Viewpoint: Children and young people – the collateral damage of austerity policies

Dr Stephanie Petrie is an Honorary Research Fellow in the University of Liverpool’s School of Law and Social Justice

The recent report on the Rochdale sexual abuse ring and concern about the missing teenager Megan Stammers, who has disappeared with her maths teacher in France, highlight issues that go beyond simple professional failings.

“The Rochdale report identified social services funding, governance, supervision and information deficits, as well as difficulties in recruiting specialist staff. Staff and other pupils raised concerns about Megan’s relationship with her teacher in February 2012, and these were referred to the local authority for investigation.

“Yet Michael Gove, Education Secretary, was personally warned in August 2012 about child safety policies and practices at church-run schools, including the one where Megan was a pupil.

“A recent survey by the NSPCC and Community Care found that nearly 60% of social workers felt that children suffering from neglect were unlikely to receive timely help, and there is ongoing pressure to downgrade cases as demand increases. Similar surveys have revealed social workers remain overloaded with administration yet are working longer hours, and in some local authorities the majority of social workers have less than two years experience.

“In a recent report, Children’s Commissioner,  Maggie Atkinson called on schools to do more to protect children, as welfare and council cuts take hold.

“The mantra of ‘we are all in this together’ does not include children and young people, who are suffering most from austerity policies, whether through increasing poverty or cuts in public sector services.

“They are simply collateral damage.”

Leave a comment