Panorama on Baby P

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:

  • From Neil Williams, who was leader of the Haringey Liberal Democrat group at the time of Baby P’s death – and has written about how Haringey tried to keep him quiet when he raised concerns.
  • From Alix Mortimer – on how the anger and frustration and horror over Baby P’s death can be used for good.

0 thoughts on “Panorama on Baby P

  1. I hope you do catch the speaker’s eye and demand that all who were involved in this case including the leader of the council be sacked.I went to one Haringey council meeting sometime ago and noted how Labour ran roughshod over anyone disagreeing with them about issues. They also loaded the audience with Labour supporters to make it look like the audience agreed with them.Again I comment that I think you are doing good work.Regards,Joanne Silverstein

  2. This is a very sad example of how dangerous it can be for councils to be as politicized as Haringey is. While there must obviously be a political slant to any governing council, the mistakes occur when political niceties ride roughshod over good governance and plain common sense. Haringey’s ruling Labour majority give no ear to anyone living in the predominantly LibDem Western half of the borough, yet use it as the cash-cow for much of the rest of the area. Likewise, mistakes like the tragic case of Baby P occur when the council becomes unwilling to be seen to acting unfairly to parents or carers who live in the more pro-Labour part of the borough. This, coupled with the morass of red tape that Haringey love to cover every aspect of their work in has created the circumstances for just such a tragedy to happen.The government has already made a point of sending in ‘hit-squads’ to deal with failing schools. So what about the failing councils?

  3. Dear Lynne, the tabloids say it 3 times so it must be true, right? Who needs facts, job done. So much for the Lib Dem difference.Ben Morris.

  4. I live in Haringey and have felt totally ashamed by the case of this small child to be a resident here. It was difficult to even read news reports about it for the sense of horror that arose. What I also suspect is that1) The reported news is the tip of the ice berg2) The Council needs a clean up – top to bottom, elected and non-elected – in all departments. 3) The Council needs a firm committment to being a Council for Haringey rather than a selection of people who work in Haringey.This may be an extrapolation but for me this event shed light on the nature of how things operate in this borough.During the bin mens strike the other year I wondered how many people working for the council lived in Haringey as the tardiness of the response and the general attitude at the time suggested that not many lived locally and therefore why should they really care – as in, care appropriately, in context and with understanding.Then I met a Haringey Council press officer on the bus. I was told that the stike was all over and everything was fine.This person was lovely and ernest but obviously not in touch, had not seen the streets and indeed was on the bus to catch a train to travel home to another borough. It was another 7+days before my stinking rat run of a street was cleaned up!How can I equate a rubbish strike with the death of this child? The hard-working street cleaners will no doubt have heard that council staff went on a £1,600 tea and cake ‘jolly’ at the Ritz to cheer themselves up – and will wonder that they had to work so hard and be so tough to get a pittance of increment on their wages.If the Council could not negotiate effectively for rubbish strike how could they cope with complex situations like this.Yes, people must lose their jobs as they have been shown to be neglectful of their duty of care and no – they must not get paid handsomely to go. They did not do their job and a vulnerable child died.Haringey will continue to get press headlines for all the wrong reasons as it does not seem to understand the definition of the word ‘Council’ and that they are tasked to serve the community for the better of the community rather than for themselves, no matter how well meaning they may be.

  5. Lynne, I’m interested in who has signed your Commons Motion calling for a public enquiry.Do you have a link?

  6. Hiya LynneI followed the link from your article about encouraging fatherly involvement over on Liberal Conspiracy. It’s a excellent article and very much in keeping with my own views on the subject.Well done for endorsing the idea. It’s nice to see a politician who’s in touch with some fathers’ rights issues.It’s something that I’m studying at the moment, and I’d take it further and implement mandatory shared physical custody between both parents.Following on from that, don’t you think that shared custody, or at least greater involvement of the father, could have helped in the case of Baby P?

  7. Michael – I think when we get the full facts it is unlikely that shared custody would really have made the difference – though the nature of these “what if…” questions is that we won’t ever know.I just think this family was so far from anything we know – I feel uncomfortable with comparisons to ‘normal’ separated, divorced or never together couples.