Monday, 5 August 2013

The Child's Perspective

Carolyne Willow very rightly remarks that: “… a more striking finding of these (serious case) reviews is that all kinds of adults who are paid to protect and care for children consistently ignore the child's perspective”.

Had somebody sat down with Daniel Pelka and given him enough time and space he might have said something which would have precipitated more robust action sooner. So might Victoria Climbié or Khyra Ishaq.

But the crucial question is why it is often the case that the child's wishes and feelings are ignored or not even sought. Could it be that the knee-jerk response which has so dominated child protection in the UK – to introduce more structures and frameworks and procedures – sits uneasily with interpreting, giving meaning to and valuing what children say? So often we are forced to wallow in the pseudo-science of ‘assessment’ and ‘risk management’ and, God help us, such things as ‘inter-agency information sharing protocols’ when what we ought to be doing is playing with and talking to and listening to a child.

Politicians and civil servants and ‘experts’ have made child protection crowded with impedimenta that often have their origins in naïve policies, managerialism or theoretical quackery. Children, especially distressed children, cannot be made to ‘disclose’ conveniently in order to comply with organisational timescales and targets. Nor will they obligingly always say things which can be fitted into a box on a form. Not uncommonly things may have to be said obliquely and indirectly. It is hard to talk about pain and fear.  

Children need time and space to go at their own speed. And they need people they can trust to listen to them and to protect them – not people driven by bureaucratic imperatives which make little sense to anyone.