Light years ago, before Jimmy Savile was even a twinkle in his Father’s eye, and Tesco’s hadn’t been invented, and there wasn’t a career in Television to be had, no matter who your Father was, ‘cos hardly anyone had even caught up with the new fangled radio…there was such a time you know, probably before you were born; back then there was an individual called ‘the cruelty man’.
The ‘cruelty man’ worked for a charity called the NSPCC. Wealthy people gave the NSPCC money so that they could send the ‘cruelty man’ out round the ginnels and backyards to make sure that the ‘deprived’ did actually feed their children occasionally, and only battered them to within a regulation whisker of their lives. It was fairly effective, and a lot of people around and pontificating today only exist because the cruelty man caught sight of their Mother or Father slipping between the slats of the drain cover and shouted out ‘somebody feed that little shaver, it’s too thin’. He would go in search of the parents, and if he found the reason they hadn’t been feeding the kid was no money he’d slip a hand in his pocket and find a biscuit or a piece of bread.
Pretty flying by the seat of his pants stuff, he didn’t have anyone to write him learned reports on how to spot a starving child, he just reckoned that if they were thinner than his thumb, they could probably do with that biscuit. When he spotted a kid with two black eyes, a torn ear, and his left arm on back to front, he didn’t agonise about the cultural reasons why this should be so – he grabbed the kid and gave it to someone who could be trusted to at least let its ear heal before giving it another clip round the lug-hole.
Sometimes the kid had its entire head on back to front and there was nothing to be done other than arrange a decent burial – it wasn’t the kid’s fault, after all.
We’ve come a long, long, way since those days.
We built vast red brick universities to train people for years on end in the art of how to spot a starving kid, and what to do when you did. We didn’t send them out with biscuits in their pocket any longer – we gave them clip boards so they could tick off the various supervisors they had notified that they had indeed spotted what might potentially be a starving kid, and could a meeting please be convened next month, (or perhaps the month after if that conflicted with the holiday season) to discuss whether in fact a starving kid had been spotted, or whether this was a facet of some strange culture that must be respected.
We still seemed to be arranging for the burial of kids with their head on back to front, although we had managed to drive down the unemployment figures.
We’ve come a long, long way since those days.
We enlarged the red brick universities and trained some of the people for even more years, gave them titles like ‘Doctor of Social Sciences’, and sent them out to stand over the people we’d trained ‘how to spot a starving kid’ and make sure they were ticking the right boxes on their clip boards. We didn’t give them biscuits to put in their pocket either.
We were still burying kids with their head on back to front. Look on the bright side – the unemployment figures were the best they’d ever been.
We’ve come a long, long way since those days.
Michael Gove is the latest to try to stem the tide of burials. He’s set up the ‘Serious Case Review Panel’ to look into why the latest kids had their head on back to front. So far, he’s hired some pretty exotic help:
Peter Wanless. Peter has wide experience of spending large sums of money. He spent 4 years as Chief Executive of the National Lottery Board, doling out some 750 million a year collected from the deprived via various scratch cards and weekly lotteries in the hope that they might escape their misery. He is also on the board of ‘Go-On UK’ which is now in the process of distributing up to 500 millions of pounds which absent minded widows and pensioners have left lying in dormant bank accounts….apparently these credentials resulted in him being ‘the perfect person’ for the NSPCC to appoint as their CEO all of 26 weeks ago. Such lengthy experience of child protection work will no doubt stand him in good stead. Not known to keep biscuits in his pocket. Last heard of late last night fighting a rear guard action to explain why the NSPCC had apparently given Stuart Hall, now a convicted sex offender, a reference.
Then there is:
Nicholas Dann. “Nicholas Dann is Head of International Development at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), the government body charged with the investigation of accidents and serious incidents to aircraft. He has over 10 years’ experience as a senior inspector of air accidents during which time he has investigated a wide range of accidents, both in the UK and overseas.”
Mmmn, Last heard of explaining why he didn’t have a clue why this pilot ended up with his head chopped off.
Give me strength.
All is not lost. We have a barrister on board. Elizabeth Clarke. I am glad that Ms Clarke now feels able to put the trauma of her last husband being shot dead by police and the disclosures of her affair with Mr Justice Mostyn behind her; I am fully behind anyone who can get on with a new life. At least there is one person on board who knows what a messy personal life looks like.
Who is this? Jenni Russell? Good Lord! A Sunday Times journalist, one of that fearless breed of Murdoch investigative reporters, never afraid to plunge to the bottom of any story (especially if they think they might find the BBC at the bottom of it). And a friend of Ed Miliband’s. The Children are safe at last!
And er, that is it. Not a Mark Williams-Thomas or even ‘lesser spotted’ child protection expert in sight. Narry a biscuit in a single pocket.
Which may explain why the child protection expert’s expert body is being urged to take up the expertise of the expert’s expert expert….
The Victoria Climbie Foundation – motto ‘save a thought for the children’ – is offering to advise the experts that advise the experts that advise the experts…
And the man with the biscuit in his pocket is nowhere to be seen. Far too old fashioned.
How far we have come.