As we debate the balance to be struck between the rights of parents to raise a child within their values and the extent to which the state can intervene to protect the child, we should keep in mind the life of Poppy Widdison.
Poppy, aged four, collapsed at her home in Grimsby and died in hospital from a cardiac arrest in June 2013. A court heard it was believed she had been given diazepam by her substance abuser mother and her partner. Toxicology tests found Poppy had ingested significant amounts of heroin and methadone between two and six months before her death.
Poppy was known to the local social work agencies but the fact is they failed her. The case review found that somehow the agencies did not know the extent to which she was exposed to risk and harm daily. Unfortunately she becomes the latest in a long line of tragic young people who died in awful circumstances despite being known to the state agencies whose job is to protect them.
This means the system failed. One way to look at this is to expect that no system is ever going to be 100 per cent effective and that there will always be children who slip through the net. That means we have to accept that, even in a supposedly caring society, we are going to accept despicable things will happen to children. Surely that cannot be the case. Even if we accept it is a difficult task, we have to try to change a system that fails to protect every child because a better system might save one more child.
The Scottish Government’s guiding principle of Getting It Right For Every Child must be everyone’s ambition. So, as the named person scheme continues to be debated, let us remember what is truly at stake.