Although it now appears to be blocked by a pay wall come subscription page, we found this article about the obstacles councils face when trying to source documentation, particularly historic files, eye-opening and a reminder that the child welfare system is still in downward spiral.

The article is entitled “Authorities must be proactive in assisting child abuse inquiry.”

In June of this year, Justice Goddard, chair for the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, issued guidance on a moratorium designed to stop local authorities and certain other government bodies from destroying historic files which may be connected to child protection matters. This was done in a bid to preserve whatever evidence may have been left highlighting the extent of these organisations’ failures to protect children at risk, and potential leads relating to other child sexual abuse allegations.

Goddard invited these state institutions to actively search their drawers, folders and filing cabinets, combing through them to pull out anything that might be of help to the Inquiry. What Goddard did not do, was consider how this might be done, who would do it, and where the funding for this exercise might be sourced – nor did she invite these institutions to submit feedback on these matters.

At this point, nobody knows what files if any have been handed over to the Inquiry as  result of this guidance (and we have yet to be impressed with the attention to detail in this Inquiry so data on this may never materialise), but the article above did a good job of explaining why this kind of evidence gathering was unlikely to manifest in any meaningful way.

Firstly, most local authorities, councils, police forces and NHS services are pushed to their limits, thanks to dwindling numbers of staff, relentless cutbacks and a lack of organisation which is sometimes so poor it’s galling. Secondly, no one has thought to set in motion any kind of blueprint or plan for how each sector might go about collecting this information, making it much easier for these institutions to simply ignore the request. And lastly, the very real cost of this exercise would mean thousands of man hours looking through every file in each organisation – man hours which are already hard to come by and even harder to fund.

With all of this in mind, the Inquiry should probably have another go at getting any evidence which may be lying dormant inside these places. The reality at this point though, is probably stark. Anyone who may have actually already gone in search of files within state run archives may well have gone there to destroy, rather than preserve information. The incentive to conceal personal wrongdoing is often stronger than the desire to protect the greater good.

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