The local press this weekend covers outgoing KCC Chief Executive Peter Gilroy’s paper to full Council – “Safeguarding in Kent: Defending and Developing the Service”. Members commissioned this report at the end of 2008 in response to the high profile cases of abuse which were appearing in the national press. The report is valuable and accessible – you can read it by following this link and clicking on Item 12. At the end of the report there are no fewer than nineteen recommendations, any one of which could be critical to delivering such a crucial service for vulnerable young people.
At both last Monday’s meeting of the KCC Cabinet, where Peter Gilroy’s report was first aired; and at Thursday’s full Council several elected members commented on the concept of ‘community’ – not in any specific terms, you understand, but generally, as if the presence of this ‘community’ would have prevented some of these atrocious abuse cases. I have no first-hand knowledge of the Baby P case in Haringay. However, in the case of Baby Tiffany, the 25 week-old baby who died at the hands of her father 24 year old Christopher Sellman in Greggs Wood Road, Tunbridge Wells on November 1st 2008, I am the local County Councillor. I well remember the calls I had from local people when the police incident tape was put up around the block of flats where little Tiffany died. Concerned, nervous calls from well-meaning members of the local community.
But that’s just the point, you see. In Sherwood, as in many other parts of the country where abuse has taken place, there is a local community, and a strong one at that. One that rallies round when one of their own has a problem. One that turns out to help when things get difficult. But when nobody is aware, when tragedy takes place behind closed doors, when the abused is powerless to cry for help – how would anybody know?
Once again, the spotlight falls on health and care professionals. Where were they when they were needed? Why didn’t they know about this? Couldn’t they have done more? And yet the truth is often nowhere near as clear cut as this. Society has to play its part, to share the responsibility. It isn’t enough to simply point that accusing finger of blame at someone else once again.