....
    Why do we persecute the Social workers and yet make excuses for the perpetrators of crimes like this? These saddistic animals (just look at their records that have been disclosed over the last couple of days) are the ones that carried out the systematic abuse of the child, not the social workers. Is it such a grey area that to treat a child in this way that we look to deminish the level of blame that they should carry. How poorly educated do you have to be to know that it is just wrong to treat a child in this way?

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  • 53. At 11:48am on 13 Aug 2009, Lazarus wrote:

    The problem is sociological and a direct result of an insanely generous welfare system that by all-accounts pays people to breed without responsibility. This is a seperate issue that needs dealing with quickly as it will take years to make any noticeable progress after the national disaster that has been this government.

    Regarding social-workers, however, the problem here is symptomatic of the problems in many other vital public services - poor management, combined with idiotic priorities.

    Every sane person knows that the NHS would improve by decimating the regiments of middle-management and increasing the pay to the front-line nursing staff who keep the service running.

    A few years ago I had a guy come to tile my kitchen, who told me he'd been a social worker for 11 years but had quit to become a tiler as the money was better and because social work was so frustrating as a result of all the nonsense brought in under this government to make the job infinitely more complex.

    We as taxpayers and users of public services should be treasuring those hard-working individuals who take up such a rewarding vocation and help those in need. Yet these are the people who are usually the lowest-paid and the least supported by management structures that are bloated and irrelevant.

    If we rewarded the staff who do these jobs so well with financial incentives to continue doing the work, they would continue to do it and pass on their invaluable experience to those who start as new. Yet instead, we only reward people financially when they move into middle-management and start to tick boxes and fill forms in to comply with government targets and processes, and all their knowledge and experience of actually doing the job gets lost. This leaves new starters to fend for themselves and invariably failing or leaving due to lack of guidance and support.

    Government, meanwhile, loves to trumpet about the "success" of having spent so much more money on the services, as "investment", without any acknowledgement of the fact that the money being spent is not helping to deliver a better service to anyone. Yet when something goes wrong, they're the first to point the finger at a scapegoat to ensure that the fallout doesn't affect the government whose policies have caused most of the problems we suffer from in the first place.

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  • 54. At 12:24pm on 13 Aug 2009, U14099710 wrote:

    48. Tarquin. Describe 'tougher'?! Personally I think being threatened, being followed, shouted at, screamed at, physically assaulted, being emotionally pummeled and having your own family peronsally threatened purely because of the job you do is 'tough'. As is dealing with frightened, abused and hurt children and parents on a daily basis, and dealing with all this whilst also maintaining an empowering and antidiscriminatory approach, filling in countless forms, presenting complex evidence in Court, being crossed examined, having to find and maintain foster placements for vulnarable and troubled young people and children and......oh, having a life yourself, even though this usually involves waking up at 3am to reach for the ever present notepad and pen buy the bed to makes notes and note thoughts about things that you have to do the next day. Maybe tough in a different way to doctors but still VERY stressful, and equally so I believe. I think doctors and lawyers truely deserve the money that they get and I wouldn't take that away from them. I just think that social workers should be paid in a manner that truely reflects the demands of the job, which are both numerous and highly stressful. My training was also very complex and demanding, with lots of assignments, exams, legislative and procedural training and practice observations. As I said before, please, feel free to have an opinion but please also make it a well informed one. Thank you

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  • 55. At 1:34pm on 13 Aug 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    47. At 9:15pm on 12 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:
    "...Dear SHLA2UK,
    It's amazing. We actually agree with each other for the first time..."

    Oh Joan, don't be so hard on yourself - you're not that bad!!! I'm joking, sorry, being flippant. Call me Alan Duncan - ha ha!

    Just because we disagreed on one subject doesn't mean we can never see eye to eye. I think I said it on another blog to you, if we all sang from the same hymnbook every time, it might sound good, but the world would be a boring place eh?

    I have mixed thoughts when it comes to child welfare. On one hand, I feel kids are strong enough and smart enough to make more decisions than we give them credit for, but on the other hand, we have a moral and ethical duty to ensure all children are taken good care of.

    The Peter Connelly story is a sad one indeed, and I wonder what lessons are being learned. No doubt it will bring more controls, more paperwork and more bureaucracy to our Social Services teams all over the UK, but hopefully what it WILL do is to simplify the child welfare process, recommend a return to more family oriented care with social support for those that may not have such family support and a structured school welfare process that can help take some of the weight off the Social Services teams, freeing them up to be fully supportive of the overall process.

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  • 56. At 4:01pm on 13 Aug 2009, liz wrote:

    Hi Mark

    As a survivor of abuse i must disagree with all you've written as i find that social workers are tied to too much paperwork they rarely have time to get to know the family dynamics. I think it's expert by experience and they should consult some survivors groups for ideas to helping change for the future as i was caught up in a similar situation over 30 years ago being beaten within inches of my life and being used and abused time and time again so i'm sorry the story that they are trying to change just doesn't wash with me at all. I still can't even get a day in court with them to ask them why they did not protect me & have to live with my trauma everyday whilst the social workers involved with me lived a good lifestyle from their earnings. They need to open their eyes and be pro active as they just cannot continue to have childrens blood on their hands anymore... I had to write a book to be heard as a lot of survivors do and we get looked down on for that too. It's the only means we have of making our voices heard and any articles that have been written on me by the media the money has gone to survivors charities.

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  • 57. At 5:06pm on 13 Aug 2009, pandatank wrote:

    Let's not forget that the police, doctors and local authority had far more occassion to visit Baby P's home than the social workers ever did. And that was to investigate a litany of possible "offences" that had some bearing on his abuse. If a professional doctor fails to suspect his injuries are due to abuse one week before he died and the police are already "aware" of the family, why single out Social Services as the target for vilification?
    I mean it's not as if the family had anything to do with it, is it?

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  • 58. At 5:14pm on 13 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear SHLA2UK,
    If indeed, they make it easier for social workers that would be a positive step in the right direction. Having taught school I know some of the pressures social workers face everyday but I get to leave after my shift and they probably take home a much greater psychic burden. I really feel schools could help ease the work load a bit. Not only that,
    when a child has a lot going on in his life, school is often the only consistent thing that's predictable. Making school life the center of a vulnerable child's life can lessen some of the craziness going on around him. I'd also like to see group homes in neighborhoods where students live. That way, a child feels part of the community. He has a home, toys, a fun place to invite his school friends too.
    Someone also made a good point about dropping services when a child turns 16 as though this was some magical age. I think services should see a child through to a year or so after university and employment. It doesn't cost a lot to make a phone call to find out how someone is doing once they leave the system. Some kids can easily adjust, others can't. There should be some therapy or emotionally supportive network that a vulnerable child can turn to after they've left the system or at least be invited back often for household events and parties. That way he is still connected to a family unit until he is able to make and connect to his own new family. The transitions shouldn't be harsh. They should be gradual and based on the vulnerable child's need and development.
    As a teacher, you sometimes get students who seek you out after they've left school. I always love to see past students and if they still have a need to be around me I always welcome it. When the student is emotionally ready, they will make the transition on their own.

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  • 59. At 5:34pm on 13 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear SHLA2UK,
    You're right about another point. Some children are better at making decisions for themselves but it really depends on the child and how they're raised. When children are younger and they need to brush their teeth, they can be given some free choice. For example, Do you want to brush your teeth now before your bath or before your bedtime story? This gives a child some autonomy over his life and builds responsibility. The parent gets what they want by limiting the choices. Basically, your child will brush his teeth but he can decide when to do it given his choices. With teens, the playing field changes a bit. Do you mant to spend this money on a new cell phone or save it when you you take your trip to Europe this summer? I raised my daughter like this. Sometimes their choices aren't that intelligent and sometimes they blow a lot of money, but they do eventually learn to make great choices for their lives. It really depends on the child and how they're raised.

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  • 60. At 5:47pm on 13 Aug 2009, cassandracassandra wrote:

    "53. At 11:48am on 13 Aug 2009, djlazarus wrote:

    "The problem is sociological and a direct result of an insanely generous welfare system that by all-accounts pays people to breed without responsibility."

    Even in countries lacking any real welfare system people breed without responsibility and/or the means to feed their offspring. I doubt that breeding is always wanting a child; in such deprived circumstances I can well imagine that having children is a way of gaining power — if you've been subject of abuse or victim of poverty, and no control over any aspect of your life, exercising your ability to breed can easily be the one way to have control or power over one aspect of your life. An unconscious act.

    However, I would agree that the problem is probably linked to how our society and culture is organised. I have worked with young mothers living in the grimmest of areas on the edge of towns and cities; some with family backgrounds not dissimilar to Tracey Connelly's, many from families where 3 generations have never experienced employment. Typically, many of the young women are barely literate and even with their best efforts, and if they could muster the confidence, have little chance of landing a job. Some have never left their own local area to visit the city centre let alone venture out to improve their prospects — there are no jobs where they live. The areas they live in comprise a small number of shops, run down council flats, drug and/or alcohol abuse and not much else. What might be described as poor white ghetto's. The government made an admirable effort to drag up the education and aspiration levels of young people in these ghetto's by providing the Learndirect centres (hardly ever mentioned because spin dr's probably fear headlines claiming "loony lefties give state scroungers nice learning centres" or; claims that it was another case of "political correctness gone mad"; pc, the term usually aired at every opportunity by imbeciles who haven't got a clue about its origins). At least the centres are staffed by regular faces and are based in these communities offering some sustained support that allow the people living their to have a chance of breaking out of the cycle of under-education and unemployment.

