Opinion: What the Edlington case really says about our society

David Cameron yesterday accused the Labour government of a ‘moral failure’, citing the case centred around Edlington, near Doncaster which is on trial in Sheffield Crown Court.

I have wanted to write something on this case for a while, and David Cameron’s intervention has proved the final straw. He is, in my view, making unacceptable political capital out of a tragic case, and sadly he can cite several cases where children have been tortured and killed including the Baby ‘P’.

The Tories talk about ‘broken Britain’ and ‘broken society’. Cameron is arguing that the ‘Big State’ has let us all down. All great soundbites, but hypocritical – after all, Jamie Bulger was murdered during a Tory government in 1993. And I believe you can argue that Tory policies have contributed to the current state of our society (such as ‘care in the community’).

I believe that in these tragic cases, we all need to take a step back and consider our roles, both as individuals and in the community, to help ensure they do not happen again. We need to adopt collective responsibility, as well as pointing out the shortfalls in government policy.

In many ways, our social services are not fit for purpose – they are constantly short of funds and have unrealistic caseloads, which is a failing of the government. The main failing, however is that it is easy for people in the community to blame social services, or the government, when we all have a role to play. Cameron’s answer is to vaguely specify that the state needs to take a smaller role, but doesn’t really qualify this with anything concrete (no change there then…)

I don’t believe that the Tories will introduce a policy that will enable any far-reaching social change. Rather, a Tory Government will engender the ‘we are all in it for ourselves’ mantra: some will benefit, many more will not.

The Edlington case highlights that we need to provide more support for our communities to try and solve these problems and help challenge unacceptable behaviour. The boys apparently committed their crime, because they were bored. So, I want to apologise to the victims of the Edlington case, because I believe that we have all let them down. I also want to apologise to the perpetrators, because we have all let them down as well.

I hope that cases like these will inspire people to become more involved with their communities, after all some good should come from such tragic cases. Instead Labour and the Tories are like wolves picking over remains, ultimately exacerbating and not resolving the problem.

* Rachel Smith is a Lib Dem activist who lives in Sheffield.

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13 Comments

  • “So, I want to apologise to the victims of the Edlington case, because I believe that we have all let them down. I also want to apologise to the perpetrators, because we have all let them down as well.”

    Eh? Is this the guilt trip to end all guilt trips?

    For the record:

    (1) The crime was committed by two individuals whose identities are being kept secret. They committed this crime through their own volition. They were not acting under anyone’s duress.

    (2) Doncaster Children’s Services missed 35 opportunities to intervene in this family and prevent more serious offences being committed. That is what the SCR found, and is what the Independent Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board told the media.

    So, unless we are the perpetrators, or were involved in child protection in Doncaster prior to special measures, there is nothing for which we are called upon to apologise. Why are we being asked to flaggellate ourselves?

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jan '10 - 9:58am

    “(1) The crime was committed by two individuals whose identities are being kept secret. They committed this crime through their own volition. They were not acting under anyone’s duress.”
    It seems clear that their upbringing was so vile that they were in no position to make rational judgements about what was right and what was wrong. No-one in their home background was teaching them right from wrong.

    “(2) Doncaster Children’s Services missed 35 opportunities to intervene in this family and prevent more serious offences being committed. That is what the SCR found, and is what the Independent Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board told the media.”
    That seems the most important issue. The later you intervene the worse the damage and the more it costs society to fix it.

    “So, unless we are the perpetrators, or were involved in child protection in Doncaster prior to special measures, there is nothing for which we are called upon to apologise. Why are we being asked to flaggellate ourselves?”
    Because we – despite Thatcher’s view on the subject – are all part of society – and this happened in our society. Doncaster is not the only local authority failing in these issues. We – society – elect the members of the local authorities – we therefore bear some responsibility when things go badly wrong.

  • Nonconformistradical, you are entering perilous territory. Thatcher did have a point. “Society” is a somewhat nebulous term, especially when one is in the business of chucking blame around. Your appeal to collective guilt is the same kind of argument (usually deployed in a self-serving and propagandistic way) that is used by Jewish nationalists to claim that all Germans are to blame for the Holocaust, anti-Semites to claim that all Jews murdered Christ, and John Pardoe to say that all British people are to blame for the conflict in Northern Ireland. Are you familiar with the terms, “causation” and “knowledge”? I suggest you look them up in the dictionary and educate yourself.

