The roles of Sharon Shoesmith and George Meehan

On Saturday went on Ken Livingstone’s LBC show.

Most of the time was spent on Baby P, not surprisingly. Just to break for a brief moment from Baby P – Ken said at the end that I could spend the last minute ranting about whatever I wanted. So I did. I made an appeal to Gordon Brown to re-open the sub-post offices in London that he has closed. Having decided to stop any further closures it seems to me that those of us who were unfortunate enough to have had the axe already fall should have the closures reversed.

Back to Baby P – Saturday was the day Sharon Shoesmith received some support in the form of a letter to the media from 61 head teachers in Haringey. Sharon is Director of Education here in Haringey. As Ken put it on air – she’s their boss.

But this isn’t about her competence or otherwise in education – it’s about her responsibility and accountability for the social services side of her brief – which includes having – under the Children’s Act of 2004 – the responsibility for child protection in Haringey. Under this legal framework her and the political leadership side of the equation have the ultimate responsibility.

Whilst she has – rightly – been in the firing line, thus far George Meehan, Labour Leader of Haringey Council, has not had the decency to step forward to take his share of the responsibility. He was leader too during the Victoria Climbie affair – and it is worth remembering some of the damning conclusions in Lord Laming’s report:

The manner in which a number of senior managers and elected councillors within Haringey discharged their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and protect the welfare of children living in the borough was an important contributory factor in the mishandling of Victoria’s case … I was left unimpressed by the manner in which a number of senior managers and councillors from Haringey sought to distance themselves from the poor practice apparent … [The report’s criticisms] are directed not just at the front line staff … but at senior managers and councillors.

Neither George nor any of the other councillors so criticised resigned their posts then.

What Sharon Shoesmith, Geroge Meehan and Liz Santry (the Haringey Council Cabinet member for this area) don’t seem to understand is the really, really deep sense of outrage amongst the public.

One illustration of the depth of public concern and anger over this issue is that in the last week my website has been read more heavily that at any time ever before. My office is inundated with phone calls and emails – all virtually of one voice – how could this happen again in Haringey and this time they must not be allowed to get away with it.

During the time of the Laming inquiry I wrote a newspaper column, quoting Ambrose Bierce – and the quote seems all too apposite once more: responsibility is “a detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbour. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it on a star”. If only it were not so.

0 thoughts on “The roles of Sharon Shoesmith and George Meehan

  1. THE MOST important things now, are to reduce the chances of this happening again and to find out if the death of baby P was allowed to happen because some of the 100+ recommendations of Lord Laming’s Victoria Climbie enquiry were not implemented. And if this proves to be the case, to hold accountable those responsible.After Victoria Climbie, I’m sure many people thought it must never be allowed to happen again. Haringey has previous form in this area and we the citizens should do what we can to try to make sure that Haringey does not allow it to happen yet again. It is either the wrong policies, the wrong personnel, or both.The three individuals who were most directly involved in the death of the baby were not charged with murder, but with allowing baby P to die. How is this charge different – in logic – from the position of Haringey Childrens Services?If a company is reckless and careless in the field of Health and Safety in a workplace which leads to the death of a worker, they can be charged with Corporate Manslaughter under the new Act. Are councils to be held to a lessor standard when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable and most defenceless?Yesterday’s letter in support of Sharon Shoesmith from 60 local head teachers does not impress – this is not their field. I would rather hear what the former Haringey social worker Nevres Kemal has to say.Unlike the Haringey teachers, Ms Kemal is currently subject to a court injunction obtained by the council, preventing her from speaking – from her more authoritative and knowlegable position.I intend to be part of a quiet protest on Tuesday at 7pm outside the Civic Centre before Haringey’s Cabinet/Executive and would urge others to examine their consciences as council tax-payers, residents, citizens and human beings.