    However, even these community based interventions as with other interventions, they're just addressing the symptoms of a society that has so many design flaws. The public housing estates have pushed poor and poorly educated people so far away from communities that are well resourced, they're completely cut off from opportunities or examples of how aspirations can be achieved. Alongside the cycle of abuse that perpetuates further abuse (mentioned by another blogger in relation to Tracey Connelly's background) there exists a cycle of educational and cultural poverty which perpetuates a poverty of the mind.

    Imagine a world with no council estates and public housing sprinkled in amongst regular housing... Yes, I can imagine there would be a lot of "I don't want any riff raff in my neighbourhood!"

    "43. At 4:58pm on 12 Aug 2009, KennethM wrote:
    "Self policing within a family is something that has been weakened through increased mobility. However it is been much further weakened by the State taking more and more responsibility for private lives, letting the rest of us off of the hook. Add to that the elimination of the family as an economic and political unit (we all vote and pay taxes as individuals), what we have is a whole load of single people (whether they are married or not) with an individual relationship with the State; and the more the State take responsibility for us, the less responsibility we take for ourselves and our kin."

    I say "hear, hear", in part. I'm not sure family policing is the answer; as neighbours and citizens, shouldn't we also be responsible for taking note and addressing problems that we see? I was amazed to read the story reported a few months ago of a mother who starved her child while living above a pub; customers had witnessed suspect behaviour but did nothing. It's not just social workers, teachers, the goverment and family's that are responsible for these things; we're all responsible by turning our back on the problems that are in our street or a couple miles down the road.

    We need a shake up in how our society is physically organised as much as anything else.

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  • 61. At 7:36pm on 13 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newthink,
    I don't think anyone is trying to diminish these heinous acts however when people are emotionally and physically abused throughout their lives the emotional pain is so deep that they hurt and kill others in order to assuage their own pain. Personally, I don't feel enough study has been done on the severe pain and trauma children experience that affects them throughout their lives. At a young enough age, on a developing mind, the trauma may be irreversible. That's why I feel, we need intervention at a very young age because once you pass that sensitive period of development, the brain becomes hardwired. To me, ignorance of self is the biggest struggle the human race faces. If people could quell the dark forces or negativity inside themselves then the world would be such a happier place because you would no longer blame outer circumstances for your life condition. To me, every murdered child, represents a lost opportunity to help someone overcome their own unconscious ignorance. I think CassandraCassandra made a good point that its the structuring of society that seems so wrong. We feel disconnected when we should feel like we're a part of something great beyond ourselves.

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  • 62. At 00:20am on 14 Aug 2009, tarquin wrote:


    It was an informed opinion - I was only questioning it because you said a doctor or lawyer would be being paid more by now - if you didn't want to use that for an emotive purpose then why include the point at all,

    I don't see what the purpose of that statement was except to gain sympathy for what is no doubt a stressful job, but lots of jobs are stressful, it doesn't offer any objective analysis

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  • 63. At 01:10am on 14 Aug 2009, KennethM wrote:

    #60 cassandracassandra

    You appear to indicate that town planning has created ghettos. I have always thought that, in the past, planners have suffered too much from idealism, modernism and stupidism.

    It is understandable that in the days when factories emitted heavy pollutants there was a move to segregate the work place from homes. However, did planners go too far? Does this not mean that we are all commuters now? Does it also not mean many low skilled people are only fractionally better off after taking travelling into account? Although I find it disagreeable, I can understand how many rows of streets and apartment blocks are populated with people who are not motivated to go to work.

    Planners tend to go from one extreme to the other and we are trapped in a perpetual planner’s experiment or dream (or nightmare).

    As far as the community as a whole taking responsibility for the welfare of those in trouble, I agree with you. However, I think a similar argument applies here. Just as planners tend to go to extremes, rather than balancing their ideals with the realities of life, I believe the government (and previous governments) has made the same mistake. What we have done is turned caring into a profession. It is no longer the role of amateurs to look out for other people. The social services, the police and, nowadays teachers, are paid to do this. The paradox is that, as the state pours more money in, the community increasingly withdraws.

    Just as a balance needs to be struck when planning a town, a balance also needs to be struck between professional care offered by the state and the responsibility we all share to look after one another, not to mention the responsibility to look after ourselves and our own families. I am not advocating getting rid of these services, but I am suggesting we scale them down, or better still, favour quality over quantity, allowing the community to take more of a role.

    To my mind we are in a vicious circle:

    more social problems =

    more state intervention =

    less personal & community responsibility =

    more social problems

    Perhaps Learndirect is a good scheme, but I must say it is one of what must be 100’s of similar schemes run by the government. I am sure that if the money spent on these ventures was never taxed away from us I the first place, there would be more work for people and more incentive for them to obtain education

    Your piece about a couple living above the pub also brings me back to my comments about family responsibility. I know I will be in a minority of one when I write this, but if the father, mother, brother, sister, cousins, uncle etc of this couple were told to foot the bill of any police investigation, the court costs and the prison costs involved with this couple then this precedent would get millions of us suddenly taking a much keener interest in the welfare of our family members, the crime rate would drop overnight and I am sure many lives would be saved.

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  • 64. At 09:18am on 14 Aug 2009, loz0912 wrote:

    Re jon112uk comments and Social Work training and qualifications. I am in total agreement here. We seem to have created this world of academic snobbery were only a degree or even a doctorate makes you fit to perform in a post not common sense and life experience. I know that academic sucess identifies that you can critically think and assess evidence in order to make decsions but lets not place too much emphasis on these as this leads to a glut of professionals with excellent qualifications but no experience of the real world and what it means to work within it. This has happend to nursing were the journals are now having to print learning articles on how to nurse with respect and dignity and how to communicate with patients! Also I never thought I would see the day when nurses need to have colour coded trays to tell them which of their patients may need assistance with diet.

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  • 65. At 09:24am on 14 Aug 2009, U14099710 wrote:

    62. I agree, making an arbitary comment is pointless. However, my comment about salary was actually in response to someone above me on the blog who said that social workers get huge salaries for doing a job they fail to do. I was merely pointing out that the 'huge' salary' is elusive and that jobs that are as stressful and that require as much training are better paid than social work. I beleive that those other jobs 'deserve' their salaries, in some cases they probably 'deserve' more. However, I stand by my comment that, for the work and stress involved, social workers are paid poorly (especailly in comparison to other equally as stressful job) and that this is one of the reasons why people leave/do not join, and is also a reflection of how the government view the job, i.e not highly at all.

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  • 66. At 11:49am on 14 Aug 2009, SueinBucks wrote:

    Who would be a social worker? A poisoned chalice if ever there was one. Overworked and under supported and always blamed for failure. The Baby P case will doubtless make even more social workers leave, exacerbating the downward spiral of disaster. The most culpable person to me in this sorry tale is Sharon Shoesmith who was presiding over the running of Haringey Social Services, on a salary of £100,000pa. She refutes that she did anything wrong and is fighting against her sacking. She has a legal right to do so but I say this is a waste of public time and money, both of which are desperately needed for the work that social services should be doing.
    As a second point, I share the concerns of people who protest at the seeming light sentences of those convicted in the Baby P case but feel that "naming and shaming" is wrong for the harm it will do to innocent victims, notably Baby P's siblings.

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  • 67. At 5:14pm on 14 Aug 2009, SSnotbanned wrote:

    It says something that there are few decent jokes about social workers.

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  • 68. At 6:25pm on 14 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Maybe our social workers are to young and over qualifyed to do the job of simple human care. I dunno though.. Still now the parents are identified their lives will become a nightmare.

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  • 69. At 7:32pm on 14 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    I've thought about this since the parents names were released and still can't understand the reason behind it. What reason does the general public have for knowing these names? Does it help public safety? Is it to make the public aware of them for when they are released? Is it really anyone's business other than those involved? Their lives have been pulled to shreds by people who will never meet them and have no vested interest in the case.

    I have never agreed with the way the media report such cases, do we really need to know for example all the sordid details of how this poor little toddler died and the personal backgrounds of the parents? What business is it of ours to know these things, it should be for the court only to hear this detailed information. These things should not be spread countrywide in some kind of perverted voyeurism orgy. I see nothing wrong with reporting the facts, but it would be refreshing not to see all this sensationalism, this trying to get up close and personal to wring out every last shred of information. Just seems pretty ghoulish to me.

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  • 70. At 8:09pm on 14 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    iNotHere quite right !

    although I do believe they should be named after all If i were arrested for cannabis my name would at least make the local paper.

    It is perverse though the way we have trawled through this story picking through the details in public, everyone enjoying it, following in the list of injuries Peter went through.

    The other perverse side is now the entire prison population now knows who and what they are. So they will be kept some were nice n quite for their time inside. Not a good message to future abusers of their own and others children. Should just hang these people in public. Sorry if that seems harsh but a child can not protect itself so their safety must be meet and with the harshest of punishments for their deaths at the hand of adults.

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  • 71. At 10:28pm on 14 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:


    I have agreed with everything you've written in your posts over the past couple of weeks but I'm afraid I'm gonna have to disagree with you regarding hanging...I don't believe anybody has the right to take anothers matter what that person has done. As far as I'm concerned a nation that executes its people shows me a nation that has run out of ideas and compassion. I'm sorry but taking somebody's life proves what exactly?

    The only purpose for hanging or any kind of execution is to satisfy the lust for blood that the 'moral majority' has.

