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You may agree with that way of doing things or not. You may find it swift and decisive rather than precipitous. But the undeniable legal fact is that it was unlawful. And the penalty for the state acting unlawfully as an employer is compensation. It reflects the fact that, not only was Shoesmith's life destroyed without due process, but also that a proper conclusion about what happened around the case of that poor child's death cannot, and will never, be properly reached.

Both those elements, which make up the bulk of her settlement, could have been avoided by the state acting properly. The easy conclusion is to say that a woman directly responsible for a child's death has been rewarded with what Newsnight described as "a small fortune". The more difficult discussion is that perhaps, just perhaps, the death of children in the hands of cruel and evil parents can never be absolutely prevented within the current framework.

This is the discussion that was denied a public forum by the government's actions.

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Better Data Needed to Identify Opioid-Related Child Removals

What is more, tragically, the way this case has been handled makes future tragedies more, not less, likely. It makes social work even more risk averse and focused on covering one's own back with paperwork, rather than helping people. It makes bright candidates, well suited to the field, less likely to choose it as a career.


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The buck must stop with Shoesmith, pronounced assorted pundits. Why is that? That line is convenient, but rather arbitrary. Why must the buck stop with the head of a particular social services and not, for instance, the head of the local authority who allocated the budget and had oversight, or Ofsted which gave the services in question a good rating just before the circumstances of this case came to light, or the minister responsible at the time?

It may well have been that through the proper process Shoesmith would be judged to have failed and to be the person ultimately responsible. We will never know. There is another, perhaps more fundamental, tension that receives no attention. Many of the same commentators, who rightly tear their garments over every tragic incident, are precisely the same ones who want government to shrink, rail against the interventionist "nanny state", condemn local authorities for what they pay to senior staff and feel taxation — at whatever level — is too high.


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  8. The positions are mutually exclusive. Well-funded, well-trained social workers and their managers cost money, which many are not willing to pay. A shrunken, non-interventionist, poorly funded state lacks the capacity to stand in the corner of every living room in the country, observe what people get up to and always intervene at precisely the right moment. So, which is it?

    Adolescents and Family Therapy

    Tim Loughton is the former children's minister who criticised the compensation payout, not Tim Lawson, as we had it. This has now been corrected. Topics Child protection Opinion. There is individual therapy and family therapy. But the main form of treatment is group therapy. NIAP runs two groups, one for younger teenagers and one for older ones.


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    This group therapy is vital, not just because it is the most efficient use of extremely limited resources but also because it allows a child to see he is not some sort of freak; there are other children with the same issues. In many cases the victim and abuser are brother and sister, meaning the parents face a nearly impossible choice of how to deal with it.

    They want to be there for both children and this can give rise to a lot of tensions within families. Some come through other channels and in those cases NIAP must alert Tusla to any potentially dangerous behaviour. The boys and all the children Cherry has dealt with have been male are told before they start that most of what they say will be kept between them and their therapist.

    But if they disclose a previous instance of abuse or if the therapist becomes concerned they may do it again, an official report is made. Cherry has been working in the area long enough to start to recognise a pattern in teenagers who commit abuse. Very few are paedophiles in the sense they have a sexual attraction to children, she says. That need could be anger, jealousy, revenge, etc. Quite often there the abuse happens because of jealousy, feeling left out or believing that Dad cares more about his new children.

    By far the most worrying new trend is the oversized role the internet plays in the lives of many abusive children, she says.

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    They say they have loads of friends online, but they have no social skills. To take [a] shower, have regular meals, go to school.

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    Added to this is the ready availability of extreme pornography that children as young as 11 are accessing. This material, which is often sexually violent in nature, gives boys a grossly unrepresentative image of what a consensual sexual relationship looks like, Cherry says. NIAP takes in between 12 and 17 new clients a year and demand is increasing all the time. It currently has one teenager who has been on its waiting list for 10 months. Waiting so long for intervention can be disastrous, according to Cherry. If you get in early enough you can effectively stop them in their tracks.

    NIAP does not like drawing too much attention to itself, hence its anodyne name.

    Teenage sex offenders a growing challenge for social workers

    One of the reasons for this is the reaction of people when they find out what it does. Many people feel resources in this area should go exclusively to victims rather than the abusers. Cherry has a prepared answer for critics. What she does stops the creation of more victims. We need to target them, we need to make them accountable, we need to get them to take full responsibility. She was a social worker in the Mater hospital in the late s when three cousins, 10 and 11 years old, were referred to her.

    They had been sexually abused by their year-old uncle. One day the father of one of the girls came in to see Cherry.