‘Tory cuts mean dangers for at-risk kids like Arthur Labinjo-Hughes have rocketed’ – Paul Routledge

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The Government’s review of the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case needs to listen to social workers on the front line, who see the damage that’s been done, writes Paul Routledge

The horrific case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, tortured and murdered by his ­sadistic step-mother, is too harrowing for words. My words, at any rate.

I can’t bear to watch images of that poor little boy begging for food and love, shown over and over again on telly.

How could this tragedy have happened? For answers, I turned to a friend with a ­lifetime’s experience of child protection work: “G” to protect her identity.

She worked in child safeguarding with a large county council for 32 years.

Like her fellow professionals, she’s “in despair” at the decline of the service they worked so hard to provide.

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“Since 2010, cuts to councils have forced them to lose services. Sure Start went first, then family support teams whose job was to prevent neglect, abuse and the need for intervention,” she tells me. “Now, social workers deal with crises when events have gone too far.

“The profession suffers from low recruitment, poor retention and inexperienced managers.

“Social workers are bogged down with theories and no ability to confront and manage manipulating ­families.

“Lockdown has had a seriously damaging effect. One social worker responsible for a child with a safeguarding plan was told to phone parents before visiting, and stand at the gate while they brought the child to the ­doorstep.

“Most teams are working from home without support from more experienced colleagues, lacking input from school or health visitors – a scary situation.

“Social workers are tied to computers, having to meet targets and satisfy senior managers that money is not being overspent, despite having caseloads of 25 children who need to be seen regularly, and alone.

“In this case, police, health and education should have been involved on day one. Check if the family is known. Was this done with dad and step-mum? Birth mum in prison for manslaughter indicated a dysfunctional family, which alone should have raised concerns.”

The Government’s national review of this case must heed the voices of front-line experience like hers.

Otherwise, there will be more cases like Arthur, and Victoria Climbie, Baby Peter Connelly, Daniel Pelka, Khyra Ishaq and many others whose names we will never know.

Follow Julian’s example

Julian Smith, my local Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, was trousering £144,000 a year from a trio of second jobs, on top of his £81,392 parliamentary salary. He has given up all three, and it’s only fair that I should say so.

Don’t worry, being nice to the Tories won’t become a habit.

And perhaps his example will be followed by dozens of greedy MPs on the second-job gravy train, but don’t hold your breath.

Palace panto

The panto season has opened early at the Palace Theatre.

“I’m the most persecuted female royal of all time!” shrieked the Duchess of York to French magazine, Madame Figaro.

“Oh, no you’re not!” whimpered the Duchess of Sussex, clutching the hand of her Prince Charming, “I am!”

“Oh, grow up, the pair of you!” hollered the Princess Royal, thwacking her jodphurs with a leather cane. “Or you’ll be back on royal duties before you can say Puss In Boots.”

Collapse of hysterical audience as Mother Goose, played by Prince Charles, stumbles on stage.