For 17-month-old Peter Connelly, life was mercilessly painful and short. Betrayed by his mother and brutalised by her boyfriend and his brother, he died in a urine-sodden mess in his cot in 2007.
He had suffered multiple injuries to his body and had been repeatedly seen - as had his mother - by Haringey Social Services, the family's local council in north London. The same social services, incidentally, that had spectacularly failed young Victoria Climbie ten years previously.
So it was that when the full harrowing details of baby Peter's misery emerged - and some of it was too graphically horrendous for newspapers to recount - the nation howled and mourned for a life that would almost certainly have benefited from that type of care and concern when he was still alive.The fall-out was immense. Social Services were ripped apart in the court of public opinion and the reputation of social workers sunk to an all-time low as they became the new by-word for incompetence and suspicion.Consequently, then, it has hardly come as a surprise to discover there has been an upsurge in the number of children taken into care since Baby Peter's death. In fact, according to new figures, the number of children removed from their families has more than doubled in the last four years.
For the period April 2011 - March 2012, The Children's Court Advisory Service dealt with a record high number of children being placed into care, 10,199, to be precise.
Certainly part of this extraordinary figure can be explained as a result of the fear whipped into Social Service departments around the country. The worry that permeates social care is that one of their number may miss another Baby P and will be exposed for doing so.The upshot is that social workers are increasingly over-zealous in making recommendations for the removal of children from their families.'Social workers are forced to walk a precarious tightrope'In many respects, I feel for social workers. These days they are forced to walk a precarious tightrope with only razor blades underneath to cushion the fall, metaphorically speaking. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.There are numerous anti-social services groups set up on the internet and they debate, at length, the iniquities of their personal experiences. They talk long and loud of their children being ripped from their homes and often for the most spurious of reasons.
One woman of my acquaintance had her two toddlers taken away because she suffers from convulsions and has mild learning difficulties; another woman who contacted me has not seen her teen daughter for five years after she was removed because the woman was an alcoholic.
The mother, despite being dry for the past three years, is not allowed to personally visit with her child but she has 'letterbox contact' - she is permitted to send several letters a year to her child.