A social policy think tank has called on the government to radically reassess local authority children’s departments.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), established by Iain Duncan Smith, said a Royal Commission should be established to “to radically rethink, and advise on the wholesale redesign of social care and statutory mental health services for vulnerable children and young people”.
In a new report entitled Enough Is Enough, the CSJ claims the system is currently in crisis. A significant number of vulnerable children are “slipping through the net” it says. They are being refused care and support by under-resourced councils who sometimes engage in “unscrupulous and illegal practices”.
The report is based on analyses of 20 cases dealt with by the inner city children’s charity Kids Company. The youngsters in question all came from troubled backgrounds but still did not receive help from their local authorities, following “abhorrent failures”, the CSJ claims.
According to the report, voluntary sector organisations are “…offering critical support and, in many cases, a lifeline to some of the most marginalised in our society.”
By contrast, declared the CSJ, local authorities are often burdened by high case loads and caught up in a “culture of not wanting to take responsibility, or of ticking boxes to avert the risk of being blamed if something goes wrong.”
Examples cited by the report include:
“A seven-year-old boy feeling forced by his mother to steal milk for his baby sibling, and abandoned by social care following his arrest – left to live with his mother (addicted to crack cocaine) for a decade in conditions of extreme neglect, and in a chronically chaotic and violent environment, while his younger siblings continue to live with her to date. He developed anger and substance misuse (cannabis) difficulties.
‘Dad used to fight with [my mum’s partner] a lot. My mum used to hit dad all the time, with severe blows. She stabbed him, put a cup in his face, dashed him in the skull with rollerblades. But daddy was an angel. He never used to … hit my mum back … It was very bad because I used to go to school and when I came back I always used to see blood – on the wall or on my dad’s face.’ ”
Christian Guy is director of the CSJ. He said:
“Child protection and mental health failures in England are like an open wound. It’s not good enough that we have to wait until we hear the child neglect horror stories before anything is done.”
“Many of the problems uncovered in this report have been building under successive governments and we urgently need a Royal Commission to fully understand the extent of these issues.”