  2. Lynne, I have personally written to some of the headteachers querying comments attributed to Mr Atherton, headteacher at Park View Academy. The same school which has some of the worst academic results in the borough, according to BBC education statistics-'t seem to make pleasant reading!I am surprised by the head of that particular school voicing unreserved support for Ms Sharon Shoesmith, Director of Children & Young People’s services in the London borough of Haringey. However, it is regrettable that he willingly distorts, in my opinion, some basic facts in order to build his case in support of Ms Sharon Shoesmith. There are a few points I wish to raise: 1. It is somewhat disingenuous of Mr Atherton to overlook the fact that the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership places very minimal importance upon vulnerable children and young people, in particular this board is, to some degree, overtly involved in excluding the very people whose lives are impacted upon by policies formulated by such bodies.The body excludes participation of parents, children, young people, but is simply a group of Labour officials and external officials who seem more interested in the monetary benefits of their involvement. 2. A simple analysis of the Haringey Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership provides significant evidence that the board is inaccessible not only to young people, but people with a wide range of disabilities, whose lives are equally impacted upon. The board aborts to comprehensively explore ways of improving the services, and I say this as an observer who attended a meeting previously. 3.If Mr Atherton had taken the time to attend the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership on two months ago at the Civic Centre, Wood Green, he may have realised that the Council fails in its duty to involve and put the borough's young people at the heart of policy and decision making locally. There are clear weaknesses within the structure of Haringey Council. He should be the first to condemn it. The meeting evolved into a political Labour supporting circus, with a purpose for scoring fast political points than about laying down long-term strategic objectives. As far as I was concerned, the representatives were clearly motivated only by a desire extract political points from the oppositional parties without providing long-term substance to their comprehensive thinking of improving services. It was therefore a shame that the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership allowed itself to be used for divisive purposes.5.I am sure you would acknowledge that there have been gross inequalities in educational and other types of outcomes for young people in Haringey in recent years. To some extent, these inequalities in Haringey continue to be completely unacceptable, and indicators suggest that services, including the education system locally, are getting worse, not better. I therefore fully recognize that there needs to be a strengthening of participation between different statutory non-statutory sectors. In short, more close collaborative work with the involvement of children and young people, not only those who receive large monetary benefits from their involvement. 6. The Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board and other similar strategic partnerships cannot fulfil their statutory responsibilities if relevant council organs fail to dedicate sufficient priority of resources and attention to listen to the views of children and young people. Not simply listening to those who subscribe to their political agenda. We need to ensure our services and education system is able to tailor to the needs of our children and young people, not simply doing what unprincipled power craven politicians in Haringey tell the Council. Although I deeply regret and resent the fact that Mr Atherton has utilised some inaccurate information, I hope that the above information provides him and other headteachers a clearer understanding of the facts on the ground. I hope he will in future refrain from making statements which are inaccurate, misleading or false.

  3. The Head Teachers that have supported Sharon Shoesmith are nothing short of a discrace but this is not supprising as the schools under the watch of Labour Councillors have been nothing short of a disgrace. I only hope the school Governers kick these people out and maybe the school in haringey will show a marked improvement.

  4. I agree with the sentiment that Cllr Meeham and his Labour cronies should be charged with corperate manslaughter. They are quick to award themselves bloated council allowances but not prepared to take the responsibility. The interview that sky obtained with Cllr Basu Seven Sisters ward Cllr was very revealing he says nobody will be sacked and nobody was negligent.It is clear that that these Labour Cllrs are not fit to hold office let alone be charged with the safety of our children.

  5. Haringey Labour Group spend more time fighting amoungst themselves than setting up proper safe guards for the children.Cllr George Meehan has done the disappearing act again .Will the Labour not come to their senses and get rid of this uselees council leader I doubt it for the sake of the chidren in Haringey we have to get rid of this Labour shower

  6. Annoymous: You point out correctly that the schools under this Haringey Labour administration have been a complete disaster. For example, the school headteacher of Parkview Academy, the voice of headteachers in the media, has in fact the worst levels of academic results in Haringey. Surprisingly, he is claiming she has done much to raise the aspirations of young people. I interpret his views to mean the aspiration of pursuing a career in unemployment. It is slightly embarassing the Children & Young People's Strategic Partnership is not representative of headteachers, yet the people involved have no engagement with young people. It is incredibly cynical of Haringey Council not to listen to children and young people. They normally trot out a group of young people, those likely to shut up and say what they want, and then misuse them to get across political decisions. The type of tick box scheme: yes sir, no sir 🙂

  7. George Meeham is a total disgrace he should do the honourable thing and that is apologise personally and resign.That is too much to ask for this most dishonourable Labour Group who are still in denial like that of Cllr Basu yesterday than makes them not only incompident but extremely dangerous as regards to the welfare of our children.

  8. The residents of Haringey have been let down by this useless Bunch of Labour Councillors.Their Executive Cabinet are so split by constant in fighting as all they are concerned about is their bloated allowances.The Streets arte filthy rats run riot on their Estates Baby P had no chance of survival.I find it amazing that the Councillors can have a Scrutiny review on animal cruelty but block a review on the safety of children they have surely lost the plot but they have lost another precious life under their watch.God Bless you Baby P at least you will no longer have to suffer that hell hole in Haringey.

