Across the country a variety of public servants work long and hard to keep the lid on the true scale of abuse in our country.  By and large they are successful and thousands of people suffer untold injustice at the hands of those supposed to protect us.  Every now and again a story will break to the surface, often after a long and bitter struggle to be heard by a media which too often turns a deaf ear and regulatory authorities who suffer from selective blindness.

Two such stories hit the headlines today.

The first was the whole scale grooming and sexual exploitation of under age girls in Oxfordshire which had been allowed to continue unchecked for 16 years.

The second was the Kirkup Inquiry into the avoidable deaths of mothers and babies at the Furness General Hospital at Morecambe Bay.

I can tell you that both of these cases, seen in the media as unfortunate circumstances where a number of adverse factors collided, are not unique events.  There is the promise always of ‘lessons learnt’ and the commitment that such events will never be repeated …. until the next time.

The truth is that manipulation of the facts, cover up and denial are the default position of every public body when faced with a complaint.  It starts with the politicians, goes right through the police force and judiciary and down to every clerk and pen-pusher who deals with complaint handling.  ‘Defensiveness’ runs through public body complaint handling like a stick of rock and invariable follows the same pattern.

1.  Deny the complaint.

2.  Discredit the complainant if they refuse to be denied.

3.  Carry out a cursory investigation if the complainant refuses to go away.

4.  Find nothing wrong.

5.  Give an internal review if complainant is really annoying and insists.

6.  Find nothing wrong.

7.  Escalate the complaint to the regulator who will confirm your findings that nothing was wrong.

8.  Escalate the complaint to the Ombudsman who will confirm your findings that nothing was wrong.

9.  Inform the complainant that they must now go to judicial review.

10.  Label complainant ‘vexatious’ and deny all further contact.

Job done and one whole pile of unsavoury evidence has been pushed aside and forgotten.  Unless of course there is  scandal leading to an inquiry.

It is interesting that these inquiry reports usually follow a similar pattern.

  •  Generally hold no individual to account but decide upon systemic weakness.

  •   Agree that senior management were not informed, because they told you so.

  •   Any scapegoats should be chosen from those on the front line.

  •  Senior staff implicated should be moved or promoted.

Then we wonder why we have a cover up culture and an endless stream of scandals just waiting for the attention they deserve.

Not good enough.