Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Hamzah Khan: the Serious Case Review, initial reaction.

I was surprised to find myself agreeing with most of the points that Children’s Minister Edward Timpson made in his letter to the Bradford Local Safeguarding Children Board regarding the Serious Case Review (SCR) report concerning Hamzah Khan.

I have not yet finished reading the report, but I am wading slowly through it. And I have already been struck to some extent by a tantalising absence of detail in some places. As one is reading, questions seem to occur all the time – why, how, when?

So the minister is quite right to ask about whether assessments were undertaken on various occasions and what actions were or were not taken on others.

Ministers and civil servants have had rather longer than the rest of us to peruse the report. That might be time during which frustration with it could grow and fester. But I don’t think that is any excuse for the rather nasty language that seemed to be oozing out of the Department for Education and onto the desks of BBC reporters just before this evening’s 6 o’clock News on Radio 4.

“The Government has dismissed as rubbish …” the BBC bulletin began citing unnamed sources; and continued to speak of “glaring absences in the review”.

It may not be the best SCR report ever written, and it certainly does not explain everything, but it is NOT rubbish. It provides a partial imperfect picture of what happened. It is a starting point, not a finishing point. It is an SCR report and it shortcomings are typical. I have serious doubts about whether the Serious Case Review approach will ever deliver full clarity and certainty about what happens in these tragic cases; but perhaps that’s another story for another day….

Pointing out shortcomings is one thing. Rubbishing the report is something else. To do that is unhelpful and unconstructive. The unnamed Whitehall sources should be warned. This is not knockabout politics; it is serious stuff about the safety of children.