SHALL we ever hear the last of the phrase, “We must learn lessons from this”? It is trotted out by army officers, social workers, the police, politicians, hedge-fund dealers, coroners, judges, airline operators, doctors, teachers, businessmen, the BBC - in fact, by anyone and everyone who has been involved in something that went very wrong. An earlier phrase, “I'm sorry it was my fault”, seems to have dropped out of use. “Learning lessons” is preferred because it implies that whatever skill or responsibility might have avoided the problem is new and needs to be learnt for the first time. In the great majority of cases that is nonsense. After the Victoria Climbe case in Haringey the thorough Laming inquiry made detailed recommendations on child care practice which if followed would have made the appalling Baby P case impossible. Now, apparently, the lessons learnt in 2000 need to be learnt all over again. Yet many of the multiple failures to recognise what was happening to Baby P were so blatant that they would have been noticed by someone with a modicum of common sense. One of the most worrying features of this and other recent cases is that doctors who have trained for years and practised for even longer are at fault as much as poorly paid young social workers who have perhaps been given responsibilities beyond their capacity.

It is easy to write about these matters but difficult to see a solution. Yet there must be one, surely?


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