Ed Balls made a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday about the Baby P case and the actions he was taking. Mr Balls was able to say to most questions essentially – I will wait until I get the report from the urgent investigation I have commissioned and then I will decide and act.
Understandable – except none of us have had access to the Serious Case Review full document. In response to requests by myself, David Laws (Lib Dem spokesperson on Children and Schools) and Michael Gove (Conservative spokesperson) Ed Balls has said that the Information Commissioner has ruled that such a document cannot be published – though as Iain Dale reports, that doesn’t seem to be the full story.
My tack, when Madam Deputy Speaker called me to ask my question in response to Ed Balls statement, was to call for three things to happen so that Haringey can have a new, fresh start – which is what we desperately need.
Firstly that those accountable must go – and the Children’s Act 2004 names those key accountable posts. It came into being because of Victoria Climbie’s death and Lord Laming’s subsequent report – so we should make sure the lesson learnt then is followed now.
Secondly – that Haringey be put under special measures so that we can be held safe whilst things are being resolved.
And thirdly that there would still be a need for a public inquiry because the two week urgent investigation cannot possibly touch on the wider issues. I give you two examples. Firstly, budgetary pressures. It became clear from the figures about how many children were taken into care in Haringey before and after Baby P’s death that Haringey was reducing the numbers of children being taken into care whilst Baby P was being visited all those times. Directly after (and part of which could be a natural reaction) the figures shot up. Also John Hemming, a Lib Dem MP colleague who specialises in this area, had also found figures on reductions because of budgetary pressures. So Haringey’s decisions around budgets needs scrutiny for starters.
A second example of an area needing wider scrutiny – what part did the fragile state of the health team charged with looking after health needs of children at risk in Haringey play? After all, the paediatrician who failed to diagnose Baby P’s broken back was a locum in that very department. A post deleted, the key post of ‘named doctor’ who has particular responsibility in Child Protection cases. £400,000 of cuts required by the PCT (Primary Care Trust). Doctors leaving because of unhappiness with management. An unbelievably high level of sickness. A high level of bullying found by the last Health Care Commission inspection. All in all – a service that needs looking at. Hopefully some of this will be being pursued anyway by the urgent investigation team – but there are wider issues to go in to.
I did go personally to see the Chair of Haringey PCT with all these concerns. I was told – this is no longer the concern or business of the PCT. They had ‘outsourced’ their health team to Great Ormond Street Hospital. So – in my limited research as to why such an important local service would be outsourced – this is what I have been told thus far. Great Ormond Street want to become a Foundation Trust Hospital. In order to do so it has to demonstrate ‘community outreach’. Great Ormond Street had none and no experience in that area. Hence it negotiated with Haringey to take on that department. Well – if that’s all the case, is that what should have happened?
And as I said to Ed Balls – there is a wealth of information that people are contacting me about that needs to come to the inspection and that’s why we need a public inquiry. And we need a new start with new faces at the top – so that everyone involved in child protection in Haringey is imbued with the necessary zeal and support to make that fresh start and to make our vulnerable children as safe as they can be.