Have you ever missed a bus or train that you were intending to catch after changing from another bus or train? Or perhaps a plane? It’s especially infuriating when the schedule suggested or even confirmed a connection was possible, as your entire trip may have depended on it all working smoothly. There are places where it seems to work well, like in Switzerland with its seemingly well-developed integrated transport system, and in fairness my experiences of onward travel have been pretty positive – well apart from that jog around Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport late last year; oh and that time running to catch a connecting plane at Washington after lengthy immigration queues. Neither were pretty sights.
Making connections relies on different parts of the same or partner organisations working together. This can be a simple process of just making sure two things align or more often it’s the product of several complex inter-related operations. The Victoria Climbie inquiry report, which is now almost 20 years old but still provides us with valuable learning, identified how different agencies did not make the right connections. They did not join up the dots of what they were seeing and hearing and as a result a little girl died in tragic circumstances. Other child death inquiries, and now adult serious case reviews, too often tell a similar story of failures to see the bigger picture and missing the connections that were so obviously there. In these cases it was not the sense of temporary seething frustration or inconvenience of a missed train – it was a life that could have been saved.
But the complexity of making good connections is a real challenge. The plane that is delayed inbound that takes off late and misses the next connecting flight may itself have been overtaken by poor weather on another continent just a few hours ago, such is the tightness of turnarounds. Business is currently concerned that post Brexit customs checks will adversely impact on just in time deliveries of parts and raw materials. So in our world of safeguarding, what is to be done to make sure we make those connections or join up the dots, and what might blow us off course?
A small aspect of the Victoria Climbie case features as a case study in our Foundation Module. The little girl craving biscuits set alarm bells ringing in one Sunday School in North London. A Sunday School teacher was curious, concerned and took notice. She reported it and that’s where it starts. It’s about understanding the systems that work together to protect children and adults, from the very first inkling of a worry, so we appreciate who needs to know what, when and how. GDPR does not, of course, stop us sharing information if we believe there is risk of harm. Our courses aim to spell out the reporting journeys that will hopefully lead through pooled intelligence to a good individual outcome.
Next time the train is pulling out of the station as you puff onto the platform, and you start to scream and shout (inwardly I trust!) bear in mind the range of mechanical, weather related and human variables that can make a difference between a made or missed connection. Grab a coffee whilst you wait, philosophically, for the next one. When you see something that’s not right in church life as it applies to safeguarding however, don’t dwell, just tell, and help make the jigsaw complete.