Meeting Beverley Hughes about Baby P

Following my request to meet with the Secretary of State for Children, School and Families last week – I was given a short meeting with Beverley Hughes the Minister. The reason I wanted to meet was to really find out more about the terms of reference and remit of the urgent investigation Ed Balls has ordered.

I asked if it would be made public – and am assured it will be following the department’s decision on what comes next.

I asked if the three inspectorates would be including any public and service user information to inform their investigations. She said it was up to them.

Would it look at the political leadership – as the political leadership is made accountable under the Children’s Act of 2004 – brought in as a measure because last time with Victoria Climbie there was no actual senior officer or politician held accountable in the end?

I raised this because there is a willingness to look at the health, social services, and police – all welcome – but, so far, almost no desire to look at the political part in all of this – both ministerial and local administration. The Children’s Act places clear responsibility on the political (as opposed to staff) side of councils, and so the question of how councillors behaved has a legal point to it beyond the obvious ‘they’re in ultimate charge, so they hold responsibility’ point.

I’ve blogged already about some of my concerns on how Haringey Council has – at both the senior staff and political level – failed to react properly to concerns raised with them.

The Minister said there was no instruction to do so – but that we (myself and local Liberal Democrats) were welcome to talk to the inspectors ourselves. So we will.

All in all – good to see the steps now being taken, but plenty of work ahead to ensure that in the end all the relevant issues are looked at and the right issues learnt.

0 thoughts on “Meeting Beverley Hughes about Baby P

  1. It seems rather strange to leave the decision as to whether public and service user information up to the discretion of the investigation.Surely this would only leave them access to the case files that have already been shown to be lacking in detail – for instance that no one knew until after the death that the child had broken ribs and a broken spine.Keep at it Lynne.

  2. Lynne, in the past there would have been a Social Services Committee. The council would have had to put all its Social Services work through this committee for inspection and its agreement. Now there is no such committee, just a single cabinet member who takes sole responsibility for it.When I was a London Borough councillor in the old days when we had service committees, I felt I could get a good overall feel for what the council was doing, and know what were the right questions to ask and the areas I wanted to look into in more detail, through sitting on these committees.Once the Cabinet system was brought in, I felt I lost all that. In fact I felt pretty useless as a councillor, I no longer knew nearly as much about what the council was doing, or what questions I could ask to find out more where I had doubts. Often I found my constituents knew moe than I did, I felt embarrassed when I was asked questions and I had to say “No, I no longer have any responsibility for that, I no longer have a vote on it, I no longer see reports on it”. That was one of the reasons I gacve up being a councillor.Do you have any feeling that in Haringey the Cabinet system has made it harder for the LibDems to scrutinise council work in areas like child protection? I’ve lookd at LB Haringey’s “democracy” web page, and it does seem the stuff I saw in Lewisham – Labour in control and everyone else shut out, so-called scrutiny commitees toothless and useless, set up by officeers to do long investigations into small issues to keep them busy and quiet.