We rage at Savile and clerics but stay silent on child abuse within the home, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the Sunday Times this week. “In all the media coverage of child abuse by groomers euphemisms cover up the gruesome back stories: The girls were from ‘troubled families’. Or had ‘unstable home lives’, or were ‘in and out of care’”.
Why this coyness she asks? Why indeed? Her question was made all the more pertinent by a report on the staggering increase – by 60 per cent in the last year – of the number of children known to have died as a result of abuse or neglect.
It is not often I find myself endorsing my erstwhile Oxford University contemporary but yes, this is a question that needs asking. Conveniently she didn’t get to answering it.
I say conveniently because this would have brought her into the taboo territory of judging those euphemistically described lifestyles – single parent, cohabiting or multiple boyfriends – that give rise to such families, that multiply with each new generation.
Neither the handwringing nor the public enquiries headed by Lord Laming that followed Victoria Climbie’s death back in 2003 and that of Baby P (2009) have prevented the rise of these risky families. That’s because the politically correct Lord Laming avoided the cultural causes and dwelt on social work process instead. His bureaucratic recommendations – assiduously followed – made matters worse.
His first report was largely responsible for Labour’s meaninglessly worded Every Child Matters initiative (if there was ever a case of ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’ it was this), the Children Act 2004 and the creation of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. Together they increased the State’s interest in and control over children and undermined parental responsibility at the same time. Despite the nominal concern with child protection, none addressed the risks non-biological ‘parents’ pose to children.
Laming’s second report sent good money after bad. It piled on ever more bureaucracy, recommending futile new statutory targets for child protection and numerous other convoluted administrative safeguarding ‘reforms’.
It anguished over who could and could not chair the various new joined-up ‘partnership’ boards, how budgets could be protected, culminating in the creation of a whole new sound-good child protection jargon.
The very thing that needed addressing – who the parents of these ‘at risk’ children were? Who did they associate with, how and why and how their behaviours had come to be tolerated and sustained? – it avoided.
As Laura has highlighted, if this succeeded in anything it was not to nurture children, but to nurture a state-sponsored child protection industry – one weighed down by ‘stakeholders’ and generating jobs for the boys to keep its well-intentioned, but stupid, virtue signalling bandwagon in motion.
Interest in the perpetrators and ‘family formations’ that risk babies’ lives remains as scant as ever. You only have to read this worthy report, commissioned by the NSPCC into neglect and serious case reviews, to see what I mean.
Everything is analysed other than what matters. Every different ‘incident category’ – from domestic violence to parental mental ill health to drug and alcohol misuse – is detailed. All types of maltreatment are listed and cross-correlated with child protection orders, length of child protection orders, former orders, ongoing orders, with age and gender of child, numbers of children in the family and domestic violence.
Everything in fact is cross-referenced but the variable that matters most is the status of the ‘adults’ who endanger their children. Are they the child’s biological parents or not? Are they single, cohabiting, married, step-parents or boyfriends?
This is the information newspapers rightly pick up on. And what does their reporting reveal? All too often, that it is the mother’s boyfriend who is the risk factor and very often the perpetrator in child abuse deaths. Remember the cases?
The most notorious, of course, was Baby Peter Connelly, who was killed by a co-habiting boyfriend that local social services were not even aware of.
Then there was the kidnapping of Shannon Matthews by her mother and cohabiting boyfriend in an attempt to gain financially; there was also the horrific torture and killing of a young Polish boy Daniel Pelka, starved to death by his mother and her cohabiting boyfriend; and the killing of Becky Watts by her stepbrother. The list goes on.
Try and find statistics on this on the Office of National Statistics website and you’ll struggle. On domestic violence and on its association with child abuse yes, but on how single mums and their boyfriends figure in all this abuse, nothing.
Why the omission? Well, such statistics would draw attention to the more horrifying consequences of the liberal cultural revolution of the past 40 years.
Focusing on lifestyles that are dangerous for children would bring the political establishment up against the very policies they have supported and endorsed – from equal opportunities to tax credits, which have done so much to destroy responsible relationships between women and men and parent and child.
So although it is single mothers with boyfriends who most put children’s lives at risk, this is something you will never hear of as a matter of concern to a Minister for Women.
You will find neither Maria Miller nor Harriet Harman warning young women of the dangers of their faux, state-sponsored independence and the multi-relational lifestyle it invites – shameful and damaging though it is.
As Rod Liddle noted in his column last week, Dying of shame might just save drunken loutish Britain, some behaviours need to be treated as shameful to control them.
A dose of shame over the years might have saved many an unwitting baby from risk of death, or a life of abuse and exploitation, so cruelly at the hands of those meant to care for them.