So the report from Ed Ball’s urgent investigation arrives on his desk today. I expect it to be hard-hitting and demonstrate failures at many levels both systemic and personal. I don’t know whether he plans to make a statement on it right away or wait – but I do know what I want to hear from him.
First and foremost, is a strategy that effectively puts Haringey into special measures where the best social services chief and key other posts go in and hold Haringey safe whilst the changes that are needed are put into place.
We need good managers and social workers within the department to feel supported and we need to attract the very best to Haringey and imbue the department with the zeal and commitment it needs. The children who rely on social services must have a secure base to build from.
In terms of what happens to the staff involved in the tragedy – that is a matter for employment terms to take its course – be that exoneration, disciplinaries or sacking. That is not a matter for me.
Secondly, and part of that new start, is that the two leadership roles identified both by Lord Laming in his findings after Victoria Climbie and put into legislation as the accountable, buck stop here roles – Director of Children’s Services and Lead Politician for Children’s Services – must resign.
We can have no new start, nor rebuild confidence in Haringey whilst those who were in command and on whose watch Baby P died are still in place. Nor should there be any pay off for failure.
Last time no-one senior went – only the social worker at the end of the food chain took the blame for the lot. That is why Laming put in the importance of buck stops here positions and why the Government put it into legislation. Credit to Labour for implementing that recommendation. Now let’s see it mean something.
Lastly – there will almost certainly still be a need for a public inquiry. So many threads and issues cannot possibly be touched by a two week investigation – nor can they be examined properly by Lord Laming’s Review which takes in the whole country.
For example, what part did budget play? Why did children taken into care in Haringey drop so much compared to the rest of the country when Baby P was being visited all those times? What use is a desk research inspection that awards three stars – but has no knowledge of what is really going on in a children’s department? Is our inspection regime sufficient? What part does the award system play when the authority in answer to Baby P’s death thinks that this means they have done well? Did Haringey even tell the inspectors? And following procedures and ticking boxes – the perfect paper trail to a dead baby – is that a good regime to hold children safe?
And what about the health team outsourced to Great Ormond Street? Who is accountable when the view is that this is not the problem of the Primary Care Trust (PCT) now that it has been outsourced. Who is accountable? Why did so many doctors leave that team or go off sick?
I could go on and on – but I hope you get the point.