As an example of how national and local government can screw up, the failure of Britain’s adoption system would take some beating.
And for evidence of why we still need the Murdoch press in spite of everything, take a look at how The Times has campaigned to put this right.
Everyone suspected the system had gone wrong, but no-one did anything, and it has taken some dogged work to expose the cruel truth that through institutional stupidity we have abandoned tens of thousands of children to a life in foster or residential care.
More than 65,000 are stuck in care, while the number of children being adopted has fallen to 3,000. Thousands of couples are eager to adopt babies yet only 60 were successful last year – a truly horrifying statistic.
As The Times points out, “there are prospective mothers and fathers willing to give love, and children in desperate need of it”. Yet the system persists in making it as difficult as possible for families to adopt.
One of the most outrageous aspects of this is the colour bar preventing white couples from adopting black and Asian children.
The Times approach to the scandal has been refreshingly constructive. Instead of the usual “heads must roll” rhetoric it commissioned Martin Narey, a former director-general of the Prison Service, to write a 20,000-word analysis of the adoption system.
His case was so well argued that the Government appointed Mr Narey as its ministerial adviser on adoption, and yesterday the Prime Minister promised to take action to improve the system.
“How can we have let this happen?” he asked. “We’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families”.
It will need much more than a party conference speech to change the way we organise adoption. Clear guidelines would be a start, but without enforcement of a new policy the issue will drift and be forgotten.
There are 65,000 children who need the media to stay on the case and make sure David Cameron’s words are turned into action.
GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.