Saturday, 4 August 2012

Shafilea Ahmed

The Independent and the Daily Mail  report on the shocking case of Shafilea Ahmed, whose parents have just been convicted of her murder in 2003. The parents’ motive is reported to have been that they were ashamed that their daughter was becoming ‘westernised’.

Shafilea was 17 years-old at the time of her death. It appears that health professionals, police and social workers were involved with her in the year prior to her death, when she ran away from home and complained to teachers that she was being abused at home. She also attempted suicide by drinking bleach.

The papers provide only scanty details of health and social care involvement with Shafilea. There is no information about a Serious Case Review and no SCR report is mentioned on the Warrington Safeguarding ChildrenBoard website. However Edwina Harrison, the independent chair of the Warrington Safeguarding Children Board, is quoted in the papers as saying that procedures have been changed since Shafilea's murder. She said that now a homeless 16-year-old would receive a better service and would be fully assessed by a social worker. To my mind the question should be about why no child protection (Section 47) enquiries were put in hand.

Given that the Serious Case Review is seen by government as the main vehicle for learning and improvement in child protection, I hope Warrington Safeguarding Children Board are preparing one in this case. On the face of it this sounds to be a case where a young person was seriously failed by the system. Without a better understanding of what went wrong, Edwina Harrison’s reassurances that the same thing cannot happen again have a hollow ring.