    The crime has already been commited, how will hanging the perpetrator change it? Believe it or not, it might seem hard to believe but peter's mum has at least one person out there who loves her, why punish them for her crime? It does not act as a deterrent to others as most murders are committed by either delusional minds or are spontaneous...hanging won't deter that from happening. I'm amazed that still people advocate hanging after we've had SO many miscarriages of justice in this country...Guildford Four, Birmingham Six anyone?

    I always say that if you cannot advocate capital punishment for your next of kin then don't advocate it for anyone elses.
    Sorry if I've gone on...something I feel passionately about.

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  • 72. At 10:55pm on 14 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    iNotHere no worries this is why i tend not to comment on such things its not blood lust on my part by anymeans.

    Unchecked as they have done for many years now such people ruin 1000's of childrens lives and ill leave it there.

    and yes I would.

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  • 73. At 06:35am on 15 Aug 2009, reform08 wrote:

    Cmt 31. makes the point that as a social worker he/she spends too much time doing paperwork. I read recently of social workers complaining 80% of their time is spent on paperwork, report writing etc, and only 20% actually visiting families. If this is correct, then something is drastically wrong. I believe it can be rectified by employing administrative staff (secretaries, etc.) to do the admin.
    I worked as a secretary for a team of doctors in an NHS hospital. Their job was to be out on ward rounds for most of the day seeing patients. At lunchtime and the end of the day, I would see them briefly when they dropped off dictaphone tapes. I typed up reports, letters, referrals, followed any instructions given in the tapes regarding the patients, made follow-up appointments with other departments, etc., etc.
    Even complex patient information and instructions were relayed this way, for secretarial staff to deal with.
    I can’t understand why social workers do not work the same way. Surely they can dictate whilst out on their rounds/visits, just as doctors do. Their job is to assess the families and children with frequent visits, not sit in an office doing admin. for the majority of their time. If doctors spent so much time doing admin., we would feel it was a complete waste of their skills, and the same applies to social workers.

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  • 74. At 07:34am on 15 Aug 2009, ponapon wrote:

    It is great to read so many impassioned comments. As a community psychiatric nurse I work alongside social workers and about half of my case-load at any one time consists of people who have been abused as children, sometimes appallingly so.
    I've got two things to say:
    1. If you feel strongly that social workers and health professionals could do better (we all do as well) then join in! There are plenty of ways you can try to build a safer and better community, including becoming a social worker, or just finding ways to make your local community a better one for everyone, especially children you may be concerned about.
    2. You may then experience the bizarre phenomenon we all do: that moment when the desperate problem you are trying to help with suddenly seems to become your responsibility.

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  • 75. At 12:16pm on 15 Aug 2009, reform08 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 76. At 1:00pm on 15 Aug 2009, SSnotbanned wrote:

    Naming (and shaming)....part of the process for people to accept their responsibilities.People who also get praise,for example, for doing a good job are named out of a need for community recognition.

    inot here i guess you are not a parent.

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  • 77. At 2:52pm on 15 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:


    Guessed wrong, have a grown up question?

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  • 78. At 3:04pm on 15 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    What does being a parent or not have to do with it? Obviously my earlier post was more contentious than I thought it would be....that saddens me. I happen to believe that every human being is equal, including those who commit crimes against children, however bad that crime. I also feel as angry as you every time I hear of such a case belive it or not. My emotions are no different to yours. I just happen to believe that making the perpetrators pay with their life is just as wrong as the crime they have committed. Do I HAVE to be a parent to think that???

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  • 79. At 9:06pm on 15 Aug 2009, secondChikondi wrote:

    I find it excruciatingly sad that Tracey Connelly received a good education achieving literacy and a number of GCSEs; yet she is unable to nurture, love and care for her own child or indeed, I suspect, any child.

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  • 80. At 10:55am on 16 Aug 2009, ElectronicBarnacle wrote:

    All good stuff - but question remains why does the system continue to persevier with such individuals? I wonder whether or not an early decision to remove baby P and put him up for adoption, as a babe in arms, might not have been a safer, sounder and more effective outcome.

    It might be comforting to thing that ever greate expenditure on social services would have saved the day ...

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  • 81. At 1:28pm on 16 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    Probably because they didn't want to be accused of being over zealous. If they take a child away before there is sufficient evidence to do so the parents would probably win the ensuing wardship, the child would have to be returned causing a lot of upheavel and upset for the child. If that happened the social workers concerned would either lose their position or get demoted or some such punishment. It is a fine line that social workers tread, do they act early and run the risk mentioned above, or do they leave the child where it is and try to work with the family to improve things, running the risk that the child is going to be injured, or in this case killed.

    I think that to do the job properly they need to be able to spend more time with families rather than sat in an office doing paperwork. But in spending more time with families they have to throw away a lot of what they have learned from books and learn from the people they are trying to help. Some of them have so many preconceived ideas that aren't a part of the reality they are dealing with and that can cloud their judgement.

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  • 82. At 4:28pm on 16 Aug 2009, e2toe4 wrote:

    Their just seems to be an absence of common sense... a mistrust of it.

    That triangle diagram shows the problem. People ticking boxes in a spurious 'science' where just some basic common sense is needed.

    Mostly this box ticking (sort of) works, but whenever anything moves out of the comfort zone and the conflicts between priorities start there is no mechanism to resolve the problems.

    The prime conflict in the worst cases, always seems to be between 'leave child with mother' and 'protect child'; the mechanistic approach leaves the computer-brain frozen, steam issuing and the result being inaction; which on occasion leads to the tragic results.

    Then in a violent reaction more boxes are added and ticked and old people are stolen from caring relatives.

    Common-sense would provide a means of short circuiting the organisational 'freeze'...but common sense isn't allowed these days...forms, boxes, more assesments, tick, tick, tick......

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  • 83. At 7:39pm on 16 Aug 2009, androstempest wrote:

    I agree with the comments suggesting that outside involvment in how social services operate is contributing to cases like this. Professional people dealing with vulnerable people are being compelled to be overtly politically correct and avoid causing conflict, when in cases like this one, openingly challenging this woman would have potentially saved a child's life.

    When will Britain get off this bandwaggon that you must not offend anyone. If there is suspicion of abuse, offend away! Because if people really do have nothing to hide, they would cooperate.

    When a child, the same child, appears at school or hospital will repeated bruising and breaks and cuts, should be automatically err towards saving embarasment, or just bite the bullet and ask - did you do this?

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  • 84. At 9:08pm on 16 Aug 2009, HeatherTN wrote:

    The problem is though, not long ago, there was a joke going around - "What's the difference between a rottweiler and a social worker? The rottweiler will give you your child back." A sick joke I know but it sums up the attitudes to social work and monitoring children in general. No matter what you do, there's always going to be a problem with little or no solution and attitudes, including policies which swing from one extreme to the other with 'political correctness' swaying a lot of decisions. Yet on the other hand, people *do* resent care agencies and see them only as an end to curb freedoms and interfere with family life. Of course, where there is the *slightest* doubt and risk of abuse to children and other vulnerable people in our society, action should be taken boldly and immediately. I hate it for instance, when I see adults screaming at their kids to 'act their age' when the child is actually doing that. I'm not sure what the answer is of course, save the fact *all* of us should be more aware and be prepared to step in. Our society needs to be more aware of the saying that although it takes two to make a child, it takes a whole community to raise them.

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  • 85. At 11:09am on 17 Aug 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    SSnotbanned wrote:
    "Naming (and shaming)....part of the process for people to accept their responsibilities.People who also get praise,for example, for doing a good job are named out of a need for community recognition.
    inot here i guess you are not a parent."

    When exactly was the last time the national tabloids had front page news of someone doing a good job ?
    I'm talking about real, normal, everyday people here not the usual celebrities.
    It simply doesn't happen.

    There is absolutely no need for the national media to be naming people in criminal cases, trials are open to the public so that if you are effected by the case or live in the area you are able to attend and hear every detail about the case.
    This public openness has been abused by the media, especially the tabloids, and criminal cases have been turned into little more than voyeurism and sensationalism with every tabloid trying to outdo each other with the grisly details and pseudo-moral outrage about cases that the editors & reporters will soon forget about.

    And what has being a parent got to do with anything ?
    That's just a poor attempt to close an argument without actually providing any argument at all.

    I'd have to agree with iNotHere, the death penalty is not a deterrent and is a poor alternative to making the person spend the rest of their lives contemplating what they've done.
    The only people who are in favour of the death penalty are those who seek revenge instead of justice, murder is murder even when it is done by the State, and that's before we even consider the number of times people are wrongly imprisoned for crimes they've never committed.

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  • 86. At 1:03pm on 17 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:


    Thank you, nice to know I'm not the only one who believes the way I do in this ultra modern age when it appears you have to hold barbaric views to be accepted. People seem to think that if you don't scream for revenge, you're somehow abnormal and don't have a heart. Personally I think it's the other way round, it takes more heart to see that revenge is wrong. It's easy to scream hang 'em etc 'cos you don't really have to put much thought into it. Violence is a primal instinct, the same base instinct the murderer has. Sorry, I don't want to be like them, I'm better than that and capable of intelligent thought.

    My hope for the parents is that they receive some kind of rehab in prison that addresses the obvious problems they have, so that if they are eventually released then no other child is gonna be in danger because of them. Sadly I don't believe that will happen because we don't 'do' rehabilitation in this country, we just 'do' punishment.

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  • 87. At 1:26pm on 17 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    I know i said i would keep out of this but the knee jerk reaction to my comment has been wonderfull. How we apply our own personal fear to such things.

