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National Threat’ Eh Mr Cameron?

Solicitors in London

As the Government announces new measures to tackle child abuse in the wake of the events which took place in Rotherham, our blogger, David Hutchinson, who himself was a victim of abuse as a child, gives his deeply personal response to the statement.

Over the last day or so there has been a Serious Case Review (SCR) published by Oxfordshire County Council, and in the face of widespread public concern about child abuse and child trafficking, the Prime Minister has this afternoon called a summit at Downing Street.

From my perspective as a disabled victim of child abuse, Mr Cameron will only succeed if his worried words about this ‘national threat’ are followed by hard cash. It is all very well sounding concerned but action is what is needed, not more warm words out of a government that produces more hot air than the average coal fired power station.

Oxfordshire Serious Case Review

As many as 370 young girls are estimated to have been drugged and sexually abused in Oxfordshire over the last 16 years. The authorities did little for a very long time, and the SCR found that the problems could have been stopped many years before they were. In human terms, hundreds of young girls could have avoided physical and sexual abuse.

The SCR stated:

“On the surface, many of the illustrations described in the report can seem like professional ineptitude, unconcern, or inaction. They become more understandable when put in the context of the knowledge and processes at the time, practical difficulties around evidence, and a professional mind-set which could not grasp that the victims’ ability to say ‘no’ had been totally eroded. However, understanding it does not make what happened right. The analysis of ‘why’, on the surface, there was inexplicable behaviour by organisations is to explain, not excuse.”

Bureaucracies are well known for hiding information and protecting their members. This is why Jimmy Saville ran amok in hospitals across the country for decades.

Oxfordshire County Council rightly state that they are not the first local authority to have had such a huge case as this. The SCR goes on to state:

“The same patterns of abuse are seen, the same views of victims and parents, and similar long lead-ins before effective intervention…”

Downing Street?

From my own perspective and that of the victims, it is great news that the government has taken direct interest in this plague of child exploitation and trafficking. There is a major caveat to this. The Conservative Party’s central manifesto pledge is more cuts through its austerity programme.

The social work journal Community Care, which itself had to go online only and stop its print publication due to freezes in recruitment advertising, has shown how deeply cuts to children’s social services have bitten already. In April 2014, it suggested:

“Statutory safeguarding duties could be breached and children in care left with longer waits for specialist support under plans by local authorities to reduce spending on children’s services this year…”

The analysis made by Community Care showed average cuts to children’s social services by 4%, adjusted for inflation, from the year before. Where the article showed that much of the cuts were to back office bureaucracy, it suggested that the cuts were beginning to bite on frontline services. The article showed a number of ways this was being done. Caseloads are being reviewed and some were being dropped. Safeguarding budgets are being cut, and some cases are being handed to people without training in social work. Finally, some specialist posts are being cut, to include substance misuse social workers.

All of these cuts could potentially make social care teams miss something in the community that could show up another major child abuse scandal.

Put your money where your mouth is!

I was abused by a prefect who was himself abused by my private school’s headmaster in the 1980’s. This took a promising young man with a privileged background and wrecked my life. Rather than succeeding in education and perhaps even working for Osbornes as a lawyer myself, I had to spend 5 years in recovery from an acute psychotic breakdown in my 20’s.

As I have recovered I have seen successive governments make massive cuts to health, social care and welfare budgets, to the point that it is now impossible for someone to follow my path from acute psychosis to an MA and then on to being a successful writer, with the support I got from the Welfare State.

When challenged over cuts to welfare budgets and the NHS, David Cameron reminds everyone of his late disabled son, as if that would somehow reverse the cuts and despair brought about austerity. This is precisely where I see lots more hot air coming from the government over the child abuse scandals breaking out across the country. The government is full of warm words and never follows its promises with money… or will it this time?

If there is to be any serious response from the government over this issue, money needs to follow the promises. Not a few million here or there, but enough to reverse the cuts to children’s social care budgets by a good five years. Only with large teams of effective social workers that have high morale can we tackle this properly. Hot air dissipates into the atmosphere, never to be seen again.

Osbornes can provide you with information in respect of care and case support services, details of support groups, welfare advice services and other financial services.

Osbornes can also provide you with advice on all potential abuse claims including historical claims. Stephanie Prior, who is an expert abuse claims lawyer offers a free consultation to evaluate the circumstances of your case and to help you understand whether or not you have a compensation claim.

You can contact Stephanie on 020 7485 8811 or by e-mailing stephanieprior@osborneslaw.com

 

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