So the trial is now over. Kandyce Downer has be convicted of the brutal murder of toddler Shi-Anne “Keegan” Downer and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 18 years.
It is now vital that the Serious Case Review set up by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board gets to the bottom of what happened in the months leading up to Shi-Anne’s tragic death. Were any warning signs missed? Was there anything not done that could reasonably have been done that might have prevented what happened? Nothing can bring back Shi-Anne but what lessons can be learned to help keep other vulnerable children safe in the future?
The Government also needs to look again at how Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) work. Kandyce Downer was trusted with Shi-Anne’s care under an SGO. The vast majority those who take on responsibility for children under Special Guardianship Orders do so with love, care and commitment to the children they look after. They often do so without the rights and support from the state that they and the children deserve. Their call for this to be recognised better needs to be addressed.
The Government must also address concerns that have been expressed nationally about whether the assessments made before Guardianship Orders are awarded are always as thorough as they should be. About whether some Special Guardians do not have a strong enough bond with the child. About whether the understandable desire of the authorities to complete care arrangements quickly and within target times might sometimes lead to inappropriate choices being made. New guidelines on SGOs were brought in this year and Birmingham is one place where procedures have been reviewed to reflect the new regulations. But it is important that the issue continues to be scrutinised – in the interest of guardians and, most of all, in the interests of children.
You can follow the sentencing here: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/kandyce-downer-sentenced-live-updates-11280819
Today I asked the Chancellor at PMQs about the England Illegal Money Lending Team – based in Birmingham.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team is national organisation which investigates, prosecutes and supports victims who have fallen into the clutches of loan sharks.
The scheme has helped over 24,000 loan shark victims. It costs £3.6m to run but has got £63million of illegal debts written off. Spend £3.6m to help some of the most vulnerable people in the country being ripped off to the tune of £63m? That sounds like good value for money to me. But, as Christmas approaches and loan sharks get hungrier to fleece people who have little money to buy family Christmas presents, the Illegal Money Lending Team faces losing a third of its budget due to Government cuts.
With winter and colder weather on the way, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of available help, support and techniques for keeping energy bills low and heat efficiency high.
There are a number of schemes available which you may be able to benefit from.
Last month a large gathering of Labour Party Members and Supporters met to review the lessons of the recent elections, and to work out how best we can move forward.
Before we broke into four workshops (see below), I opened the event with some personal reflections on the election and on the future. Read my notes here.
Lots of people have been in touch with me through emails, letters, tweets and Facebook about yesterday’s debate in Parliament over the Conservative Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Given the way events have unfolded over the past week and how it has been reported in the media, I can understand the genuine concerns that people have been raising.
Let me say at the outset that I am fundamentally opposed to the changes which the Conservatives are trying to introduce which will hit the vulnerable and worsen poverty in our country. Some of the measures they are trying to bring in were contained in last week’s Budget and some in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill that had its Second Reading in the House of Commons yesterday.