    I see the knee jerk oh they might be innocent etc and to this i aggree with all my heart.
    If a pit bull had torn peter to pieces you wouldn't be calling for the rehab of the dog its still someones loved pet.
    So why when a true child killer is caught and convicted on water tight evidence of killing the child do we get this reteric of oh they can be cured. we must show them compassion.
    Nope you cut out the cancer so its influance does not spread.

    iNotHere when you have a child that has been abused by such people then you to will realise that its not bloodlust just a realisation that there is no place in this world or any other world for such people.

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  • 88. At 1:45pm on 17 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:


    I have stated my position and my reasons for it. No matter what you say you will NEVER change my position. You haven't got a clue about my personal circumstances have you? For example you don't know that I was abused as a child do you? And yet I can STILL show compassion and still have the intelligence to realise that tit for tat is NOT justice but revenge. What does that say about you?

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  • 89. At 2:20pm on 17 Aug 2009, Secratariat wrote:


    So, if this child had survived the years of abuse (as many, many children do) and had then gone on to commit similar crimes himself (as many victims of abuse do) would your sympathy have ran out or would his abusers carry the responsibility for any future crimes he commits ?

    Where do you lay the blame and how many people must be killed before we've eradicated this "cancer" ?

    Killing people is just the easy answer but it doesn't stop the problem, this woman has other children who, I assume, have also suffered from abuse and will now probably be raised by Social Services where they'll have an increased chance of becoming criminals and abusers themselves.
    Do we just kill them too so as to prevent them from continuing the cycle of violence or do we try to help them so that they have a chance of growing up to be normal, happy people. Or do we sit back and wait for them to commit their crimes and then kill them ?

    Tracey Connelly was the child of a rapist and an alcoholic; one abandoned her at a very young age while the other was eventually judged unfit to raise her. This isn't an excuse but it is a very good indicator of why she came to allow her own child to be abused and eventually murdered. Social conditioning is a very important factor in everyone’s lives and pretending that her childhood didn't have a major effect on her and her attitude towards her own children is simply naive at best, downright ignorant at worst.

    Like so many other people she went from being a victim to a perpetrator of abuse because no-one ever stepped in and offered her the help and support needed to break this cycle, our current system is woefully poor and because of the limited finances available most local authorities are unable to improve their systems.

    As a nation we have abandoned millions of people we deem unfit to ghettos of deprivation where crime & violence are a normal part of everyday life. Children are growing up surrounded by criminal, violent and abusive adults and all too often see this as the norm. Behaviour and attitudes are becoming ingrained to the extent that crimes like this are becoming more and more common.

    Simply killing more and more people is not the answer and never will be, improving education and social services would be a start but the reality is that this is a very, very complex situation that needs some well thought out solutions to enable us to break the cycle and offer a future to people like Tracey Connelly before they ever go on to commit such crimes, or allow them to be committed in their homes.

    "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."
    Mahatma Gandhi

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  • 90. At 2:25pm on 17 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    it says i have the compassion to save future generations not hide the problem untill its release :)

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  • 91. At 2:32pm on 17 Aug 2009, Secratariat wrote:


    As Gandhi used to say:

    "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."

    The death penalty is just murder by another name and murder is always wrong. There is no grey area here for me, the death penalty is wrong and should never be re-introduced to Britain.

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  • 92. At 2:43pm on 17 Aug 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    Apologies for the double Gandhi quote guys, when I clicked Post Comment for #89 it disappeared and looked like it had not been posted and when I came back it was no-where to be seen, hence the shortened version at #91.

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  • 93. At 2:59pm on 17 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    hmmm more kneejerk i said killers of children not abusers of children. I do understand the differance and social make up.

    the compassion and the human rights people show to child killers is obsured, we constantly complain that a criminal has to many human rights and then poor love onto the most evil of people and call it compassion.

    Millions will be spent on case studys and for what? to allow another child to be killed nice compassion.

    I have also noticed how its mostly men that call for compassion in such cases wonder why.?

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  • 94. At 3:16pm on 17 Aug 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Well iNotHere and Secratariat thanks for the passion pity it was you 2 that bit but never mind I was just trying to stear a course to see how quick public opinion shifted after comment 1 and I cant aruge with people i like.

    all my views towards life and living of it are good Im just sick of this story, so added a few waves :)

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  • 95. At 4:18pm on 17 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    "I have also noticed how its mostly men that call for compassion in such cases wonder why."?

    Wouldn't know as I happen to be female.

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  • 96. At 5:27pm on 17 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Caring for children is an acquired skill. You can learn to be a better caretaker. By spending years with children you gain insight and understanding of their movements, patterns, mindset. Caring for children and understanding their non verbal communication requires patience and interest. This is a more intrinsic quality but people can be coached to be more patient caregivers.
    Getting young people to be kind adults starts with a kind and loving society. It starts young when children are allowed to abuse their playmates, pets, toys. You have to start very young and train children how to care for themselves, environment and society. Children need excellent role models from 0-12. After that the personality is pretty well established and you can't really influence their moral standards. That's why its imperative for our parents, families, schools and societies to get it right. You've got really one chance in a child's life when its easier, cheaper, more effective to influence him. It takes a lot of work in the early stages but once that critical period is over, you can sit back a bit and let your children make the good decisions that you've instilled in him all those years. It ain't rocket science, It's just a lot of caring and hard work or not depending on whose child it is.

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  • 97. At 5:46pm on 17 Aug 2009, newthink wrote:

    The death penalty debate is utterly pointless as it will never happen. However the naming and shaming of the perpetrators of crimes like this should be a matter of policy. If the identities of these people are hidden and protection is allowed on completion of their sentance then this is a form of encouragement to these individuals. They must be accountable in society.
    Sometimes I feel the only form of judgement that they relate to would be trial by Jeremy Kyle.

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  • 98. At 5:55pm on 17 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    1. The teacher or school administrator often pulls you aside to have a little chat about your child.
    2. Mothers of your children's friends stop inviting your child over for playdates.
    3. Everyone in the store or restaurant stares at you while your child is running freely down the aisles.
    4. Your child has frequent meltdowns.
    5. Your child ignores you when you ask them to do something.
    6. Your child bites, hit, scratches other children.
    7. Your child is persistently defiant and back talks you.
    8. Your child steals from you.
    9.Your child lies to you.
    These are just a few important clues that you might need to seek professional help or therapy for yourself and your child.

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  • 99. At 6:10pm on 17 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I was wondering if it would help to have drop-in centers where parents could take their children if they felt overwhelmed. There shouldn't be a huge stigma placed on parents who would use these centers. It would be a supportive network. So parents could find relief but also, in exchange, learn useful child management and personal skills?
    At least this way, you could identify and help parents who are having difficulty managing their lives as well as,keeping a closer eye on the children in these homes?

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  • 100. At 7:50pm on 17 Aug 2009, newthink wrote:

    Nice idea Joan, in an ideal world. Wouldn't happen in the real world.

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  • 101. At 11:13pm on 17 Aug 2009, billyfurey wrote:

    Having a few problems with some of the comments on here. There seem to be people trying to defend these peoples actions by blaming them on their past experiences. Seems to me that they are saying that a persons past experiences define them. I understood that a persons choices in life define them. These people conciously chose to torture and abuse a defenceless child and to try to cover their actions by lying to social services. In my view this deserves the harshest possible punishment. Before somebody dives in and tells me that I don't know what I am talking about, according to some I should be a homicidal child abuser myself. Instead I like to think that I am a caring father who has nurtured his two children to the best of my ability. One is studying to be a doctor at present.

    It might be controversial and I could be being politically incorrect but I wonder why this woman chose to have children, after all this is another choice? Could it be a benefits system that rewards you for having more children?

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  • 102. At 00:58am on 18 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear BillFurey,
    As long as women will continue to have babies, which they will, some will be ignorant. The problem is with education. Enlightening ignorant people. (I'm sorry but I don't have a nicer way to say it) It is possible, through education, to raise people's consciousness to the point, hopefully that they won't murder their own baby. Women have never been taught how to care for their own baby, I suppose people assume its learned through osmosis. Why do we not educate people for the most responsible roles they'll probably ever play in their life? It makes no sense to me. When you demonize baby killers, does it help them learn anything? Does it help them become a better human being?
    There is a lot of abuse of children because of ignorance. People just don't know about children. If they understood children they would have better insight into themselves. I believe you can teach people to be better care takers so that they don't take out their frustrations on innocent babies. It's true that in the case of this woman knowing her past history, she could've have been warned about her own predisposition. A little therapy or self awareness might have saved this baby's life. My point is that people don't usually consciously set out to kill a child, it happened in a fit of drug fueled rage. If this woman had received the psychological help she needed early in her life she might have not turned to drugs to dull the emotional pain she had since childhood and her child might be still alive today. People often aren't consciously aware of the deeper psychological issues that compel them to act in certain ways. The world is full of people in emotional pain that heap their pain on others through violent acts. A little education and self awareness could help people be better human beings. There were probably many self destructive signs that people saw in this woman but nobody bothered to reach out to her. If she had some kind , loving limits in her life, it might have prevented this tragedy. If women continue to bear children, we must help save future generations of mothers in best practices of child rearing.

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  • 103. At 03:14am on 18 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear BillyFurey,
    I don't know if people would have children just to go on government benefits. Maybe in England you can survive on the dole but in America, you really can't survive on welfare, I don't think. It barely sustains people. I think young women often have children to fill an emotional void in their life and biologically they are driven to it. Would someone really get pregnant to avoid having to work? That just doesn't seem right to me.

