A mother was convicted last week of starving her four-year-old son to death. The newspaper headlines were stark and the pictures truly shocking. It was two years before the child’s body was found.
But this was far from the first time we have seen such headlines. Indeed according to NSPCC statistics, on average, one child is killed every week in the UK.
Whenever a child dies of abuse or neglect, an inter-agency group conducts a Serious Case Review to see what lessons can be learnt about protecting children. However, in a recent interview, a senior NSPCC official stated starkly that such Serious Case Reviews have been saying the same things for years, but we don’t seem to be able to learn the lessons.
The blame of course is laid at the feet of government agencies who are quick to respond that they are under-resourced and demoralised. But I wonder if its time to move this discussion on. What does it say about us as a society, that our most vulnerable are not properly protected. We need to move beyond scapegoating (its too easy to simply blame others) and we need to ask: what is our role and the role of our local community in caring for those most in need.
Resilient communities are made up of groups who take seriously their responsibility for the care of the most vulnerable. They look out for the warning signs of neglect or abuse and they refuse to stay silent. They also know their limits, with partnerships already in place with the professionals who must deal with the complex issues which surround this work.
Who cares? Its time we all did.
By the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow