24 May 2011

A predicatable outbreak of moral outrage - 2

Let me make a simple prediction.
Tomorrows front pages will be sharing space between the Obama visit, the Ashcloud, and the Pilkington report.
My feelings on the Pilkington case are complicated. As a former welfare service officer on tough housing estates specialising in dealing with anti social neighbours I am very aware how much pain difficult families can cause to vulnerable people living around them. I suspect that this is something that has always been the case.
It is clear that Mrs Pilkington had many very difficult years, was not well supported, and that the horrible end to her life should remind us all of how much quiet suffering goes on around us. Mrs Pilkingtons death may have been highly shocking and unusual, her suffering is regrettably all too common.
It is also clear from listening to the police media briefing today that they have since 2007 been working hard to resolve the problems they identified through this tragic case.
The case report can be found here
The police force have not wasted time waiting for recommendations from the Inquiry, they have changed the way that they do things. There is a much higher level of awareness of the impact of antisocial behaviour, they are using emerging technology to enable them to link complaints in a way that was simply not possible three years ago, and they have developed better policies for case managing anti social behaviour cases.
This to me bears many parallels with the Stafford Hospital case, where the problems encountered have prompted the NHS to take huge steps forward in managing complaints and identifying patterns of problems. If these steps can be taken in the NHS and the Police, then that now indicates that we can and should be monitoring all public service with this degree of sophistication, and then taking the action to deal with the problems that will inevitably be identified. That is a challenge that this government now needs to rise to.
What bothered me when the Pilkington case emerged as the central theme of David Cameron’s 2009 conference speech is the willingness to make simplistic party political points about a deeply tragic but unusual case. Here is my reaction to the speech.
Just listening to his speech again, one of the things that struck me is this. He clearly says that he learnt about the case by reading the newspapers. I wonder if before rushing to the microphone if any attempt was made to contact the police force concerned and find out more about the complex facts of the case?
David Cameron’s empathy with people who find themselves on the front pages of the tabloids would serve him better if it was balanced by showing some understanding of the difficulties faced by those people who are trying hard to deliver a public service, often in very difficult circumstances.