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Cliché of the day: ‘Lessons have been learned’

[7 Oct 2013] Last week was less-than-perfect timing for David Cameron, the prime minister, to wring a round of applause from his captive audience at the Tory party conference for the sterling efforts of social workers.

On Friday, Bradford Crown Court found Amanda Hutton guilty of starving her four-year-old son Hamzah Khan to death after social workers and just about every other salaried and pensionable official in the area had missed opportunities to help him. Each time the police visited Hutton to deal with reports of domestic violence, they ‘referred the matter to social services because we knew there were children in the family’, said Lisa Griffin of West Yorkshire Police.

Makes you wonder whether the plods wrote their reports in English that social workers could understand. They could have tried: ‘House stinks like a cesspit. It’s full of flies, empty booze bottles, children and cat crap.’

At one point in the trial, Hutton was too drunk even to give evidence. The stench and squalor of the house, as well as neighbours’ frequent complaints, should surely have alerted the authorities that her eight children were in peril. The schools they attended apparently noticed nothing wrong. Assuming her landord was the council or a housing association, why did they not see anything?

The case adds to the recent catalogue of failures by social workers: Daniel Pelka, aged 4, starved and poisoned by his mother and boyfriend, Coventry, 2012; Victoria Climbié, aged 8, tortured to death by her guardians, London, 2000; Peter Connolly, aged 17 months, killed by his mother and her boyfriend, London 2007, though he’d been seen 60 times by Haringey social workers and NHS professionals; and Deraye Lewis, aged 3, killed by his mother’s boyfriend, Bletchley, 2004. [cont]

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