The terrible treatment of seven-year old Khyra Ishaq has shocked everyone who has heard the details of the case. Today her mother and stepfather who subjected her to such appalling abuse have been sentenced.
The extent of their crimes is horrific enough, yet the fact that the authorities missed several opportunities to step in and save Khyra makes the case all the more traumatic.
Whenever a child’s death could have been prevented it is essential that we learn the lessons that might help improve the system and save children in future. This is why at the start of this month I wrote to the Safeguarding Children Board in Birmingham asking them to publish the full Serious Case Review into Khrya’s death. Serious Case Reviews are carried out when a child dies and abuse or neglect are known or suspected to have been a factor in the death, or when particularly serious child abuse takes place. They examine the contact the child and their family have had with public services and ask tough questions about whether things could have been done better.
The problem is that these reports are then only published in executive summary form (normally 10 to 15 pages) which fail to give a detailed picture of what has gone wrong and what is being done to put things right. This was clearly seen in the executive summaries that followed the death of Baby Peter and the Edlington torture case both of which were shown to omit crucial details that had been included in the full report.
Last month we published our policy paper Child Protection: Back to the Frontline which again called on the Government to publish full Serious Case Reviews, suitably anonymised and redacted so as to protect living children. Tellingly we have been supported by the British Association of Social Workers, the profession’s weekly magazine, Community Care, and by the Victoria Climbié Foundation.
Public confidence in child protection is at an all-time low. To restore it the Government has to end this secrecy which simply heightens the suspicion of cover-ups. Most importantly, greater transparency will allow everyone in child protection to learn from each other’s mistakes.