He had known nothing but violence in the last eight months of his life. He had been treated worse than a dog and lived in indescribable squalor. On the night he died, he had been punched so hard in the face that he had swallowed a tooth. It was one of many acts of violence carried out on the child … one of the most worrying aspects of Baby P's case was that he was seen by so many different people. In a dossier of evidence released last month, there are lists of different doctors, social workers, health advisors and police officers who dealt with him - Caroline Gammell

Since last week’s ‘independent report’ into the death of Haringey torture murder victim Baby P came out there has been a flurry of public discussion mirrored in the print media. According to one report almost every page had one of the following words to describe Haringey Council’s child protection service: "inadequate", "unacceptable", "poor" and "unreliable".

A team of seven inspectors from Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the Inspectorate of Constabulary delivered its report after two weeks of deliberation. Its main findings were outlined in the Guardian as:

• Failure to identify those children and young people at immediate risk of harm and to act on evidence.
• Agencies generally working in isolation from one another and without effective coordination.
• Poor gathering, recording and sharing of information.
• Inconsistent quality of frontline procedures and insufficient evidence of supervision by senior management.
• Inconsistent management oversight of the assistant director of children's services by the director of children's services and the chief executive.
• Incomplete reporting of the management audit report by senior officials to elected councillors.
• Insufficient challenge by the local safeguarding children board to council members and frontline staff.
• Over-dependence on performance data, which was not always accurate.

The report stated that ‘Baby P had been subject to a child protection plan from 22 December 2006, following concerns that he had been abused and neglected. He was still subject to this plan when he died.’ If ever there was a more damning statement of the uselessness of a plan it is this.

Not surprisingly political reaction was swift. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democratic MP in whose constituency the borough of Haringey is situated was scathing:
I have never seen such a damning and devastating criticism of an authority as this litany of failure – both systemic and personal, and at every level and, more or less, in every agency. But particularly singled out for special damnation: Haringey council.

The Family Minister Ed Balls who commissioned the fast track report stated:

the whole nation has been shocked and moved by the tragic and horrific death of Baby P. All of us find it impossible to comprehend how adults could commit such terrible acts of evil against this little boy. And the public is angry that nobody stepped in to prevent this tragedy from happening.

Balls’ immediate response to the report was to dismiss Sharon Shoesmith from her post. Shoesmith had earlier outraged many when she misread the pubic mood and adopted a cavalier and brazen attitude to suggestions that her leadership had been a major factor in the circumstances that led to the child not being adequately protected from his three killers.

Consequently there is little doubt that Sharon Shoesmith’s removal was the proper course of action for the British government to pursue. At the same time if London Metropolitan University lecturer Liz Davies is right in her Guardian piece, child protection policy has systemically failed. The remedy is unlikely to be found in the sacking or removal of social workers. She argues that the reforms put in place in the wake of the torture killing of eight year old Victoria ClimbiĆ© in 2000 ‘have been imposed at the expense of protecting children from harm … there is high risk of children remaining unprotected and perpetrators being hidden from professional view.’

Support for Davies’ perspective came yesterday in front of the Children’s, Schools and Families Committee when Christine Gilbert, Ofsted’s chief inspector failed to convince MPs that real progress was being made. Barry Sheerman the MP for Huddersfield commentated afterwards that ‘this session made me less confident rather than more confident that there isn’t going to be another Haringey waiting.’

What an ‘appalling vista.’

1 comment:

  1. Itsjustmacker,

    a couple of thimgs here about the failures in this case. But the person who failed him most is the thing that gave birth to him.