The court’s decision was that Sharon Shoesmith was unlawfully dismissed because of procedural issues. My understanding is that the court is not saying that she should or should not have lost her job, but simply that proper procedures to dismiss her were not followed.
The real crux for me is that after each terrible tragedy we are always told ‘lessons will be learned’.
Well – one of the lessons we learned from Victoria Climbie’s death (which also happened in Haringey a few years earlier) was that no one took ultimate responsibility for the failings in Haringey Council.
The then Leader, (George Meehan), the councillor who chaired the Social Services Committee (Gina Adamou) and the Director of Social Services (Mary Richardson) – suffered no consequences of the dire failures in departments that they were responsible for. No one resigned. No one was held accountable. Only the social worker at the end of the food chain got it in the neck.
That is why, following the public inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie in Haringey, Lord Laming put in a recommendation that there should be responsibility under the law for this duty of care. And so – in the Children’s Act 2004, for the first time, it was set in law that two positions would be held responsible for the failings in their service. Those positions were the Director of Children’s Services and the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.
Following Baby Peter’s death – Cllr Liz Santry, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, resigned. Sharon Shoesmith, the Director of Children’s Services, did not.
The Government’s decision to appeal this latest decision is welcome. The outcome of that judgement will tell us whether lessons have really been learned.