Regular visitors to this website will know that we have a bit of a bee in our bonnet about the subject of child abuse and the way those officials who are tasked to deal with it do their jobs. To put it simply – they don't. They have a job to do, and they don't do it properly.
Here's journalist Simon Heffer writing in the Daily Wail last month ...
Many parents feel their blood freeze at the memory of something awful happening to their children.
And reading this week about the Government’s plan to introduce a register of children treated in accident and emergency departments evoked one such chilling recollection for my wife and me — and its deeply worrying aftermath.
One evening 14 years ago, in the winter of 1998, I was at home reading when I heard my wife call out from upstairs, where she was getting the children to bed. Our elder son was four, and the younger, Johnnie, 18 months. I went upstairs and found Johnnie standing in his cot, beaming and bouncing on his mattress while holding on to the bars. He had only just learned to walk and was still unsteady on his feet. My wife asked me to feel the left side of his head. It was sponge-like, though appeared to be giving him no pain or discomfort.
We agreed that she must at once take him to hospital, which was, luckily, less than ten minutes’ drive away: this was just after 7.30pm. I stayed at home with our elder son and put him to bed. I knew the rule at casualty departments was that small children jumped the queue, so I wasn’t expecting to have to wait long before hearing how things were. It was a nerve-wracking time and, as the hours passed, I became more and more concerned.
It never occurred to me that Johnnie had a physical injury. I feared he had some sort of brain disease, and was deeply worried.
It was nearly 1am when my wife rang. Johnnie was going to be kept in for observation overnight — and she was staying with him — but would be released the next day. We were horrified to hear he had a three-and-a-half-inch hairline fracture of the skull, running from about the middle of the back of his head round over his left ear almost to his temple. And my wife, completely innocent, found herself under suspicion.
Once the nature of Johnnie’s injury had been established, the tone of the medical staff changed dramatically. She was regarded as, if not the perpetrator of the injury, then an accomplice to whoever was. She was kept at a distance from the child, except when asked to undress him completely — so doctors could examine him for wider signs of abuse — of which, of course, there were none.
To this day she remembers the coldness of the doctor and medical staff towards her, as if a decision had already been made about her guilt in the matter. Alarmingly for her, they would at first tell her nothing about Johnnie’s condition. Only when she became distressed and insistent and asked them straight out ‘Is he going to die?’ did they eventually admit that he wasn’t. Neither was she informed about the procedures in place to alert social services.
Sure enough, the next thing she knew, social workers had been alerted. Having obviously debriefed the hospital medical staff about Johnnie’s condition and the nature of his mother, they set a condition for his being allowed home with his parents: the family’s GP had to agree that, in his opinion, we were not a pair of child beaters. That was the final indignity.
My wife came home to get an overnight bag and, in a shared state of shock, we discussed this revolting inference the medical staff had drawn about Johnnie’s injury. We also discussed how it might have happened.
That morning, while my wife had been out, Johnnie had been left with my mother at her house. She was then in her early 70s and, like my wife, as far from being one of nature’s Myra Hindleys as it is possible to imagine.
Johnnie, as I have said, was only just becoming independently mobile — like many second children, he had relied on his older sibling to fetch and carry for him. But suddenly he had acquired the adventurous spirit, and was wandering, climbing and tumbling all over the place.
My mother had various pieces of heavy furniture that he could have banged his head on — but why had she not heard him cry out? A doctor answered this: if a child is absorbed in some activity when sustaining such a knock, it can pass almost unnoticed — and Johnnie was always busy with something, whether a toy, a picture book or (as we suspected in this case) watching the Teletubbies.
This seemed to be the most likely explanation, but for all that it was not until our GP had been found and questioned — presumably by social services — the next day, that we were allowed to bring Johnnie home. Two weeks later he was right as rain.
I am, I repeat, very keen for people who do abuse their children to be detected swiftly, and to face the full force of the law when and if they are convicted. But how would we, as the parents of young children, have reacted if the proposed register had been in place when our boys were small?
Happily, we never had to take Johnnie to A&E again. But what if we had?
What if, being an adventurous sort of lad, he had come off his bike and hit his head again, or fallen off the swing we put up for him in the garden, or tumbled out of one of our many trees or from his climbing frame?
We are always being told, quite rightly, that the development of children is being stunted by their being over-protected, and by their not being allowed to take risks.
But I must admit I would have brought Johnnie up differently if I had been told his name had been placed on a register, and that another visit by him to any other A&E would result in suspicions being raised about his mother and me. For those suspicions would, quite possibly, lead to us being questioning by the police or social workers. Anything that might possibly have led to him ending up in A&E would have been contemplated only very, very reluctantly.
Of course, if a child is hurt you take him to A&E. But how many parents would hesitate, after a second innocent and genuine accident, if suddenly they were going to come to the attention of the social services?
The Government may mean well in trying to prevent child abuse by stopping ‘devious’ parents taking abused children to several different A&E departments to avoid alerting the authorities. However, this treats a symptom of the cancer of abuse rather than its cause — and carries with it a danger of incriminating parents who are loving and decent towards their children.
I can’t help feeling this proposal is a sticking-plaster for the inadequacy of so many of our social services departments. Ideally, they would spot problem families long before a second or third visit to A&E — and their intelligence gathering should start at antenatal classes.
The new register is supposed to make the jobs of social workers easier. However, it is just as likely to make ruthless child abusers forget A&E altogether, so serious injuries go untreated, with possibly terrible consequences. And it will cause decent families to live in dread of a visit to A&E and — as my wife felt she was when Johnnie was hurt — to be treated as guilty until proven innocent.
The Government has a role in protecting our children from cruelty. But this register will, in my view, harm decent families — fuelling the distrust and loathing that law-abiding Britons feel towards an ever-more intrusive and unaccountable state, while the guilty go on getting away with their crimes.
Just occasionally even readers of the Daily Wail, Britain's most despicable newspaper, can respond with common sense and intelligence. One such reader was “Ernie” who wrote “The people receiving their wages, paid by the taxpayer, are not doing the job they are taking the money for. As a result the taxpayer is being robbed of the protection that should be provided by those taking the money and is being asked to pay again not only in money, which is bad enough when the National Health Trusts and the Police Services are facing reduced budgets, but also in fear of being accused of harming their own child. Be aware that once suspicion is aroused the information will be on record and will be used against you. Is it the intention of this government to terrify parents to the point that a child is never allowed to explore, to climb, to take a risk, to have fun? Will the child never be allowed a sleep over with a relative or friend, never go away with the school, learn to swim, joing a Scout troup, go out with friends? We are fast becoming a police state because those who are supposed to be protecting children from bad adults are letting everyone down.”
Eloquently put, and exactly our own view: we are paying people to do a job, and they don't do it properly.
Unfortunately there will always be some shallow idiot prepared to trot out the well-worn cliché, as did “Roaster”: “If this register saves one child from dying at the hands of an abuser...job done”.
A**ehole. If we forbade anyone from carrying a child in a car it would probably save a few children's lives, but would it be sensible? If we never allowed a child to leave the house, ride a bike, go swimming, join the Scouts, play in the garden, it would definitely save a few lives, but is that any way to run a family or a society? Of course it isn't.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2012 The GOS