    Now, let’s get down to your specific allegation that LAs other than Doncaster MBC are failing in child safeguarding. Do you have any evidence for this? Do you know how child safeguarding works? One of the reasons child abuse goes undetected in many cases is because lazy GPs fail to spot obvious symptons, or if they do, fail to follow them up and share information with other child protection agencies. Are we collectively to blame for useless GPs as well as social workers and useless politicians?

    Are those who voted Labour in 2001 war criminals? I am not aware that waging an illegal war at the behest of Dick Cheney was part of the Labour manifesto. But I guess collective racial crimes like electing the wrong government don’t have a mens rea component.

  • David Cameron yesterday accused the Labour government of a ‘moral failure’,
    WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT IN THE BBC REPORT?
    It was the headline from the BBC, which they have now changed, but I can not see where he said those words.

    Mr Cameron has accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of a “cover-up” for refusing to publish the full text of a serious case review into the Doncaster attack, rather than the executive summary.

    If you look on here http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8473000/8473981.stm you will hear this was said “what they (BBC) though he would say, not what he said.
    If you can find where he said the “Labour party were to blame” please show a link to it.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jan '10 - 3:43pm

    “let’s get down to your specific allegation that LAs other than Doncaster MBC are failing in child safeguarding.”

    Er – Haringey?

  • It is the Doncaster Local Safeguarding Children Board which decides whether to publish the Overview Report or the Executive Summary, not the government. OFSTED publishes its Evaluation scores, but not the letter. The government is unlikely to intervene and compel publication of the Overview Report until after the OFSTED Evaluation is complete. The LSCB includes representatives not just from the LA but from the PCT, the hospital, the Police, the Probation Service and the NSPCC. It will soon be required to have members of the public, too. BTW, the Serious Case Review isn’t just a single review, it incorporates Independent Management Reviews commissioned by all the agencies involved.

    Cameron, with his gibberish about “broken Britain”, is attempting in a rather brazen way to make political capital out of the case, as we would expect of a Tory politician talent-spotted by Dick Cheney.

  • Cameron, with his gibberish about “broken Britain”, is attempting in a rather brazen way to make political capital out of the case, as we would expect of a Tory politician talent-spotted by Dick Cheney.

    Rubbish Cameron has been on about “broken Britain” for our a year now, and Tony Blair did also in 1997.

    He was told by Labour he was making out political capital about Baby P, but Labour had to join in with him within 48 hours.

  • So Cameron has been talking gibberish for over a year. I stand corrected.

  • Sesenco
    Posted 24th January 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink
    So Cameron has been talking gibberish for over a year. I stand corrected.

    Nice to didn’t know you did not know what he has been saying.!!!!!

  • Simon L Moxon 24th Jan '10 - 8:35pm

    It appears to me, that the original article suggests that rather than finger pointing; we should collectively find ways of making our communities safer by adopting personal responsibility.

    Our systems and safeguards could be improved; these organisations and the way they function need by necessity to evolve. This is a tragic incident from which we should try to salvage any learning points we can.

    It would be disheartening to think that the election campaign will be about which broadcaster report what, or which group of professionals is the most useless. I would be considerably more engaged by a discussion of what could be better and how we make that happen.

    David, Sesenco, Nonconformistradical, what are your, (constructive), suggestions on how to make the system we pay for, (and rely on), better?

  • In answer to David L Moxon, we insist that the safeguarding agencies in Doncaster implement the recommendations in the Edlington Serious Case Review, and call on safeguarding agencies in other areas to review their practices (which most are doing anyway). The role of elected politicians is twofold. The Executive Portfolio Holder for Children should use his/her position on the Local Safeguarding Children Board to ensure that best practice is being applied and that the agencies are working together. Other councillors should continue to monitor the system as best they can, given the necessary secrecy that surrounds safeguarding. Now, I think that is a more constructive way forward than self-flagellation or listening to David Cameron.

    But bear in mind the following:

    (1) Councillors’ postbags are filled with stuff about house extensions, rubbish and potholes. Safeguarding children rarely appears on the radar screen except when something like Doncaster happens.
    (2) Employing more social workers, retraining doctors, etc, costs money.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jan '10 - 8:36am

    Doncaster is governed by the executive mayor system, which the great and good STILL insist must naturally lead to better government, because mayors can “get things done”, aren’t tied down by fuddy-duddy committee decision making, the post will naturally attract people with entrepreneurial can-do attitudes etc etc. You will still find, for example in Guardian newspaper articles, “elected mayors” regularly listed alongside proportional representation, elected second chamber etc as a constitutional reform which will naturally lead to better and more democratic government and so assumed as part of desired reform that the reason for including the idea isn’t even mentioned.

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