Trailers for tonight’s Panorama on Baby P (BBC1, 8:30pm) point to how the police advised Haringey not to return Baby P. Haringey went against that advice – and then the police apparently did an about-face and agreed with them.
I think this probably points to one of the problems that will be uncovered in a public inquiry – that ultimately those who sit in partnership on the Safeguarding Children Board – i.e. the local authority, the health and police agencies psychologically (and for safety perhaps) find that they ultimately have to agree amongst themselves. It means the focus can become, “what’s the minimum we can all agree on?”
However, Laming rightly made it quite clear in his recommendations post Victoria Climbie, that the central focus, the eternal focus, the over-riding focus for anyone coming in contact with the child – must be the child.
He advises the use of critical faculties and judgement and to ensure for themselves that they are satisfied that everything is in order – not to listen to anyone else. Or rather – they can listen to what parents or carers or other adults say – but they need to hold their own council and judgement directly focused on the child.
So – what occurs to me – is that sitting together on this Safeguarding Children Board – perhaps they acquire a group mentality where decisions are agreed. This would be normal – but in this type of board – perhaps this is exactly the wrong approach?
Where difference occurs as Panorama says did occur between police advice and Haringey Council – then simply conceding for sake of unanimity is not the answer. No one can let an inner voice that says that any part of the decision-making is wrong go unheeded.
It is difficult – and maybe it is that the local authority has ultimate say – but when the authority is as bad as Haringey is – then the dangers are too immense.
Why do I say Haringey is bad? Because it is coming to light every day that passes just how many times people tried to warn them of the dangers to children in this borough. We know how Haringey Council has been responding to warnings about how it was looking after children: for all the good work done by many front line staff, at the most senior levels the reaction to concerns and warnings has been one of delays, hostility, failures to act and unwillingness to accept responsibility.
Now we know that the police, the grandmother, the opposition politicians – almost everyone took their concerns to Haringey.
Ed Balls has said he is angry. Ed Balls has said he will take whatever action is necessary. When the report from the urgent investigation he has ordered lands on his desk – he will face the real trial of a politician. For it is clear and becoming clearer each day that there have been systemic and personal failings – particularly by the political and officer leadership in Haringey as well as those others in the frame. If he really takes the action that is necessary – he will be a politician really fit for his office.
Today is Questions to Mr Balls as Secretary of State for Education – and if I manage to catch Mr Speaker’s eye – the questions today need to be about the terms of reference of the investigation he has ordered. Who has drafted the terms of reference? Will it include reviewing the conduct of the political leadership (a councillor – the lead member – is named in the Children’s Act of 2004 as responsible – so her conduct must be examined). Will the findings of the inquiry by Ofsted etc be made public? Will they publish the Serious Case Review in full? Will the findings of the investigation be made public? Will the investigation have any interaction with or input from the public or service users? Many, many questions…
Two blog posts from others that are well worth a read on this topic: