As the Strategic Leaders of the Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership, we are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. When a child dies in these horrific circumstances, many questions are raised about how professionals acted and worked together, the decisions that were made, and missed opportunities. All professionals have a shared responsibility to safeguard children and we must all work together, relentlessly, to ensure that children are safe and protected from harm.
We would like to remind all professionals to remain diligent, think the unthinkable, be balanced, and speak up if you have a concern. We must take active steps to encourage families to engage with us and, if they are not engaging, then ask why and what could be done to improve this. Despite the challenges of Covid, staff shortages and home isolation, we need to be reassured that children are seen and heard. It is even more important during these times (particularly where working virtually). As well, we must foster a culture of constructive challenge if you are concerned about practice or decisions being made by other professionals. When we challenge others, it is because we care about ensuring that our children and families get the absolute best support.
Most importantly, we must always ask, listen and act on the voice of the child. Always approach situations from the child’s point of view – understand what their day is like, who is important to them, what they are worried about and what they like. And then be their champions.
We would also like to echo the words of the Chief Social Workers for Children and Adults in their joint statement: “The part you play in supporting and protecting the country’s most vulnerable children, adults and families makes a positive difference each and every single day. We condemn those targeting abuse towards individual social workers and the social work profession.” Abuse will not be tolerated towards any professional, and we re-iterate our support and gratitude to all those who continue to make a difference every day in very difficult circumstances.
While we wait for the outcome of the national review, we encourage you all to reflect on your own safeguarding responsibilities: Do you know how to spot the signs of abuse or neglect? Do you know what to do if you have concerns for a child? Do you know what to do if you are concerned about another professional’s actions? Detailed in the fortnightly Partnership Bulletin, and on the training website, are the learning and development opportunities that are available to all professionals who work with children in Herefordshire, which we encourage you to take up. You can also speak with your organisation’s safeguarding lead, and visit the Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership website, and West Midlands Child Protection Procedures site to access resources, policies and procedures for Herefordshire. Where you are concerned that a child may be at risk of harm, call the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (01432 260800) to discuss your concerns with a social worker.
These are exceptional times, and all professionals are working under difficult conditions; working collaboratively will help us to deliver our shared mission to keep children and young people safe from harm.
The Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership
Darryl Freeman, Corporate Director - Children and Young People
Lisa Levy, Chief Nursing Officer
Edward Williams, Superintendent West Mercia Police