Why we need to listen to the child’s voice

A review is to be held into the tragic case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who died during lockdown in June 2020

A review is to be held into the tragic case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who died during lockdown in June 2020

Authur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson
Authur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson Picture: PA Alamy/West Yorkshire Police

A national review has been called into the shocking case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the six-year-old boy who was tortured and killed by his father and stepmother.

The review was announced by education secretary for England Nadhim Zahawi, who has said it will examine the case, identify potential improvements and assess how the various agencies involved worked together.

Arthur’s case – and now that of Star Hobson – are only the latest to hit the headlines; among the others perhaps the most high profile being Peter Connelly (Baby P), Daniel Pelka and Victoria Climbié.

Throughout the court case it emerged that Arthur, from Solihull, had been known to social services, yet no action had been taken, and this will be part of the review.

It is also known, however, that services across the country are overstretched. How any service can curb the actions of two people who wilfully mislead them is a question the review needs to tackle.

Another area the review will consider is that Arthur died during lockdown in June 2020 – as did Star in September 2020.

Many concerns have been raised about children’s safety and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during lockdowns.

What part the lockdowns played in Arthur’s death and the response from professionals should be examined. But warnings about children’s vulnerability while essential services such as the NHS are struggling to cope with demand have been made for a long time.

England’s children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza will speak for many nurses when she said Arthur’s case emphasises the need to hear the child’s voice.

Arthur begged for help, but no one heard him, and this is perhaps the most distressing detail of his ordeal,’ she said.

Figures show that, during 2020, in England alone 13 children were killed by their parents and 22 children died as a result of severe physical abuse.

An independent review of children’s social care in England is already underway and its report is due next year.

Hopefully, these reviews will help us to hear the voice of the child more clearly.