The Boy in the Woods: The Discussion
In this one-off special documentary linked to her recent series 'The Boy in the Woods', Winifred Robinson brings together Lord Laming who led an inquiry into Rikki Neave's death with Dame Louise Casey, who oversaw the Troubled Families Programme, and Polly Curtis, whose written extensively about what is happening in the care system today.
The programme reports on current best-practice and how it can be replicated and examines what's happened in the years since Rikki’s death. What is our baseline here and what are we trying to achieve? And is there an acceptable level of risk?
There were a whole series of investigations in the aftermath of the death of six-year-old Rikki Neave and promises in Parliament that lessons would be learned. His case is in the news again because his killer has been convicted after 27 years. The many layers of sadness and disadvantage in Rikki’s life are explored in the Winifred Robinson 10-part Radio 4 series.
The case is a marker for more than a quarter of a century of lost children and good intentions. Rikki was on the register of children at risk. His mother had asked for him to be taken into care, saying she couldn’t control him, couldn’t cope. He was playing truant from school on the day he died, a vulnerable child, an easy target.
Jurors at his trial say that one of the saddest aspects is the knowledge that children like Rikki are still dying today, that social services inquiries keep coming to the same conclusions about poor information-sharing, bad management and overloaded, inexperienced staff.
Winifred's three guests have extensive experience of what has gone wrong in the past and what we could be changing to improve the life chances for the most vulnerable children in society. This is a unique opportunity for listeners to consider some of the wider aspects raised in the series, The Boy in the Woods
Lord Herbert Laming has been a social worker, a director of social services, head of the Social Services Inspectorate. He was involved in Rikki’s case. He chaired the public inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbie. The government asked him to review child protection after the death of Baby P, Peter Connolly in 2007.
Baroness Louise Casey has been finding practical solutions to difficult social problems for years now. She led the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit at the Home Office, the Troubled Families Programme, the investigation into the Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation scandal.
Polly Curtis is a journalist who’s just published a book, Behind Closed Doors: Why We Break Up Families and How to Mend Them. She knows what’s happening in the care system now, what’s changed, what could be better.