‘Who would have anticipated in 2007 that within ten years one of the safest child protection systems in the world, based on 40 years of learning and development, would have been churned up and undermined by politicians using the ammunition provided by the tabloid press whipping up public hostility and in the context of politically-chosen austerity?’
Professor Ray Jones , author of the ‘Story of Baby P Setting the Record Straight’
56 murders of toddlers occurred in 2007, but only Baby P’s was raised by David Cameron at Prime Minster’s question time.
This jettisoned Baby P from a small newspaper column to headlines for months.
And the Sun launched a Justice for Baby P campaign screaming ’social workers had blood on their hands’ until the nation bayed for blood.
Cameron declared it “completely unacceptable” that the inquiry be led by Haringey’s own director of children’s services.
Yet Child Protection is still self regulating and even serious case reviews are few.
Tony Blair had legislated safeguarding authorities remit was not to apportion blame, but to ensure agencies were working together and communicating.
And Conservatives had adopted a similar approach in their policy paper ‘No more blame game’
But as a sop to accountability, Blair created a statutorily accountable role for each Local Authority, the Director of Childrens Services.
This proved useful to Ed Balls who summarily dismissed Haringey’s Director, Sharon Shoesmith live on TV.
Pacifying the public and demoting any dismissal claim to procedural,ensuring Haringey’s protection machinations were never aired in an adversarial forum.
But it cost the tax payer over a milllon .
There was no inquiry into Baby P’s death other than a serious case review, limited by its no blame safeguarding remit.
No public inquest let alone inquiry.
Trial was by the media but not of the system, just its tools.
A ‘good’ rating in an OFSTED report just days before Baby P’s death was shredded by a 3 month OFSTED retainment policy, and replaced by a new ‘devastating’ report.
Nevres Kemal, a senior social worker had tried to blow the whistle for months before she eventually sent a letter, six months before Baby P’s death (and OFSTED’s ‘good’ report), to the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt and three other Ministers. alleging procedures were not being followed and Haringey was ‘out of control’.
Hewitt forwarded this to the Department of Education and Skills, who advised Kemal to write to the Commission for Social Care Inspection, to whom she’d already written to and copied into Hewitt’s letter.
Anyway, by the time of their reply, Haringey had obtained an injunction banning her from speaking out ,so she couldn’t have informed the Inspectorate anyway.
Only 7 years earlier Haringey had been publically investigated by Lord Laming , because of the torture and death of Victoria Climbe.
And systems had been put in place to ensure ‘such deaths never happened again’.
But judging from Baby P’s timeline things were now much worse.
The catalogue of missed opportunities began at his birth and escalated from minor infections to increasingly distressing injuries.
28 different social workers, doctors and police officers saw Baby P and he was taken to hospital nine times.
The last occasion coming two days before his death, when doctors failed to spot he was paralysed as his back was broken because he was “quite miserable and crying” and it was not possible to make a “full examination”.
At 17-month-old he had suffered more than fifty injuries over the eight-month period his mother’s new boyfriend moved in , all under the watchful eyes of social workers, managers, GPs, hospitals, etc.
The legal department kept insisting there was insufficient evidence to satisfy the care threshold, yet 80% of care orders were obtained without any physical abuse.
And guidelines advised a court application on a second sign of physical injury.
This staggering inability by everyone to do their job , could surely not be down to just incompetence/communication, it appeared a modus not to look for, or acknowledge abuse.
As the decision had been made that Baby P’s mother should keep him.
She was even videoed as a shining example of ‘rehabilitation’ for social work training purposes .
And, if this decision was a mistake, managers would open themselves up to criticism .
Exactly the same attitude had allowed the torture and death of Victoria Climbie by her approved foster carers, Lord Laming remarking;
“This Inquiry saw too many examples of those in senior positions attempting to justify their work in terms of bureaucratic activity, rather than in outcomes for people.”
But his words had not been heeded.
Did things change under the new £200,000 a year Director of Childrens Services ?
Read here, how Haringey dealt with a complaint just 3 years later.
Revealed after a 22 month fight and crippling legal costs forced Judge Anthony Thornton’s judicial review to draw the “inescapable conclusion”, that the authority had illegally escalated its abuse inquiry to the highest possible level purely because the mother had the temerity to complain.
And had broken all guidelines by telling police, the family GP and their child’s school that the child, EF, was the suspected victim of serious abuse – without any supporting evidence.
Here are a few of the cases were Haringey have failed children that managed to get out;
Department of Health figures show that over 20 years, the number of children in care has more than doubled.
In the year to March 31 1995, there were 5,800 “looked after” children of four years and under.
In 1998 there were 8,200
So the sensationalism of Baby P had worked.