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  • 104. At 10:07am on 18 Aug 2009, newthink wrote:

    I find this very difficult. I cannot argue with your theories, but alas I feel that is all they are, theories. There is a real world out there. A world where the biggest choice is whether to spend your benefits on booze or fags. Whether to leave your child home alone while you go out "clubing", or whether pot or baby food is more important to you right now. Yes education will help, but to keep excusing the decisions made that harm children in particular is just that, an excuse.
    If 50% of children are abused and they go on to abuse themselves then before long every child will have suffered abuse. That is not the case. There are many abused children out there that grow up to be kind caring parents, believe me I know. There is a deterent factor that needs to be built in to the equation for anyone that considers abusing a child, as this may be the only thing that holds them back from carrying out the act.

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  • 105. At 12:12pm on 18 Aug 2009, FrontPageJonny wrote:

    I am a senior healthcare worker and a registered health care professional, I have unfortunately also had the insight of having spent some of my childhood in “ the system “. I can say for certain that front line social workers in the UK do indeed have one hell of a difficult job to do. Management systems within health and social care in this country appear for the most part oto be ineffective. There are few truly supportive management systems operating within either health or social care in the UK at this time. People will no doubt disagree however if you speak to the workers on the ground you will hear much of the same story, in many area supervision is paid lip service. Our health and social car providers are constantly fighting with overly complicated management structures the nature of which means that decision making takes longer and requires more infrastructures. Our staff are continuously remind of the negative consequences of making a judgemental error and when this inevitably happens because they cant cope with their workload they are strung out to dry suspended and face lengthily investigations. Anyone working within the health and social care system will tell you about the waste of money and resources that takes place and how these systems hinder rather than improve their working lives or more importantly the quality and standard of care that they deliver.
    We are currently in a recession with all areas of public spending facing cutbacks so why do key areas of need spend more time and money implementing management systems rather than getting the job done. I appreciate as much as anyone the need for robust governance and management particularly in the case of child services but this needs balance. When we ask about cases like Baby Peter the answer I think is all too obvious, can we really expect our professionals to make appropriate decisions when they are faced with the pressures of time and workload. I can recall from my own experience the number of “ people “ who just couldn’t be bothered or were too “ busy” to ask the correct questions or to investigate a little further, I know that I am not unique many adults who were in the same boat as me when I was a kid will tell you that same thing. The truth is that if one of these people had done their job right that would have spared me and others from perhaps years of mistreatment. Why do these situations happen it’s not because our social care staff are badly trained and it’s not because they are incompetent and it’s certainly not because they don’t care, it’s in the main because they are working in a system that is broken. We have in the UK a system that is better than most in the world and the area of child abuse is both emotive complex and difficult, invariably difficult decisions have to be made sometimes those decisions may be wrong so we need a system where decisions can be shared information can be shared and where there are true safeguards in place for our children to protect them from the monsters in society. Tragedies like Baby Peter are a shame on modern society but we need to support those we charge with tackling these issues, listen to the people on the ground not tie them up in systems and beurocracy. If anyone was to ask a case worker how long much time they actually have to do their job I am sure that any reasonable person would come to the logical conclusion that this was insufficient.

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  • 106. At 1:31pm on 18 Aug 2009, newSweetMonkey2 wrote:

    What is the point of naming these people? They should just be jailed for life and then no need for any protection. When they get to prison their crimes will be known to the inmates anyway.
    I must make a point about housing. The experiment to put lower income/benefit groups amongst high bracket earners is a terrible thought out idea. What happens is the underclass drag the area down, vandalise and make the neighbour's life hell with their anti-social behaviour, until they have had enough and move out - therefore creating a ghetto. Instead the anti-social lot should be put on a warning that they lose their house and benefits if they cause trouble. I know of so many areas which have housing corporation houses and have moved in disruptive families, only for the law abiding and wage earning people to leave. This means that the mob rule and take over whole areas, making them no-go areas. How can this be productive and help communities?

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  • 107. At 3:37pm on 18 Aug 2009, jimhydecork wrote:

    A couple of pertinent points about large bureacracies: Both councils and media organisations-

    1. Council care staff love doing their jobs, which is to primarily look after vulnerable people. Generally, they [a] don't like doing reporting, paperwork and admin, and [b] see paperwork as the last few steps that others' require of them - check out any care-staff job description, if you want to see what I mean. Day to day admin and recording of what they decide (both to do and to follow up) are always way down the list of 'important things to do'.
    2. Council care staff always work hard to extend the benefit of the doubt to their clients and each other. This leads to long-term Groupthink, where no-one ever bravely stands up and states things have gone wrong - because it would be a betrayal of either 'team mates', 'client confidentiality' or 'how we work together'. You'll note that nearly every instance of massive deadly error by social workers has only been dealt with when finally spotted by others (e.g. police, media etc.), because the group has either never seen the problem, or spent months ignoring or failing to successfully deal with it.
    3. Council social workers do not dismiss each other, or report each other for error, because that would be a 'betrayal' of their mates/colleagues/friends. They work very closely together for years and thus often cannot see the woods for the trees. I.e. you'll see a lot of the phrase 'but he seemed such a nice person' when social workers are finally forced to answer questions about a lethally incompetent colleague.
    4. Media organisations need to do more to follow the careers of failures in these services. Reporting is an hour by hour job and stories often only last a few days. However, social workers have careers and practices that last for decades (and the consequences can, literally, last a lifetime). Just look at who was involved in the Satanic Abuse idiocies of the 1980s and 1990s to see what I mean - many of those promoting those ideas are still working with vulnerable people.

    Social workers need to be much more transparent, quicker and willing to delegate/report their problems and problem clients to others - preferably to people with no social or financial connection to them or their employers. And the media needs to spend much more time tracking the activities of those social workers with poor to marginal skills.

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  • 108. At 4:45pm on 18 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newthink,
    I don't think any amount of jail time will save the life of an abused baby. Has jail time ever deterred a child molestor? People who commit these heinous acts are emotionally ill and should be treated as such.
    To me, jail time should be spent on self improvement so that people can change what led them to offend in the first place. Letting someone reflect on the negative circumstances of their life and overcoming those dark, intrinsic forces is what leads to healing not by creating fake, external limits on someone.
    The same concept works with children. You can use your entire day trying to control children but children start to calm down when they are given meaningful work and play. As their concentration improves and they go deeper into themselves they are able to calm themselves down without outside constraints being placed on them. Healing the self is an emotional journey. If this woman could reflect on her past, she will begin to see the pain she endured in her childhood and how she heaped all of her pain onto her child. The moment she realizes that will be cataclysmic. She will be able to forgive herself and that's when her life will improve and she'll start to become a better human being.
    To me, life is an emotional journey. Your ignorance stays with you until you can reflect on the negativity that brought you to where you are.
    Helping people overcome the emotional pain so that they don't throw it up on others is what rehabilitation should be all about.

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  • 109. At 4:52pm on 18 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear NewSweet Monkey,
    The concept of housing working individuals with poorer, non working individuals seems to work where I live. Why relegate the poor to their own communities. The children must learn to live and respect the community where they come from. The only way to do that is to give them a nice place to live where they will learn that. The children seem generally well behaved and polite. What you are telling a child by doing that is that you are worth the beauty of this place. Step Up! and amazingly they do.

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  • 110. At 5:19pm on 18 Aug 2009, Its_an_Outrage wrote:

    42. At 4:22pm on 12 Aug 2009, SHLA2UK wrote:
    ...It comes down to money all too often. Why?
    Is it because everything we do in business today is costed down to the last paperclip or phone call? The emphasis is wrong, misplaced or simply ignored in favour of keeping within budgets. From a business perspective, this is best practice, but when people, particularly vulnerable people, are concerned, there should be no such limit as a budget.

    I believe it's because the managers who administer the budgets are, usually, more concerned with their careers than with their effectiveness.

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  • 111. At 5:41pm on 18 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear NewThink,
    The choice between buying booze and buying cigarettes is due to children not having guidance and having to live with the consequences they make.
    Too often parents try to rescue their children from the harsh realities of living with the consequences of the choices they make. For example, when children have $2.00 to spend at the store but pick out a $5.00 toy.
    The parent has to let them live with the dissapointment of not getting what they want. It's really hard for the parent to resist reaching into their purse and rescuing their child at that moment. But having a child put back the more expensive toy is helping the child understand a valuable lesson. You can also use this as an opportunity to allow the child to make more money around the house so that the next time he comes to the store he can buy it. Through this process, of allowing children to make their own choices, some choices will be better than others, you start to raise a more responsible child. I find it very sad that this woman was bright and that her own mother was too embroiled in her own life drama to help and her own daughter. All of the pain she's suffering now could probably have been avoided if someone reached out to her earlier. Even remarks like, "Oh you're so smart! or "Wow, you made that!" can have a very positive impact on a girl's self esteem. Preserving a girl's self esteem is what is so crucial. Getting children to make better choices for their own lives despite their parent's life condition is what its really all about. To me, that starts with responsibility and letting children live out the consequences of their actions. This woman could spend the rest of her life in prison but will she have learned anything from it? Will she be a better human being?

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  • 112. At 5:59pm on 18 Aug 2009, newSweetMonkey2 wrote:

    Dear NewSweet Monkey,
    The concept of housing working individuals with poorer, non working individuals seems to work where I live. Why relegate the poor to their own communities. The children must learn to live and respect the community where they come from. The only way to do that is to give them a nice place to live where they will learn that. The children seem generally well behaved and polite. What you are telling a child by doing that is that you are worth the beauty of this place. Step Up! and amazingly they do.

    I have no idea where you live but be assured that I and my sister have had awful experiences in both council and housing association houses. I lived on an estate and in the beginning it was good, with law abiding, poor but decent people trying to get along. Then the council decided to move in anti-social families from other areas - most people asked to be moved or just left because it become a misery to live there.
    They tried to improve the estate but it was just destroyed time after time by gangs. Now it's a no-go area. Wonderful for the drug dealers and gangs, not so great for the ones forced to move.

