Victoria Climbie

The parents of Victoria Climbie came to this afternoon’s meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Planning Performance Review subcommittee, on which I sit. This is where I and others scrutinise the performance of the Met. On this occasion, one of the agenda items was an update from the Met on progress in meeting the recommendations of Lord Laming’s report on the tragic events around Victoria’s death.

As they sat watching our proceedings, I couldn’t help looking at them and wondering how on earth they can bear all of this. The weight of the responsibility on all of us sits heavy. The reality of their presence and their loss brought into sharp focus our duty in that room.

I was particularly struck by one paragraph in the report which was about Haringey. Haringey, post Climbie, acted to fill its vacant social services posts. The lack of staff to deal adequately with caseloads had been one of the criticisms and possible causes of the tragedy. To do so, Haringey upped the stakes and offered way over the going rate for the job. Consequently Haringey filled their positions. The report notes, however, that having the full complement of social services staff in place has resulted in a quadrupling of the number of police officers now needed to attend to the work involved.

This has two serious implications. If that situation were replicated across London and all boroughs filled their vacant posts (about a 20% deficit) what would that mean for police resources? And secondly – it seems to indicate an extremely large unmet need which must be residual in all understaffed boroughs. What risks is that unmet need be posing?

The Met will continue to report back to my committee regularly on progress with this.