An INADEQUATE Headline
The value and importance of a local newspaper cannot be underestimated and especially when they do what they are best at as the Northampton Chronicle and Echo has in reporting on the very disturbing independent report into the failure of the County Council to protect the most vulnerable of children.
When I wrote my blog on the 3rd March saying that” Inadequate may be a Generous Assessment” we had not received the full report and had only been given a somewhat watered down version from the Conservative controlled council.
The full extent of the shocking state of the Northamptonshire Child Protection services has now come to light with the publication of the report on the Ofsted website, and sadly Inadequate is very much a ‘generous assessment’ for what has been a systematic and systemic failure of the Conservatives to provide protection to the most vulnerable children across the county.
It is easy of course after the event to trot out the same old clichés that we have heard all too often.
“We accept the report and will learn the lessons”
But surely those who have made the decisions to cut funding for the services and those responsible for the implementation of the policy have seen similar failures elsewhere, and like many right-minded people have been appalled at the consequences of the neglect.
Wouldn’t you have thought that they like the rest of us would have sat and listened to the same pathetic excuses and thought “I would not let that happen on my watch”?
Clearly they haven’t which begs the question why not.
The Chronicle and Echo report in the March 21st edition is well written and thoughtful but it doesn’t address or challenge the real issue of just who was responsible and why they should be held accountable.
The headline “Don’t Fail Them Again” doesn’t go far enough because those children and families who have already been failed will have to live with the consequences of the neglect for the rest of their lives and if the reports that five children have died in the past two years are accurate then for their families the pain is even greater.
It is easy to blame the individual Councillor responsible for the service or the Head of the Service but what about those who are also responsible.
It wasn’t a single Councillor who took the policy decision to cut funding and staffing in the Child Protection Services that has led to such a damning independent indictment from Ofsted but the collective decision by the Conservative Cabinet members when setting their budgets.
It was a collective responsibility from which the other members of the Cabinet have divorced themselves and remained as disgracefully silent.
The cuts in the Child Protection services were accompanied by cuts in services supporting the vulnerable such as the elderly, those with mental health issues, teenage mothers, and help for the homeless and other front line services.
All of which were cuts that Northampton Labour warned would lead to where we find ourselves today, warnings that the Northampton Conservatives in their arrogance ignored.
There are also others within the administration and organisation that should be held accountable.
Those who were acting in the role of political advisor to the Leader of the Council and his Cabinet and who was presumably at the taxpayers’ expense advising on policy, budgets and how to spin it all as a success.
This is an issue that will continue to resonate across the County and especially Northampton whose vulnerable children have been so badly let down.
A word of warning though which is that we should be prepared for the Conservatives political spin machine to now try to spread the blame to those who are not involved in the Ofsted inspection.
I particularly refer to our schools who take safeguarding seriously and while they have a part to play in the protection of the children in their care were not a part of the Ofsted inspection that found the Conservative County Council to be INADEQUATE in all four categories on which a judgement was made.
The problem and in my view the main issue for Northampton and Northamptonshire is that those who took the decisions and who advised them that they were acceptable are still in positions of authority and continuing to make decisions affecting our most vulnerable residents.
They are people who if they had a shred of decency would accept responsibility both individually and collectively for their failure to protect our children and resign.
They have failed the basic requirement, that of being able to be TRUSTED and the only way the Chronicle and Echo headline of “Don’t Fail Them Again” can be guaranteed is if those responsible GO and GO NOW to be replaced by people who really can be trusted to make the right policy decisions that will ensure that children and the vulnerable will be provided with a service that keeps them safe from institutional neglect.