    The same with my sister in a housing association house. Again they have moved in troubled families and the area has just gone down with everybody wanting to move out. I'm happy the experiment worked for you, but you may be an exception to the rule.

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  • 113. At 10:39pm on 18 Aug 2009, Flexiworkingmother wrote:

    The thing that is important to note is that Baby P is not an isolated incident in an otherwise perfect world. When my children's school suggested my ex husband had sexually abused our children, then retracted the allegations under pressure from him, all the agencies, police, health service, social services, CAFCASS, the courts, failed to take adequate responsibility and failed to investigate properly. It is easier to believe that a woman can malign her husband wrongly than to believe that a respectable middle-class man can do the things my children told me he had done. Two years down the line, I have apologies from CAFCASS and social services. The Baby P report is right that the first thing all agencies must accept is that they could be wrong. In my case, they coloured all facts (or ignored them) to help them not find child abuse. I am left to pick up the pieces, lacking the very support that was offered me on all the caring/sharing websites.

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  • 114. At 04:35am on 19 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear NewSweetMonkey,
    Perhaps it could be a bigger problem where you live. Where I live, the police use gang injunctions and don't play when it comes to gang activity. Generally large apartment complexes have their own security services. So the problems would be mitigated, however, there is a popular trend by the government to employ people who used to be disenfranchised. Alot of the security personnel checking your bags at airports are former gang members, felons and pimps. The government hires them to get them on their side or at least keep their eye on them.
    Initially they're very difficult to be around but as they mature, their attitude changes and the chip on their shoulder tends to dissipate. In my area there are doctors, lawyers, businessmen mixed with organized criminals, young mothers and gang members. It's an eclectic mix of people that I find interesting but I understand how difficult it would be to live where you do without a strong police presence. I honestly feel that people are grateful to live in such a pretty place so if they see a lot of shenanigans, they're on the phone complaining to management. The councils should have a security presence in these neighborhoods so that people don't feel terrorized and intimidated by idiots. They're just little boys in men's clothing. Don't be afraid of them.

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  • 115. At 04:51am on 19 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Flexiworkingmother,
    That would be a nightmare knowing something but not being believed. I experienced this in a different way and you feel so alone because if the people who are meant to help and protect you can't or won't then who will? You feel very defeated but eventually the truth is revealed. If justice won't reveal it then perhaps one day your child will. That's the beauty of this life.

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  • 116. At 05:16am on 19 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Long time no come. We agree so much that we have nothing to argue about.
    There is a malaise that takes over when you work in these positions, teaching included. Everything becomes so entrenched in these organizations that they take on a life of their own, then you give up in desperation.

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  • 117. At 08:52am on 19 Aug 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    From my experience of the social care system, there is an increasingly quasi-corporate feel to it that is at odds with its caring remit. Business language, bureaucracy and jargon has infested a profession that is, at its root, about caring for people. The need to service this corporate monster with reports, KPIs, forms, ticked boxes and statistics has become so all-consuming that many social workers (and others in the public sector) lose sight of their very raison d'etre. A teacher can progress much more quickly by playing this system than by being a good teacher! A social worker soon learns that to move up the scale or to be left in peace, he or she must become more adept at the language of reporting than actually helping his or her 'clients'! It's getting this way in the police force too. After a couple of decades of this, both managers and front-line staff become almost entirely 'corporate' and the whole point of being in a caring profession is lost. Worse, the abusers and the criminals learn that the easiest way to be left alone to carry out their abuse is to play this game too. The quicker you tell the social worker or health worker what they want to hear, the sooner they'll be off your back. I've even seen low-achieving children in classrooms use the kind of pernicious 'education-speak' to weasel out of lessons and homework! Anyone exposed to care or social services for any length of time soon learns the lingua franca, believe me. I understand that the parents of Baby Peter, despite their low educational status, managed to hide their deeds very well by the simple technique of telling the professionals what they wanted to hear.

    We have got to get to a position where carers care, teachers teach, and social workers help people. Not where they are all so crazily obsessed with forms, charts and tables that they forget all about people. It's a situation that is getting worse, not better. In order to reform it, we are going to have to deprogramme a generation of staff and managers who can see no further than the classroom door.

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  • 118. At 09:59am on 19 Aug 2009, fillandfrowpist wrote:

    In order to understand another you must put yourself in their shoes and/or think in the way they do.

    Social work went through a major facelift in the sixties with a massive development of professionalism and specialism and sweeping changes to administrative support meaning that the latter supported the former rather than the other way around. This development phase was well intentioned, believing that a professional carer would deliver much superior support by having decision making capacity. In terms of the sheer number of social workers who could have (and perhaps should have) been employed this development may have worked but it was doomed because expenditure on care was in danger of running out of control.

    The "professional" aspect triggered a drain of social work from the public to the private sectors leading to "favoured" private establishments providing the care that was formerly provided by cheaper public establishments. In other words social work ceased to be essentially a career of reasonable reward and grew into a career of exceptional reward provided you moved from the public to the private sectors.

    We have seen similar changes to nursing and other health professions. There are any number of fallacies in operation here including the belief that education, qualification and training lead to "better" care, and that paying large sums of money improves the chances of "better professional support and care".

    Care is about delivering services to a large number of individuals (key word) each of whom has an expectation, experience, emotional pressures within and without their coping units, and constant and continuous change in their life. You cannot solve this with a "one size fits all" system, and if you try to do so you end up with what we have now.

    There are always going to be tragedies and casualties - that is a fact of life that will not conveniently go away even in a perfect world - but should these be the measure of success or failure of the individuals "in care" and those individuals "providing care"? Or is there a greater need at work in the background that drives us to the wrong moves at the wrong time - to cushion our individual guilty consciences?

    I am not sure how you "train" a social worker. One of my first excursions into an alien world was visiting a young family in a halfway house where dysentery was rife and the bugs occupied colonies on the floors, walls and ceilings. When you asked to drink a cup of tea (no point in saying "no") you remember it forever. No training would have prepared me for that moment, nor for the complete helplessness I felt in being able to put myself in that family's shoes.

    In part I agree with the final paragraph of LippyLipo's entry at 117, except that the forms were not around when the rot first stepped in; they are simply an attempt to make everything look better than people know it really is.

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  • 119. At 10:31am on 19 Aug 2009, FrontPageJonny wrote:

    Dear Lippy Lippo

    I completely agree

    “ We have got to get to a position where carers care, teachers teach, and social workers help people. Not where they are all so crazily obsessed with forms, charts and tables that they forget all about people. It's a situation that is getting worse, not better. In order to reform it, we are going to have to deprogramme a generation of staff and managers who can see no further than the classroom door “.

    Our staff working in a system that is so concerned with itself that it has forgotten its purpose. People sit in meetings spouting all the right buzz words, we develop complex system of governance and management we bring in consultants at great expense, we report and we examine. How does this help people to do their jobs more effectively, and when these system inevitably fail we then do the whole expensive thing all over again to see what went wrong.

    I do hold the notion that better education and training and education will lead to better care, how can it not !!!!!!!!

    The emphasis is on the word better, not more expensive. More importantly in the area of health and social care we have to look at the organisations and the system in which people work in order to make them more effective. It would be crazy to assume that this will alter all of societys ills as it wont but we have a responsibility to look at the ways we work and make sensible revisions.

    Merely throwing money at any problem will not work, naturally the way that the money is spent and used it the key thing.

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  • 120. At 4:00pm on 19 Aug 2009, politicallyincorrect wrote:

    Joan Olivares wrote:
    I don't think any amount of jail time will save the life of an abused baby. Has jail time ever deterred a child molestor?
    That is an unanswerable question Joan, as if deterrence worked, then there wouldn't be an offender in the first place. You can only measure deterrence by monitoring the rate of offending before and after the penalties are changed. Even then, it's far from perfect.

    You also have to factor in the inertia present in society. Put simply, that is the lag between making a change and being able to measure its effect. We're somewhat blind to that, in the UK at least, as there is a wholly unrealistic expectation that we can wave the legislative equivalent of a magic wand, and suddenly things change. The gutter press doesn't help, as it perpetuates that idea.

    Look at the contentious issue of capital punishment. The murder rate in the UK in 1965 - when the death penalty was suspended - was 6.8 per million. By 2002, that had risen to 20.3 per million.

    During the 1960s, the abolitionists pointed out that the murder rate hadn't changed during suspension. That's true, it didn't. But ten years after suspension, and five years after its abolition for murder, the murder rate per million had nearly doubled.

    Just compare the two – little change in five years, or a three-fold increase after 37 years. The latter figure looks like a good argument for reinstating the death penalty in some cases.

    The difference between the two, of course, is that the best part of two generations have grown up knowing that if you kill someone, you'll get a few years inside rather than a one-way trip to the gallows. I'd argue that we're only now seeing the true effects of abolition, as sufficient time has elapsed for it to be accepted as the norm by a majority of people.

    You also said:
    People who commit these heinous acts are emotionally ill and should be treated as such. To me, jail time should be spent on self improvement so that people can change what led them to offend in the first place.
    But we should compare that to the standards of conduct that society expects. Society expects us to nurture and care for our young. The public fury directed against Connelly and Barker reinforces that argument. They're safer behind bars right now; were they identified in the street right now, they'd be very lucky indeed to avoid being lynched.

