Sharon Shoesmith pleads her side of the story in today’s Guardian. Her account sheds adds very little to what has already been aired in public – so rather than go over the ground I’ve blogged about at some length previously I’ll just make three brief points this time:
1. It’s a journalistic scoop for The Guardian – so I’ve no complaints over the front page lead and three full inside pages they’ve given it. But what a contrast with the way that so many people who had concerns about how Haringey services were being run under Sharon Shoesmith were side-lined, ignore or had legal injunctions banning them from speaking out. That’s one reason why we need a public inquiry – so that we can hear (and learn from) all those other stories too.
2. One point Sharon Shoesmith tries to argue in the article is one I have heard before in relation to this case – that all of this episode puts off social workers from coming to Haringey or indeed people going into the profession at all. That misses the point of the real problem – well-run services and departments attract staff. Failing to deal with concerns – as was Haringey’s way – is what lies at the root of the problems. Run services well and respond properly when concerns are raised – that’s the answer – not wishing the public and media don’t notice problems.
3. It’s a shame the coverage doesn’t address not only the question about how Haringey did (or rather didn’t) respond to concerns raised repeatedly with it over the running of Children’s Services – but also didn’t address the question of the way all the senior staff and councillors closed ranks after the death of Victoria Climbie, with only the most junior person in the food chain being disciplined. Complaints about interventions by Ed Balls or the media need to face up to that reality – last time, those other people responsible for blunders got away with it because there wasn’t this pressure. Would letting more senior people duck responsibility and blame everything on the most junior person they could find really have been the right outcome yet again?
Have just listened to the interview with Ms Shoesmith on BBC R4 Weekend Women’s Hour. It perfectly illustrates the huge error in putting education and children’s services under one Director. Education is about making organisations work and accepting that the outcomes for the individual children will vary from one to another but in the end its up to each child to make his or her own adult life. Children’s services are about safeguarding them from any and all very bad actions of their parents/guardians, applying that per child, and being responsible for getting it absolutely right. Ms S clearly applied the first method to both parts of her department.Of course her dept was overloaded – in which case her duty was to ensure that it took on only the workload that the staff could properly handle, and at the same time to make it very clear to the Council and the assessors that urgently provided extra resource was needed. We heard nothing of any cry for help by her dept, and sadly I have seen and heard reports that many Councils are in the same position of overload – responding to that has to be a central govt duty, and that is where Ed Balls need to be criticised.
well, her two interviews have made several serious points.First is that the public account of continuous, serious and extended mistreatment is not accurate. There were two more serious incidents, but review by the police (inter alia) showed that these were not sufficient to justify taking the child into care. Matters deteriorated badly in the last fortnight of the child’s life, but the child was even taken for a health check the week he died. There is a strong argument that the evidence did not justify much stronger action. Alternatively, if that is the level of evidence that should mandate taking a child into care, you will be seeing a rather dramatic increase in children being taken into care. But it isn’t appropriate to simply use hindsight as your measure of what to do.the second argument is that the government report is not fair. Shoesmith cites that she is criticised for a practice which was common place, i.e. chairing the review panel. That is not fair. Even the Ofsted inspectors make plain that they used a new standard for evaluating Haringey. That is not fair. Finally, Shoesmith was not given a chance to see the criticisms, and rebut those which were wrong; again, not tremendously fair.It has been pointed out that one child a week under supervision dies. If we are going to fire people in every case that this happens, you are going to lose a lot of staff. If you are going to fire people that happen to get in the way of a tabloid campaign and it is politically expedient, that isn’t fair.