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Deliberating policy : where morals and methods mix – and not always for the best.

Cartwright, N. (2014) 'Deliberating policy : where morals and methods mix – and not always for the best.', Working Paper. Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS), Durham.


In 2004 in the London Borough of Haringey, 17-month-old Peter Connelly was found dead in his crib. The child had suffered fractured ribs and a broken back after months of abuse at home. His mother, her partner and a lodger were jailed for his death. Peter had been seen by health and social services professionals from Haringey Council 60 times in the eight months before he died. There were two kinds of government responses to this that I shall discuss. First, the Minister of Education Ed Balls sacked the Director of Children’s Services in Haringey, Sharon Shoe-smith, with immediate effect in a live press conference on television. Ms Shoesmith defend-ed herself and her Services: ‘We should not be put into blame’; it does not produce ‘any-thing productive’ and obscures ‘the bigger picture’. A BBC news interviewer argued to the contrary: If nobody accepts the blame, ‘…how can we stop this happening again?’ A second response was that of then Prime Minister Tony Blair (Joseph Rowntree Foundation Speech, York, 2006). He argued that the government can make children and young people more safe by identifying at-risk families and intervening early on behalf of the children in those families: Let me summarise my argument. I am not talking about...trying to make the state raise children, or interfering with normal family life. I am saying that where it is clear, as it very often is, at young age, that children are at risk of being brought up in a dys-functional home where there are multiple problems, say of drug abuse or offending, then instead of waiting until the child goes off the rails, we should act early enough, with the right help, support and disciplined framework for the family, to prevent it... It may be the only way to save them and the wider community from the conse-quences of inaction. According to Blair, “We can predict. We can then...‘intervene’.” Both these responses are morally questionable. I do not mean by this that they are wrong policies; I mean only just that: that they are morally questionable. Look first at Blair’s.

Item Type:Monograph (Working Paper)
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:13 October 2016
Date of first online publication:2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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