The day of reckoning when finally George Meehan paid the price for not listening, not heeding and not doing the job he promised to do after Victoria Climbie. I remember the breast-beating Council meeting back then – ‘this will never happen again’, ‘lessons must be learnt’ and ‘I personally will sit on the child protection committee’. Though no-one senior took responsibility and resigned.
Mr Meehan’s departure this time is, however, just one drop in this dreadful ocean. Liz Santry has gone because her position put her in the legally accountable position. But neither went until the depth of the failings in Haringey were blazed across the country as Ed Balls read his statement – ending the hopes they had of hanging on. There was nowhere to go once they knew the damnation contained in the Ofsted report.
But remember, only last Monday at Haringey’s Full Council meeting, every one of the Labour councillors backed George Meehan and Liz Santry – and that’s part of the problem too. And why I say that Labour in Haringey has lost sense of right and wrong. Over-politicised, each move only to ensure their political future. That is an issue that bears scrutiny too.
Anyway – in the cold light of the morning after the night before – I am thinking that Ed Balls lived up to his name – and did the necessary and did it well.
I might and do disagree with him on the degree of holding safely by an outside team and don’t understand why he is giving any sort of time lag before deciding next June whether to take the Children’s department away from Haringey. I think he would have been better to put it into full special measures and then give it back slowly as and when Haringey has proved itself changed.
And the other area of disagreement is around the need for a public inquiry – which I still believe is absolutely vital to get at all the issues, wider issues, virtually untouched by this short sharp investigation. This was right for the short term and the urgent situation – but in the longer term there are sheafs of unanswered questions. More of that later.
For now I just want to really pay tribute to the people of this country, whose outpouring of grief and anger stoked the fires, and to the media whose relentless pursuit through broadcast and press left no place to hide.
And to all those in the Commons who kept the spotlight on Baby P and forced the issue. Without this force majeure – Haringey’s Labour council would have bunkered down and simply hoped to let the storm pass – like last time – and then in a few years time we would have been here again wondering how it could happen three times in the same borough.
As we all read the dreadful reports of what went on in Haringey, it is important to realise what is behind the headlines. What emerged in Haringey(and which must be confusing for people not involved with Social Care) is that on the surface, even after Baby P’s death, Haringey was receiving ‘good’ reports from it Inspectors. For those of us involved with Adult and Children’s services however, this was all too understandable albeit lamentable. Haringey received their ‘good’ rating based largely on the ‘evidence’ presented by Mme Shoesmith and her staff rather than by direct physical inspection. This form of ‘self assessment is all too common and all too easy for failing managers to take advantage of to “massage” their own actions making them look better than they deserve. So now we know how delusional and deceptive that ‘assessment’ was, can we trust other departments up and down the Country to carry out similar ‘white washing’ exercises when some of our most vulnerable people/children’s lives are at risk? Well by and large, yes we probably can so long as there are meaningful and robust ‘partnership’ arrangements and we do not have situations which have arisen even in places like Darlington, where Complaints against the Head of Adult Services(who like Mme. Shoesmith has no qualifications or experience in Care), were left to be dealt with by his Wife are not left unchallenged. Having your Wife carry out a purported investigation into a Complaint about your own actions equates in our view to the Hackney situation although thankfully without the same dire consequences. The process was wrong and it is only lucky that the complaint only ended in potential negligence rather than actual harm. Process and probity demands that all of the monitoring of services is open, robust and has no ‘apparency’ of bias or there may well be repeats of Baby P’s case up and down the Country. We all sincerely hope that will not be the case but Councils need to get their acts together now before it is too late and begin listening rather than bullying people in local areas before it is too late.Until we give some proper ‘teeth’ to inspectors and enable them to have the ability to directly inspect, Haringey’s are waiting to happen up and down the Country.
LizAs a senior Children’s Services manager none of the Haringey mess is a surprise. I’ve worked in situations where there is denial and obfuscation. I’ve seen useless senior people take salaries for doing nothing. The quality of leadership of Children;’s Services is as bad as the leadership of schools was a few years ago. There is no adequate performance management, systems are amateurish, leadership from the top is exceptionally poor. The pool from which leaders are chosen is very dry with only mediocre people available. The incompetent appoint the incompetent – it is a club reinforcing the ineptitude.There is a current case in Southwark where a baby died because the single mother was being communicated with in writing only. The Mother could not read and constantly missed checks with health VisitorsSocial Care profesionals were not on the job. The baby died because of neglect and harm.In Plymouth there are serious failings and weaknesses with a DCS – just like Shoesmith who is detached and completely off the case. Next door to Plymouth in Torbay – the systems are falling apart and there is a history of ineptitude.Please keep up your campaigning and get your colleagues to focus on every LA.
Yeah but they are still councillors, and still have a say in the decision making progress with regard to policy and the budget.
I am not really qualified to make huge comments on the situation in Haringey, but while working within a council setting, i continually find it shocking that people are employed into a senior level when they can barley string an intelligent sentance together, some can barely spell, one establishment had to recently buy a dictionary. Many Senior posts within councils are met by people who just happened to be there at the right time, many in their late 50’s and 60’s with no formal qualifications. In one care home, a woman came from being a cleaner in a hospital to within 2 years to being second in charge. Many many things I find of poor poor standards.
Thanks Liz and Anonymous for backing up my own view.Our head of Adult services used to head up collection of bins, his deputy was an OT. Neither of them have relevant qualifications or experience but they follow the new Labour agenda come what may.Head of Childrens services is also an educationalist with no Child Protection experience but at least he has appointed someone as deputy who has.They would buy a dictionary in Darlington where I am but their challenge would then be to find words of more than 4 letters they wish to spell!When a complaint was made against our guy, his wife, a former Secretary appointed by him as head of Complaints ‘investigated’; strangely found he had done nothing and cut and pasted the report from a junior officer’s investigation, but failed to notice the typos and misspellings!It resembled a badly drawn up ‘ransom’ note; appropriate really in the corrupt circumstances!New Labour – new corruption!Keep up the good work, LynneChris CloseIndependent Advocatehttp://www.a-i-darlo.com
I resigned after thirty years as health visitor in Devon (not a million miles from Plymouth) just weeks before the Baby P case surfaced in the news. I KNEW that this was an event waiting to happen on my oversized sprawling rural caseload.5 out of a team of 6 HVs left their jobs which meant 22 days a week HV time lost from my team in the last year and only 4 days replaced permanently at Band 6…where in heaven’s name has that money gone? It’s now considered routine practice to put in writing to managers that you are working unsafely but eventually I could no longer reconcile reactive defensive practice to ‘cover my back’ because it all just left my conscience wracked with guilt. This is not just a problem in London believe me yet we have heard very little about the state of the HV service in Haringey, is there one? Would it just be too shaming for this government if the details of its demise nationally emerged? I have taken 30 years of frontline Child Protection experience with me and passed my skills onto no one, because first find me a health visitor in training, there aren’t any.
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