Authorities failed to protect Arthur

We sent this letter to The Guardian in response to the tragic murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and the refusal of the authorities to take responsibility for what happened. It was never published. We would also add that if Arthur’s mother had been given support as a victim of domestic violence she may never have ended up in prison for killing her abuser, and this tragedy may never have happened. And if the mother of Star Hobson had been given support to leave her relationship with an abusive partner, Star might be alive today. It’s too easy for social workers to target mums who actually ask them for help but then find themselves on child protection or having children being taken away, than protecting children who are actually being abused.

6 December 2021

Dear Editor,

Lockdown and lack of resources are poor excuses for the abject failure of authorities to protect Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.  Abusers are by definition manipulative – if social workers don’t know that and if they are emotionally “helpless” (Harry Ferguson, Guardian 4 December), they are in the wrong job! 

In our experience working with hundreds of mothers, social services and family courts are more interested in complying with the powerful fathers’ lobby, which underplays and even denies domestic violence, than in protecting children.  Thomas Hughes’s mother and brother reported Arthur’s bruising to social services, police and school – they were turned down, even threatened with arrest if they insisted on seeing him.  Had Hughes been a single mother, a staged visit and an “immaculate” house would not have satisfied. 

Children are routinely put on “child protection” when mothers ask for help with domestic violence or disabilities.  A single mother who needed respite while she had surgery, struggles to get her children back from “care” three years later. 

80,000 children are in “care”, in most cases because mothers’ poverty is equated with “neglect” and men’s violence is blamed on women.  While mothers are denied the support they need and are entitled to under the Children and Care Acts, councils are financing a hugely lucrative privatised child removal industry.  They pay on average £4000 a week per child in “care” and up to £20,000 for a residential home.  This has distorted every humane consideration in the evaluation of every individual child. 

We fear not a “scapegoating of social workers” but more arbitrary child removals to feed the industry.

Nina Lopez and Anne Neale,

Support Not Separation