The Justice Secretary has said that school closures during lockdown had put vulnerable and neglected children at a greater risk of harm and abuse. In turn, Dame Rachel de Souza, the current Children’s Commissioner for England, concluded that the system put in place to protect six year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was murdered by his step-mother, was further weakened by the Government’s Covid restrictions, whereas her predecessor, Anne Longfield, mentioned that “very vulnerable children have continued to slip from view” over the course of the pandemic. The Times has the story.
Dame Rachel de Souza said that the voices of children must be listened to following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Arthur was killed in June last year after Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes had submitted him to a “campaign of cruelty” that amounted to torture at their home in Shirley, Solihull. The boy was isolated, abused and forced to eat salt-laced meals before dying from an “unsurvivable brain injury” after being beaten by Tustin.
Tustin was jailed for life at Coventry crown court with a minimum term of 29 years last week for abusing, poisoning and murdering Arthur while his father was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter and abuse. The judge described the case as “one of the most distressing and disturbing” he had experienced.
An independent serious case review is under way into the actions of Solihull council social workers who found “no safeguarding concerns” after visiting Arthur two months before he was killed. Social workers received at least three warnings from family members and teachers.
As the Government confirmed that it would be holding a national review to protect other children, de Souza, the Commissioner for England, said that more had to be done to support social workers to spot similar cases, but the coronavirus lockdown had weakened the system.
She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The life of a child is of inestimable value and his voice was not heard and that’s where we need to start.
“Obviously, there’s a serious case review under way and we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action and now.” She said Arthur was not a baby and had raised his concerns but “the system did not hear him”.
“We must listen to the voices of children and, secondly, these reviews and national reviews… tend to make the same recommendations. It’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.”
The national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and provide additional support to Solihull Safeguarding Children Partnership to “upgrade” the existing local review that was launched shortly after Arthur’s death.
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