If we thought things couldn’t get much worse in the world of child protection after the nightmare high-profile death of Baby Peter, recent events in Doncaster have proved every hope to be very sadly misplaced.
Within months both professionals and the public came face to face with the reality of yet another tragedy – and this time it was a true-life horror story of child-on-child violence so terrible and shocking it rocked the nation’s faith in public safeguarding yet again.
The full facts of the tragedy unfolded in the High Court and centred on two young boys in the care of failing Doncaster Social Services who were placed for safety away from their seriously damaging home environment with foster carers who everyone now admits were plainly not equipped to deal with their challenging problems. That set the boys disastrously free at the heart of an solid and caring working class village community.
Within days the boys set about torturing and attacking two local youngsters with such violence that one was left within a heartbeat of death.
So in the wake of the court case with its evidence of mistakes, there has never been a better time for those who care to come together and try something entirely new in a inspirational bid to safeguard children from grassroots level upwards.
Step forward Safeguarding 2.0 – a project seeking to use the power of 21st century cutting-edge technology to find a new and hopeful answer to an old and heartbreaking problem. And that as everyone involved in child safeguarding will know, is not just a massive ask without any guarantee of an answer.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to discover if there is a new way and a better way and if we can make it work through the new technology tools at our fingertips.
The heart of the matter is how to get the jigsaw pieces of information which might just stop another child being hurt right there, at the right place, with the right person, at the very time a vital, life or death decision is made.
Can some safe piece of the web be found where social workers can park vital feelings and hunches to be accessed, mulled over and acted on? If you like a kind of modern day equivalent of the doorstep chatter which made sure a secret wasn’t a secret for long in olden-days neighbourhoods.
That’s the challenge facing us working with Safeguarding 2.0 to discover how web technology can provide those involved in keeping kids safe with effective new tools which will reap undreamed of rewards in the field of child protection.
The germ of the idea was sparked by FutureGov and we’re working with the Local Government Information Unit, Barnardo’s, Headshift and Think Public as a project team. Initally the aim is to research the needs of safeguarding practitioners, as well as service users, leading to an outline scope of a piece of technology that could be built to help all involved in keeping children safe.
We believe the web can help managers within local authority public services and their staff to meet the increased workload and support rather than burden their vital child protection work.
We want everyone to care passionately about this project and make it their own by chipping in with thoughts, encouragement, criticism and brilliant ideas. The truth is none of us know the complete answer as to how the future should be shaped so everyone involved in safeguarding youngsters is confident they are on the right track. But the tools are at our fingertips and offer a tantalising glimpse of what might be.
Let’s use them.
Safeguarding 2.0 wants to hear from you so that together we can find a new way to help those charged with protecting the Baby Peters of this world. Get involved. Tell us how to do it. Make a real difference to child protection.