WHEN a scandal is brought to light and those in positions of authority are shown to have failed to take appropriate action, the phrase almost invariably trotted out is that “lessons will be learned”.
Such a promise was duly delivered in the wake of the Rotherham scandal, which uncovered the systematic abuse of children between 1997 and 2013.
However, the former senior social worker whose report exposed the harrowing scale of what happened in the South Yorkshire district is clear that one of the most important lessons from it – namely the need to provide better protection to vulnerable youngsters – has, shamefully, gone unheeded.
Professor Alexis Jay has told this newspaper that many of the victims of the abuse are still not getting the help they so desperately need because the relevant services are either spread too thinly or are particularly difficult to access.
In some instances, parents have paid for private consultations for their daughters rather than see them left stranded on a waiting list for up to a year.
Given that the scandal saw children as young as 11 abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, intimidated, beaten and raped by multiple abusers, with many now suffering mental health problems as a result, this inertia is deeply troubling.
Whilst the number of victims involved – which conservative estimates put at 1,400 over 16 years – will undoubtedly place a strain on existing services, measures could and should have been put in place to handle this.
In essence, this failure to deal with the aftermath of the abuse scandal amounts to a second betrayal of its victims.
The difference is that on this occasion those involved cannot possibly claim that they were unaware of the need for decisive action – in which case it could be argued that it in fact represents an even greater betrayal.
Unhappy new year: More misery on the railways
ONCE AGAIN it is shaping up to be an unhappy new year for rail passengers.
From today, season tickets will be subject to yet another above-inflation price hike of 2.5 per cent, a clear signal that the season of goodwill is well and truly over.
In truth, increases of this sort are such a traditional feature of the new year return to work that many commuters will doubtless greet the news with little more than a resigned shrug.
However, this piecemeal inflation of the cost of rail travel adds up to a 20 per cent increase over the last five years – one which few regular travellers are likely to say has been mirrored by an equivalent improvement in the standard of service they are offered.
Rail users will perhaps take a crumb of comfort from the fact that Ministers have told operators that they must now inform their customers that they could make huge savings if they use a ticket office rather than a self-service machine.
However, it remains to be seen whether this really ends the dark art of ticketing, which can see passengers pay wildly different prices for what is effectively the same seat.
Similarly, while Rail Minister Claire Perry insists she is “absolutely determined” that travellers get the “best possible deal”, that means nothing if the deals available fail to offer value for money.
As was graphically underlined by the farce that unfolded over Christmas when engineering works at King’s Cross overran and passengers were left standing for hours on trains and locked outside stations with no information, the Government and rail operators have forgotten that national train travel is meant to be a public service.
Care conundrum: Can state afford to foot the bill?
IF ever there was a policy that delivered far less than it promised it is the much-vaunted cap on care home costs. Due to be introduced in 2016, it will supposedly mean that residents need only pay the first £72,000 before the state steps in.
However, as the GMB union points out, the fact that this figure excludes the £10,000 a year “bed and board” charges for living in a care home means only around one in 10 pensioners will ever reach the point of receiving help – the majority will have to bear the full costs themselves.
Meanwhile, people who have saved diligently for their later years continue to be punished while those who have not shown the same level of responsibility are entitled to free care.
However, while the coalition has failed to fulfil its pledge to end the care crisis, which leads to tens of thousands having to sell their homes every year, the fundamental question at the heart of this issue is whether this is a conundrum the state can actually afford to solve.