  9. Just because the case is dreadful doesn't necessarily mean that it was preventable. People talk as if it was in Haringey, or any other Council's power to prevent these cases from ever happening. Clearly it isn't and never will be.Why are we so quick to rush to judgement? It may be that Haringey are negligent, but I haven't seen very much evidence of that yet. Maybe it will come out, maybe I read the wrong papers. >What Sharon Shoesmith, George Meehan and Liz Santry … don't seem >to understand is the really, really deep sense of outrage amongst >the public.Lynne, they surely watch the News and read the papers. They will be getting letters, emails and phone calls the same as you. Of course they know that people are upset. What should they do to show they understand, they've already apologised. Should the leadership resign because of a public outcry, whether founded or not?Have more children on the child protection register died in Haringey than other similar boroughs, I'm curious to know.

  10. Keep it up. I do not share your political views but this is an appalling case on all levels and has to be addressed.

  11. Scrutiny review on animal cruelty but block a review on the safety of children they have surely lost the plot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:-) hahahah LOL that is so true!

  12. Nobody is rushing to make a Judgement Baby P died some months ago the facts are clear to see the Child was seen over 50 times I find it shocking that anybody can defend Haringey and its useless councillors,they are in hiding now as eight years ago.Nothing has changed only their Member allowances which has doubled yet the service delivery has collapsed

  13. Haringey Councillors have certainly lost the plot,you have only to listen to babbling Cllr Basu who has already come to the conclusion that nobody is negligent and nobody should be held accountable.Where is Lammy in all of this .It is his Labour Cronies that have acted so shamelessly.Well Mr Lammy can we vote you out with the rest of the Labour shower YES WE CAN

  14. >Nobody is rushing to make a Judgement Baby PWe must agree to disagree.>the Child was seen over 50 times So, every other week throughout his life, or maybe just under once a week for the last year. What does this prove? Is this normal for an at risk child? I have no idea. It seems like quite a high degree of on-going monitoring to me.>I find it shocking that anybody can defend HaringeyI'm not defending Haringey. For all I know they are just as useless as you say. What i am is less certain than you are and I don't see why that is shocking. Perhaps I haven't read/seen/heard the evidence you have and will soon be just as convinced.>they are in hiding now as eight years agoAre they in hiding?

  15. George Meehan should develop a spine accept responsibility and resign as leader of Haringey Council.

  16. I understand that a male relative of Baby Peter was an earlier victim in the Islington Paedophile Scandal in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. I wonder what Margaret Hodge thinks of that?

  17. The fact that the people in charge, did not resign immediately, bears testament to their social conscience being subordinated to personal self-serving interest in a public post, therefore they are in fact unfit for such a responsible position. Add to this, who is actually responsible in the Duty of Care – whose name is on the document ? whose signature accepting the responsibility ? Publish that chain of command and publish the document detailing that responsibility and it’s signatory. It MUST be someone or there is no policy. Also, I am openly of the opinion that they are ethical cowards, in not holding their hands up for the blame, too afraid to take the responsibility when it arrived, yet undoubtedly eager to sign up for the fat pay-cheque. They also failed to actually deliver what the job entailed, which any normal employee would certainly be sacked for. Any normal person would not be able to live with themselves if it happened under their jurisdiction. All the signs are there, twice now, showing the system is not to blame but ‘the people’ responsible for its implementation ARE. Poor management, poor training, poor selection of staff with no guts to take the initiative and take it to the top, turning a blind-eye. Get rid of this culture. Solution – ‘Do you suspect child abuse – ring xxxxxxxx’ where ‘xxxxxxxxx’ is a direct line to the top, which then sends the report down the line rather than waiting for it never to arrive coming up the chain. And for every single worker who comes into contact with children to have that ONE number and permission to use it without fear of consequence. That way every nurse, doctor, social worker, police has a single easily remembered contact point… It doesn’t take a £100k job run by a half-wit to figure that out.

  18. amidst all the politics and emotionalism the most sound thing is that under the circumstances Sharon Shoesmith and the councillors should be suspended pending the outcome of the enquiry..there can not be a fair enquiry when the persons are still in the office and able to manipulate any searches or dicisions…Haringey operates under a communist regime…Liz Santry and Sharon Shoesmith should be sent to Afganistan!!!!