    Jail is intended as a punishment as well as a deterrence. We seem to be forgetting that. It's all very well getting carried away with the ideal of rehabilitation and cutting sentences because our short-term view of crime statistics doesn't show a massive drop in offending, but there is still the point that these people did something that was utterly reprehensible and should pay a very heavy penalty for it.

    My view is that there are some crimes that merit the death penalty, and torturing a child to death is certainly one of them. I couldn't care less about their deprived background or history of drug use or whether they had their sweets taken off them in the school playground or whatever. There are plenty of other people in similar situations; the difference is that they don't turn on their children.

    A good measure of how civilised a society is is how it protects its most vulnerable members, particularly the very old and the very young. I'd suggest that someone who intentionally harms a member of either of those groups, whether high on drugs or not, should lose the right to be regarded as a member of a civilised society and should be made to pay the ultimate price.

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  • 121. At 4:02pm on 19 Aug 2009, puddingandpi wrote:

    Haringey Social Services let this child down very badly. I know they're overworked, underpaid & stressed out but there is one thing about this case which highlights the bad practice: The foster carer who was given Peter to look after has a convicted paedophile for a grandfather. She has a normal family relationship with him despite his conviction & predilection for small children. I know this because he is my grandfather also. He was convicted of assaulting me & my brothers, at Wood Green Crown Court. Haringey never checked the background & gave Peter to someone who put him in yet more danger. If they didn't check the foster carer, that was neglectful. They let Peter down again & there's no excuse for that.

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  • 122. At 5:08pm on 19 Aug 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    120. At 4:00pm on 19 Aug 2009, politicallyincorrect wrote:

    "..Just compare the two – little change in five years, or a three-fold increase after 37 years. The latter figure looks like a good argument for reinstating the death penalty in some cases..."

    May I point you to

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  • 123. At 5:36pm on 19 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Politically Correct,
    You make some very good points. My only issue is that prisons are rife with gang members, criminals of every kind, etc. Someone who might show some potential of rehabilitating really have little chance of doing so in a prison setting and usually come out more criminalised than when they went in. Prison culture varies too. Some are more work, therapy oriented,others are just holding pens. It bothers me that they would send someone to prison for years without any sort of job skills or rehabilitation then release this individual into society on a street where your grandma lives. This will be an even greater issue as places like California release offenders to save money. My only point in all of this is to say that regardless of where an offender ends up, he/she should be given some tools to understand why their life ended up where it did. When people make that inward journey, as hard as it may be to look honestly at oneself, and discovers their ego driven motivations, it can help a person resolve and understand their life drama. The same problem recurrs in people's lives only the players change. You have to heal those underlying sentiments, For girls it could be, "I'm not worthy enough!" Healing can only begin once someone acknowledges those feelings. They can forgive themselves and those around them and start to lead a drama free life. If everyone were more self actualized then the world would be a more peaceful place. Stop your incessant ego driven greed because you hurt yourself, the people you love, your community and society. This to me, is fundamental in a person's road to recovery and rehabilitation.

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  • 124. At 6:07pm on 19 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Lippy Lippo,
    Yeah I agree. In a sense all the forms and ticked boxes seem to me to be the government's way to justify a reduction in funding. One year I complained about how poorly worded the questions were which resulted in even more poorly worded, complicated, useless questions. Once my brother told me, "If you go to that school district just don't try to change anything and you'll be fine.!" It's this unmoveable, entrenched LEVIATHAN that only supports mediocrity. I don't know if it will ever change.

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  • 125. At 08:24am on 20 Aug 2009, censordodging wrote:

    I think that there are so many social workers, on the front line, dealing with families and children at all different levels of risk, in such a range of situations that they deserve recognition of the good they do and the help they provide. It is very unfortunate that there are times when it goes wrong and even worse that tradgedies could have been prevented by access to better systems, support, more staff and more effective inter agency collaboration.

    I also agree that schools and teachers are very well placed to keep a watch on students and can provide insights into changes and behaviours among other aspects of a child's day/life, if the child has regular attendance, the teacher is not too busy and the child attends the same school for a significant length of time.

    This causes me to ask how it is possible for a seven year old child to be starved to death and nobody really notice or take action except a single, failed social services visit. Was it a range of these faults again that led to this child being seemingly invisible?

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  • 126. At 09:31am on 20 Aug 2009, politicallyincorrect wrote:

    iNot Here wrote:

    May I point you to

    That doesn't really tell us very much. The British Crime Survey, on which that is based, specifically excludes homicide (see the linked PDF, page 15 para 2). The "lowest homicide level for 20 years" still gives a murder rate per million of 11.8, based on a population of 55 million - not far short of double that at abolition. Most of the figures in that report are year-on-year based; consequently they cannot show an underlying trend. Even if they could, the changes the Home Office have made to the way the stats are compiled (see the Home Office Counting Rules at would make such comparisons unreliable, if not meaningless.

    Now let's look at the headline bar chart. There is a high of approximately 1,020 in the 2002 - 2003 year. That gives a murder rate of 18.54 per million - nearly three times that at abolition. There has certainly been a downward trend since then, but that is only over six years. As I pointed out previously, it took a lot longer than that for big changes to appear in the murder rate, so it is disingenuous to suggest that anything the government has done since 2002 has had an accurately measurable effect. Not that that would stop them from trying, I hasten to add.

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  • 127. At 10:04am on 20 Aug 2009, politicallyincorrect wrote:

    Joan Olivares wrote:

    My only issue is that prisons are rife with gang members, criminals of every kind, etc.
    It would be a matter of serious concern if they weren't :-) Prison is where criminals belong.
    Someone who might show some potential of rehabilitating really have little chance of doing so in a prison setting and usually come out more criminalised than when they went in.
    This is true, and it's a major problem. It probably doesn't help in that someone sent to prison for a non-violent offence is likely to end up mixing with murderers, armed robbers, rapists, drug-dealers and the like, who will form their peer group. There's immense pressure to fit in, as by definition it's impossible to walk away. I've never been inside, by the way, but I've known a few people who have.

    Perhaps the system should be changed so that the first half of a sentence is a punishment served in very harsh conditions. Bullying screws, slopping out, one hour a day for exercise, bread and water, all the things the Daily Mail readers regularly bay for. The second half should consist of a rehabilitation process, still in prison, but in kinder conditions. Prisoners should be made to learn a trade, and then given a job in public employment at the end of it. It would have to be a job that paid properly, but didn't give massive scope for advancement. This could be done through dummy companies, which are not advertised as employing ex-cons. At the end of a period of time - say two years - the ex-con would be made compulsorily redundant (need to make way for other released prisoners) and they could go on their way with a CV showing work experience, a legitimate reason for leaving and references available. They would have the experience of earning a wage and contributing to society. If they didn't want to co-operate in the rehabilitation process, they could just stay where they were for the whole sentence.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that this is a cheap, quick or easy solution. But it would give ex-prisoners a better chance of going straight than just tossing them into a bail hostel and handing them a Giro every two weeks.

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  • 128. At 2:08pm on 20 Aug 2009, verntern wrote:

    Baby Peter. I note from BBC news that these convicted creatures have lodged an appeal against their sentences. It is within the power of the Appeal Court Judge to INCREASE their sentences. What kind of lawyer can it be to want to take money from the State for such an indecent and immoral appeal?

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  • 129. At 2:08pm on 20 Aug 2009, greyslartibartfast wrote:

    I see that this evil trio are appealing their sentences. It is right that they should do so. The appeal judges can set sentences to fit the crime. That is life meaning life with no possibilty of parole

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  • 130. At 2:11pm on 20 Aug 2009, numenius wrote:

    The point is correct that by the very nature of those currently attracted to social work and the strong old loony-left ideologies within that profession, most wear rose-tinted glasses and believe in giving chance after chance after chance. We'd get better decisions made by "real life" people, who don't think that every offender is at heart a cuddly misunderstood bunny!

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  • 131. At 2:55pm on 20 Aug 2009, KennethM wrote:

    #125 censordodging

    I think that advocating yet more social services is wrong. The paradox is that the more problems arise, the more we ask the authorities, social services, teachers etc to take over. The result is that family members, friends and neighbours are redundant and no longer take responsibility. The individual that is the subject of the problem also does not take responsibility.

    I believe it is decadent for us to delegate our social responsibility to the state. I also believe it will lead to an ever downward spiral.

    #127 politicallyincorrect I have never understood how it has been concluded that people offend more often when they come out of prison than if they had never gone there. How can anybody know? There is a cause and effect dilemma which seems to have been overlooked. I would have thought that people who have been put into prison are the most likely group to re-offend.

    I believe that the way to reduce crime happening in the first place and save lives and is for the offenders and their families to pay all the costs of being in prison plus the costs incurred by the police and courts, and of course the victim. This would have a chilling affect on the crime rate as families would be self-policing.

    I don’t think that prisoners should be given jobs half way through their sentence. I believe that they should be set to work at once. If that means they will need to learn a new skill then so be it. Their pay could go towards paying victim, prison, police and court costs and we would have a cheap source of labour.

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  • 132. At 3:39pm on 20 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Politically Correct,
    Obviously prisons are full of criminals of every sort. I stated that to lead into my next point. How would you have worded it?
    In any case, the shell company idea is a great idea you must work for MI6 to have an idea like that. The only part I don't agree with is the bread and water bit. Was that tongue and cheek? I don't think you need to humiliate people in order to get them to do what you want. I know that military and government agencies use this form of abuse and it works on some people but not on others. The breaking down of a person's character seems like a controversial technique on prisoners since many people who are incarcerated already come from decimated lives.
    I think the military and government security agencies are in many ways responsible for the many problems we have now. They hire and deal with psycopaths who really should be institutionalised. They train them then they learn all the secrets to the innermost workings of the agency. Former security forces then train drug cartels and murder and mayhem abound. One recently stated that he slept with a woman whose head he had cut off and that to him, it made no difference. We don't need men like this. We don't need to train psychopaths. We need men who know right from wrong. Who have a moral compass. That's what we need for prisoners. To get them to get in touch with their feelings so that they stop hurting others and as you say, to train them so that they have a skill that is well paid so that they can support their own families.

