It’s been all too easy to turn away from the details of the torture and horrific murder of a little boy; to avoid the harrowing footage of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, abandoned, close to death, crying out that no one loved him, that no one was going to feed him. 

Now begins the blame game.

Top of the list, as usual, are the social workers for failing to spot the signs of abuse. Take a look at the balanced article on Richard Devine’s Social Work blog, entitled ‘5 points about the tragic death of Arthur, before jumping to conclusions. 

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We know also that social services are chronically underfunded, meaning that many social workers have excessive caseloads, forcing them to work long hours under pressure. So, we can always blame the council and then government for failing to fund them properly. But children’s services have been underfunded for decades so which government do we blame? Westminster? Cardiff Bay? Both?

The police failed to intervene. 

And Arthur’s death isn’t an isolated incident. Last year more than 50 children died in the UK because of abuse or neglect.

Of course, agencies and individuals at every level must be held to account for their actions. Rather than apportion blame, however, emphasis would be better placed on genuine learning of lessons by all concerned - from policy makers to practitioners.

The sad truth is that we adults are letting our children down badly. Why? Because we don’t respect children as equals. That may stem from our own experience of childhood when, like me I suspect, you were scolded by parents and teachers; got the odd smack when you did something wrong and were taught that adults knew best.

Now that we’re the adults we’re falling into the same trap, applying the same punitive treatment to our children. 

The National Wales: Arthur Labinjo-Hughes' stepmother, Emma Tustin, 32, was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court last week, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter. Photo: PAArthur Labinjo-Hughes' stepmother, Emma Tustin, 32, was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court last week, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter. Photo: PA

How many times have you shouted at your child? Not really because she or he has done anything wrong, but because you’re in a bad mood after a bad day at work. How often do we order our children about or talk down to them? How often do we lose our temper, nearly cross the line, occasionally do cross the line? Uncomfortable truths, difficult to talk about, but I bet many parents will know exactly what I mean.

Because here’s the rub: we would never treat another adult in the same way. It’s as simple as that.

So, we need to stop treating children as inferiors and instead treat them as equals. Stop talking about children’s rights and focus instead on human rights.

Next March the law changes in Wales making it illegal to physically punish children. It’s a small step in the right direction. I doubt if it will do much to protect children in the short term, but what it can achieve is to focus minds on listening more to children, learning from them, and empowering them for the future. 

A future has been denied to a little boy who had so much love to give.

Cwsg mewn hedd, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. I will never forget you and your beautiful smile.

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