Oxford and Morecambe

Yesterday, the NHS and those responsible for child welfare were once again dodging and weaving as reports were produced on the Oxford Grooming Scandal and the failings of Furness General Hospital’s maternity unit.

These organisation now operate with extreme skill in ensuring that the case reviews and inquiries focus on institutional rather than personal failings – a theme that I clearly identify when I spell out my rules of deceit. And remember deceit does not mean telling a lie, it means concealing or misrepresenting the truth.

I could go through the words of the reports, the failure to bring individuals to account and the non-apology apologies (a true apology is not an institutional one, but one made by individuals for their own actions).

But that is all self-evident. So I will content myself with making just one general point on the reports. The core job of leaders, whether they are politicians or in the financial and business sector is to set the culture of their organisation.

The chief executive makes it clear to his senior staff what sort of culture and practices he wants to see. His senior staff then tell their lieutenants and so on through the organisation. There is – or should be – a chain of morality that extends from top to bottom which makes the chief executive accountable for everything.

This isn’t popular. If it were, newspaper editors would be responsible for hacking phones, even if they did not know it was happening. Likewise, bank chief executives would be responsible for their tax avoidance divisions, prime ministers responsible for the actions of their ministers, heads of social service responsible for the behaviour of their junior staff and heads of NHS trusts responsible for the behaviour of their nurses.

That is why all of them – with the exception of the Prime Minister – get paid large sums of money.

Instead, and you can see this in every line of the reports, the focus is on the need for institutional change; and of course there is the other trick of saying that the new management is in place, the changes in working practices and the reforms have already begun.

In the cases of the Oxford and Furness they have used the same old formula.

Just look at the way the chair of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Maggie Blyth – herself a former senior civil servant – commented on the report. She said: “[there was] a culture across all organisations that failed to see that these children were being groomed in an organised way by groups of men.”

So nice to be able to blame cultures rather than individuals – she should of course be identifying the individuals responsible for creating this culture – cultures don’t just create themselves.

She also said; “Whilst the review says there was no clear – there was no disregarding of clear warnings at top level, and no denial by those in charge, the lack of understanding and acknowledgement of what happened on the front line cause unacceptable delays. This allowed offenders to get away with their crimes.

“The review describes a culture in Oxfordshire where the value of escalation to the top was not understood. The review found that rather than a top-down steer, front line staff across different agencies worked in isolation from each other. It is due to the diligence of some staff on the ground that the true picture of the awful abuse began to take shape before the end of 2010.

Note how she lays the blame such things as culture and a lack of understanding and acknowledgement. It is classic deception – the creation of the impression of accountability, while delivering none at all.

Where she uses a subject, it is always a concept, not a person, and there is a reluctance to use straightforward sentences with a clear subject, verb and object.


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