Well, I read the full Serious Case Review into the death of Baby P at the end of the week. I was given sight of this document following the ho ha when Ed Balls appeared to use the Information Commissioner for cover, saying others could not be allowed sight of the review – and then the Information Commissioner went public clearly not happy with being used in this way. Net result – several MPs, myself included, were allowed to see the report.
Access was given on ‘privy council terms’ – political speak for promising to keep the contents confidential, so I can say nothing of what I have read. The reading was done on my own, in an empty room with one table and one one chair and one copy of said document marked ‘confidential’. I sat alone there for two hours. You are not allowed to make notes of its contents – but you are allowed to note your impressions.
What I can say is that having read the document I am even more of the opinion that it would be in the public interest for it to be published – obviously with some parts anonymized and with a tiny – very tiny – bit of editing of any personal information around the family.
Otherwise – how will all those who have an interest or experience or knowledge or expertise be able to judge Ed Balls action when the investigative report comes in on Monday? That report he has said he will publish – but surely the wider audience can only benefit from understanding how resonant the original document is and was.
To this end – I, David Laws (Liberal Democrat Shadow to Ed Balls) and Michael Gove (Conservative Shadow) wrote to Ed Balls at the end of last week asking him to publish the full Serious Case Review. He has since written back to say no.
Mr Balls’s key rationale for his refusal is that a Serious Case Review is for lessons to be learned. He says that if such documents were to be published – then those who contribute to them might feel nervous about doing so in the future and not talk or give their information freely. Utter bunkum!
Far from being a danger, the light of public scrutiny should be an essential safeguard to ensure that these reviews are carried out properly. Because – quite frankly – these reviews are barely ‘independent’ as they are commissioned by the Safeguarding Children board – in this case chaired by Sharon Shoesmith, one of the very people whose own actions are up for questioning. The ‘independent’ person commissioned on this one has already gone public on the fact that he wasn’t given any independent access to people or documents and that the report went to the sub-committee (chaired by Ms Shoesmith) something like five times for ‘correction’.
So public scrutiny should be welcomed, not feared. As we know already that public scrutiny doesn’t put people off saying what happened and their role in it. They did for Laming’s public inquiry and they did in court and as their jobs depend on it. So you should say goodbye to that old myth, ‘we can only find out the truth if we keep it secret’ Mr Balls.
I rate that old chestnut along with the ‘shhhhhhh don’t say anything brigade’ who keep wailing that this will put off decent social workers coming to Haringey. Nooooo – what will put decent, good, hard-working social workers off coming to Haringey is the constant poor management, cover ups, closing of ranks and appalling leadership – or lack of.
So – publish – and be damned. Whoops – that must be what they are afraid of!