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  • 133. At 3:44pm on 20 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear U1678820,
    If you feel that way then you might as well start a fire in the prison ward and kill off prisoners because you don't believe that a person can redeem himself.
    I believe in redemption.

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  • 134. At 3:45pm on 20 Aug 2009, emsky90 wrote:

    The care of the child should ALWAYS come first. Reported in this case there was a Social Worker who spoke out about Baby P and tried to have the child removed from the abusive family - they got the sack! Its the money grabbers at the tops responsibiliy that baby P died, when he could have been saved.

    I think the sentences handed out in this trial are disgusting - for what they've done those people deserve to rot in hell.

    And i bet they get protection in prison aswel...... when we all know what would happen if they didnt - they get better treatment and more human rights as criminals than that innocent little boy did ever in his short life! Even the death penalty if it were still in use would be too good for them!!!!

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  • 135. At 4:11pm on 20 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Censor Dodging,
    I was wondering where the parent in charge of the two little girls was when they got into trouble on that beach, resulting in one child's death? When I'm responsible for someone else's child I'm in combat mode protecting someone's child with my own life. If society had the midset of being protective of all children in their community, perhaps this drowning would have had a different outcome? (I'm grateful to the man who saved one of the girls.)I think children should be looked on as National Treasure's. We need to protect them at all cost.
    Furethermore, It's imperative that parents watch their children around water and that means watching not reading a book, talking to your girlfriend or eating lunch. It means standing beside them, in the water.
    Whatever it takes to have a safe day. Fun for the kids. Not so fun for the parents.

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  • 136. At 5:30pm on 20 Aug 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    134. At 3:45pm on 20 Aug 2009, emsky90 wrote:
    "...I think the sentences handed out in this trial are disgusting - for what they've done those people deserve to rot in hell..."

    And to make matters worse, they've lodged an appeal. Daren't say any more on that 'cos the moderators might think I'm prejudicing the case!!!

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  • 137. At 4:37pm on 21 Aug 2009, Filias wrote:

    One thing that I think we are in danger of losing sight of is the difference between Justice and Revenge.

    A case like this obviously evokes deep feeling and an understandable reaction is to want these people to suffer in the same way that they made Baby P suffer.

    However, this is not justice. This is revenge.

    If we give in to our baser emotions, like the desire for revenge then we are on a dangerous and sliperly slope which will ultimately end up in a destructive society. This is not to say that these people should be given a slap on the wrist and then let go - they should serve their time as allocated and only be given parole or early release if they can prove that they are no longer a threat to society.

    Once they have been released, if there is a genuine threat to them from the public, then they should be given the protection that they need. It is abhorant that they should need this - what kind of society do we live in where people are willing and wanting to take the law into their own hands? People like that are little better than those who commited this horrific crime in the first place.

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  • 138. At 7:29pm on 21 Aug 2009, samlou22 wrote:

    I think the one thing we are forgetting here is that social workers arent the only health professionals involved in a childs case, what about the GP, health visitor, nursery nurse,practice nurse. We all have a duty of care. And I would argue that as Baby P's mother was a profound liar, who manipulated the system, I would challenge anyone to be able to prove (or even detect) that she WAS lying...its not easy, we all get taken in by liars in our lives at some point, we are all human, and unless social services SAW (for example) a bruise, how are they meant to know what is happening? none of us are psychic (well ok, some people propose to be, but thats a whole new debate!). Overall tho, yes I agree, bring back the death penalty, at the end of the day, the individuals who were supposedly first and foremost responsible for the care of Baby P were his parents.

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  • 139. At 9:11pm on 21 Aug 2009, BargHumer wrote:

    Perhaps someone could pass this research on to CAFCASS - protectors of the abuser who is the most adept at lying and manipulating. Destroying what the child needs by stromgly recommending no further contact with one parent on the basis of statements from a resident child who has clearly been manipulated.

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  • 140. At 10:42pm on 21 Aug 2009, Filias wrote:

    samlou22 wrote:
    I think the one thing we are forgetting here is that social workers arent the only health professionals involved in a childs case, what about the GP, health visitor, nursery nurse,practice nurse. We all have a duty of care.
    Overall tho, yes I agree, bring back the death penalty, at the end of the day, the individuals who were supposedly first and foremost responsible for the care of Baby P were his parents.

    I would have to agree that responsibility for not spotting this, and other cases like it, goes beyond just the Social Worker. There should have been opportunities in other areas to spot that something was wrong.

    The problems run throughout the system, and just just those at the sharp end but also those higher up the chain.

    However, I would have to disagree with a call for the return of the death penalty even for heinous cromes like this. The issue is, and has always been, that mistakes cannot be rectified.

    I think it is a natural initial reaction to say that such people should be killed for their crimes but I would see that as a backwards step for society and for justice where an emotional response to the disgusting nature of these crimes takes over. We have a duty to rise above such baser emotions and not let them influence us in such situations.

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  • 141. At 5:41pm on 23 Aug 2009, Kirsten wrote:

    I think it's great how so many non social workers know so much about how to look after children at risk. Why aren't you all working as social workers and showing the rest of them how it's done?

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  • 142. At 00:38am on 24 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear SpikesKirsten,
    Your attitude seems a bit flippant. Are you a social worker? What's your issue?

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  • 143. At 2:08pm on 24 Aug 2009, milly1701 wrote:

    i have been wondering for a while whether the way the social workers are employed is partly to blame, i know there are some out there that do a good job, but i think that if people with life experience and common sense where the first part of the job description, rather than 3/4 years at university, and then , well you have learnt everything, now out you go, is the best way. I am sure there are people out there that could do a fantastic job as a social workers but they cannot because maybe they haven't got the academic ability to do a degree, or more to the point can't afford the debt that goes with it and the sacrifice, but would able to spot a maltreated child at 10 paces, would be a better qualification than anything on paper.But the beaurocrats would never have it, so it will never happen.

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  • 144. At 04:36am on 25 Aug 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Milly 1701,
    You make a great point. When it comes to children its really just important to have a lot of love and child caring skills. Some people seem like they're naturally born care givers but they never get the chance because society puts a lot of obstructions in people's way to get the qualifications. That's why there's always a shortage of people in these fields. not to mention that its also very stressful too.I think if people have experience working in child care centers and are known to work well with children, they should be utilised by social services to come in the home to teach caregivers how to be better parents. Something like a Nanny 911. They could liase with social workers about a child's care and really help parents become competent care givers. It would be a paraprofessional position and could be a stepping stone to encourage workers to return to school to get the qualifications to become a social worker. Staying a paraprofessional can have some advantages because you don't have all the responsibility and headache that a social worker has so in many ways its more fun. The only negative aspect being that you don't get the "big"(HAA! HAA!) salary either. I think this scheme would make a lot of sense for caring professions, care givers, nurses, teachers. Don't give up. There is such a great need out there for loving, caring people. If you take one small step in that direction, the sea will part and opportunity will come knocking.

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  • 145. At 11:29am on 25 Aug 2009, politicallyincorrect wrote:

    #131 KennethM: I don’t think that prisoners should be given jobs half way through their sentence. I believe that they should be set to work at once. If that means they will need to learn a new skill then so be it. Their pay could go towards paying victim, prison, police and court costs and we would have a cheap source of labour.
    The reason I was suggesting the harsh initial treatment was to clearly differentiate between punishment and rehabilitation. They could indeed be given work during the first half of their sentence, but it would have to be thoroughly unpleasant stuff - building convict roads, digging holes and filling them in again, cleaning toilets with a toothbrush, sewing mail bags, that sort of thing. That way, the change to easier conditions would give more of an incentive to go along with the rehabilitation. It might improve behaviour, as there would be the threat that if they stepped out of line, they could go back on the chain gang for a while. But you're spot on about their earning money to pay their costs - they shouldn't profit from their work in prison.
    #132 Joan Olivares:
    Obviously prisons are full of criminals of every sort. I stated that to lead into my next point. How would you have worded it?
    Just being flippant. I get like that sometimes :-)
    The only part I don't agree with is the bread and water bit. Was that tongue and cheek?
    No, not entirely. As I said above, I think it's important to make a clear difference between punishment and rehabilitation. In the punishment stage, we shouldn't be concerned with prisoners' feelings too much. There shouldn't be a conscious attempt to break them - it's ultimately counter-productive - but the basics of life should be all they're entitled to. I think the contrast between the two stages would work in the majority of cases in providing an incentive to go along with the rehab. There would always be a hard core that won't, but that would happen no matter what approaches were tried.
    They hire and deal with psycopaths who really should be institutionalised. They train them then they learn all the secrets to the innermost workings of the agency.
    Not sure I'd agree with that. Psychopaths and nutters are generally kept at arms' length and regarded as expendable. You can see why - someone who doesn't know right from wrong and has no sense of guilt (the classic definition of a pyschopath) ultimately cannot be controlled, and the more someone like that knows about an organisation, the bigger the security risk they pose.

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  • 146. At 11:52am on 25 Aug 2009, niceenlightened wrote:

    Joan Olivares you do like the sound of your own voice...........?!?!?

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