Open letter to the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Children and Families.

16 December 2021, 12.00

Response to the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

Dear Secretary of State Zahawi and Minister Quince,

The horrific murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes at the hands of his stepmother and with the knowledge and encouragement of his father has sent shockwaves of grief, pain and anger throughout the nation. Now the nation reels again at the news of the death of young Star Hobson, brutally beaten to death by the girlfriend of her mother.

The murders of Arthur and Star are the latest in a catalogue of high-profile deaths of children in living memory, including Victoria Climbié (2000), Peter Connolly (2008), Kristy Bamu (2010), and Daniel Pelka (2012) among many other names that we don't know. It should not take another child's tragic and avoidable death for us to respond to ongoing challenges of protecting vulnerable children in our nation, however it would also be wrong not to be inspired by Arthur's cry for help to redouble our efforts to keep all children safe.

As Christian agencies and denominations involved in safeguarding and child welfare support and reform we are fully aware of the need, urgency and challenges facing the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel in their review for the government, under the leadership of its chair, Annie Hudson. We wish to offer our cooperation, our expertise and our full support to you, so that together we can do whatever we can to make sure that no child should have to face the suffering Arthur, Star and others experienced.

As Church and civil society groups, we work with communities across the United Kingdom, including in the most deprived areas with the most vulnerable, marginalised and at-risk people in our society. Therefore we want to offer our full cooperation and assistance so that we can help reduce the risks of further tragic incidents like the murder of Arthur and Star.

The Church in all its expressions plays a vital role in the lives of children and is actively engaged in promoting child, family and community welfare. We see and engage with children within the context of their families like no other network or organisation. This is a significant opportunity that brings with it a high degree of responsibility. We recognise that on occasions we too have failed to protect children with devastating consequences. We are therefore both obligated and motivated to do better, and offer to share our own experience, expertise and insights with honesty and humility.

We believe it is our Christian duty to help ensure that children, particularly those who are or may be vulnerable, are heard, defended and protected from harm. We offer to listen to, and speak up for, all children, regardless of faith and family background, and play our part in finding positive solutions and keeping them safe.

The Church has a unique reach into communities and can be a mobilising force for good in the world. We saw this have great impact in the pandemic where engagement was needed with communities for vaccine roll out, and for community support to the vulnerable. We have also seen this mobilisation at its best in the welcome offered to new arrivals from Hong Kong and Afghanistan. We wish to offer support for a similar whole community response to improve safeguarding for our nation's children.

We the undersigned stand ready to be of any assistance:

Alina Taylor - Administration Manager and Safeguarding Lead, The Wesleyan Reform Union
Aline Flynn - Safeguarding Lead, Old Baptist Union
Anthony Griffiths - Director of Safeguarding, Church in Wales
Cat Ross - CEO, Baby Basics UK
Chris Cartwright - General Superintendent, Elim Pentecostal Church
Chris Curtis - CEO, Youthscape
Elaine Davidson - Safeguarding Advisor, Pioneer Churches Network
Dr Eli Gardner - Co-Founder and Executive Director, Kids Matter
Janet Daby MP - Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Communities
Joy Raynor - National Safeguarding Lead, The Moravian Church in Great Britain and Ireland
Justin Humphreys - CEO, thirtyone:eight
Kat Osborn - CEO, Safe Families
Dr Krish Kandiah - Director, Greater Good Global
Mandy Hughes MBE - Safeguarding Officer, Third Order Society of St Francis European Province
The Right Reverend Paul Mason - Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, Roman Catholic Church
Sharon Barr - Safeguarding Advisor, The United Reformed Church
Tania Bright - CEO, Home for Good
Tim Carter - Director of Safeguarding, The Methodist Church in Britain
Tim Morfin - Chief Executive, Transforming Lives for Good (TLG)
Yvonne Campbell - General Secretary, The Congregational Federation
Zena Marshall - Interim Director of Safeguarding, Church of England

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