The voices of children “must” be listened to in the wake of the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder, the Children’s Commissioner for England has said.
It comes as the Government announced a major review into the circumstances which led to the six-year-old’s murder by stepmother Emma Tustin at their home in Solihull.
It emerged in court the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
Dame Rachel de Souza said more must be done to support social workers to spot similar cases, but the coronavirus lockdown has “weakened” the system.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “First, I think it’s so important we’re here talking about Arthur’s case. The life of a child is of inestimable value and his voice was not heard and that’s where we need to start.
“Obviously, there’s a serious case review under way and we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action and now.
“Now, my concern is that here we are 20 years since this post was set up and we’re still having these cases and there are two things that I think we absolutely have to do and do now.
“One, Arthur raised concerns, he was not a baby, he was six years old, he raised concerns and the system did not hear him. We must listen to the voices of children and secondly, no doubt with these reviews and national reviews that are absolutely right that they happen, they tend to make the same recommendations. It’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.”
Tustin, 32, was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and will provide additional support to Solihull Children’s Safeguarding Partnership to “upgrade” the already existing local review which was launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020.
Dame Rachel said: “That’s why that professional curiosity is critical, but the system must support social workers’ professional curiosity, not distract them on other things.”
She added: “This is not a quick fix, an easy recommendation. The best places in the country that do this have taken, three, four, five years to do this. It’s a big job but we must do it for Arthur and we have to do it.”
She went on: “I think there’s no doubt that lockdown was such a shock to the whole nation that it weakened the system of support but, actually, in Arthur’s case he did have a number of professionals around him, he did have home visits, we have to wait to hear exactly what’s happened there.”