"Domestic violence is serious and pernicious. It ruins lives, breaks up families and has a lasting impact. It is criminal. And it has been with us for a very long time. Yet it is only in the last ten years that it has been taken seriously as a criminal justice issue. Before that the vast majority of cases were brushed under the carpet with the refrain "it's just a domestic"."
He then went on to set out some statistics about domestic violence which he described as "shocking", including that nearly 1 million women experience at least one incident of domestic abuse each year, that at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence and that two women are killed each week by their partner or ex-partner. The rest of the speech sets out progress that has been made (domestic violence now accounts for 14 per cent of violent crime whereas in 1997 it accounted for 23 per cent), the problems that are still faced, and what needs to be done to deal with them.
Meanwhile, Community Care reports the disturbing results of a survey it has carried out amongst 170 front-line social workers, which revealed that they are effectively being pressurised to ignore child abuse as a result of budget cuts. The survey "found that 58% believed pressure had been placed on them to reclassify child protection cases as less serious child-in-need cases" and that "more than four-fifths of respondents felt child protection thresholds had increased in their area over the past year". According to this page (which I assume is referring to the same survey) 88% say budget cuts at their council are putting vulnerable children at risk. The same page quotes social workers, for example:
"We were told by a senior manager that our area has too many child protection cases and that it was above national average, so all cases had to be examined and downgraded."
"Several cases were reclassified to clear caseloads for each team to meet regulatory targets."
How long before the next Victoria Climbie or Baby P, and when it happens will the Government take the blame because of the cuts it imposed?
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UPDATE: The government has apparently responded to the Community Care survey by urging social workers to blow the whistle on local authorities that prevent professionals from protecting children. Hmm...