I am deeply saddened and shocked at news of another failure to protect a child in Haringey. A serious case review published this morning has identified multiple failings by local authorities – including social services – to protect a child, known only as ‘Child T.’
The report ‘evidences serious failures of management and professional practice at that time within and between the three key child protection agencies – police, health and social care services.’
Child T is alive, having been removed from the care of their parents more than a year after the first incident of abuse came to the attention of doctors and social services. However, the report states that, in the course of the year, Child T was taken to hospital twice with suspicious injuries, only to be returned to their parents. This is just one of the multiple failings listed.
Most people will be aware that it was also Haringey Council who failed to protect Baby P and Victoria Climbe. After these two horrendous failures – serious changes should have been made. But now, Child T has been failed too. Indeed, the review identifies features that are common between the Baby P and the Child T cases.
It is just appalling that Haringey Council have become embroiled in another child abuse scandal. The local Lib Dems, local residents and I have long been calling on the Labour leadership to address the manifest failings of Children’s Services – but our calls have simply been ignored.
What makes me even more upset and angry, is that Haringey’s Labour leadership have repeatedly told us that lessons had been learnt, and that Children’s Services had turned a corner. But this was evidently not true – and now another child has paid the price.
I fully support the Haringey Liberal Democrat calls for an urgent, independent investigation. It cannot come quickly enough.
Scapegoating doesn’t help the victims. Finding someone to sack doesn’t fix the tragedy, and endless investigations which seek only to find someone to blame are a waste of money and ignore the problem. I heard Baby P’s mother is due to be released from prison soon, and yet Sahron Shoesmith’s life is still in tatters. It wasn’t her fault and yet her punishment continues – it’s disgusting and pointless. Was the money spent investigating that and sacking her and the following tribunals well-spent? Not so much.
Lynne, your time would be better spent trying to fix the problem – i.e. the fact there are so many cases of child abuse. Start with education; build a sense of social responsibility before the unwanted children are even evil glints in their parents’ eyes.
The culture of blame is why people are losing faith in politicians.
Currently there are no independent complaints processes or whistle blowing mechanisms for employees who are aware of incompetent or dangerous practice within the local authority that employs them. NHS staff now have independent whistle blowing mechanism but this is not the case for local authority workers with responsibility for children and vulnerable people.
Councils are supposed to investigate complaints made to them about the services that they provide. However, Councils can ignore and conceal both bad practice and related complaints about their child protection practices by simply refusing to investigate complaints.
When a council refuses to investigate a complaint there is nothing more that an employee can do. The regulators, UK & devolved Parliaments etc have no powers to investigateand to hold councils to account for unacceptable practices. Nothing changes.
In Haringey a ‘whistle blower’ came forward before Peter Connelly was killed. How Haringey responded to that particular whistle blower has been widely reported. It should be of no surprise therefore, that even if someone at Haringey was concerned about the delay & failure to undertake the statutory duty to protect these children, that they may have been too fearful to speak out.
Mandatory reporting is critical not only for children at risk but for the staff who attempt to address dangerous and inadequate council practices. Nothing will change until we have the legislation in place that will force those with responsibility for the safety and well being of all vulnerable people to take appropriate and prompt action when they respond to reported concerns.
Child protection is grossly underfunded and under staffed. This is the reason successive governments shy away from any change in legislation – to avoid spending money on protecting children.
A very sad case indeed and a terrible failing by many.
In your efforts to politicise this terrible situation, you fail to point out that all this occurred across 2010/11 which was immediately in the aftermath of Baby Peter when Social Services there was known to be failing.
This doesn’t make the situation any better for Child T, but you’re post infers this is a recent situation and Haringey Social Services are *still* failing children.
In the UK local authorities appoint and pay managers/directors to ensure that current child protection systems are being implemented to protect children. Yet when these systems fail, managers are never held to account for the reasons that the correct procedures were not followed.
The common ‘theme’, if I may use that term, that is repeated when yet another SCR or investigation is conducted after yet another child dies is that information about what was happening to the child was not shared between the professional groups with child protection responsibilities. For example when teachers do not report concerns for children to social workers.
This is bad and dangerous practice. Council managers are appointed and hold very well paid positions within the child protection system to ensure that good practices are being implemented. If managers are not able to ensure that this fundamental aspect (sharing reported concerns & information about children at risk) is taking place then they are not doing what they are being paid (with public money) to do. It is the role of management to ensure that the service that is being provided is effective.
A whistle blower in Haringey reported concerns about social workers’ caseloads to Ms Shoesmith before Peter Connelly was killed. Overworked frontline staff make mistakes. It is the job of a manager to investigate concerns and make decisions about how to address problems to ensure that child protection services are effective.
When yet another tragic case fills our newspapers the public make scapegoats out of social workers, teachers, nursery staff, the police – all the people who work hard to shore up underfunded services. The managers issue platitudes and either remain in post or move on to another similar appointment with another authority.
Local authority child services managers sit quietly like figureheads on sinking ships. If any of them ever speak out about understaffing and underfunding I have never read about it. It appears that their role is simply PR – the public must only be told that all is well and that local authorities are delivering value for money.
It is true that the frenzy for scapegoats when another child has not been ‘protected’ by the ‘system’ serves little purpose. This is because those who are scrutinised and criticised are the people least able to make any changes to improve matters. When the banking crisis was spewed out the public did not demand that bank tellers should be sacked. The public wanted those at the top to be held accountable for bad practices; this is what should happen when child protection systems fail.
Currently, it is possible for any local authority to refuse to investigate complaints from frontline employees that it has failed to provide services to children that the council already knows to be at risk of harm. Why would an authority do this? It is not good PR. Investigation of such complaints will reveal bad practice and the reasons for that situation will be exposed. Councils do not want to admit that services are underfunded, that frontline staff are expected to cope with too much work or even that the authority has not adequately trained staff.
Therefore, local authorities can (and do) ignore complaints (they actually avoid officially recording that any complaints about child protection failures have been made) and thus conceal all problems from any official and public scrutiny.
Current procedures prescibe that complaints about local authority child protection failures must first be made to local authority managers. The decision NOT to investigate complaints is made by managers. Elected memebers of a council have been known to actually formally support such decisions. Local authorities can sweep their failures to protect children and complaints about those failures under the carpet.
Failures arising from dangerous practices lie under the carpet where it is impossible for ‘lessons to be learned’ that could save children’s lives by taking action to improve child protection practices.
Managers must be held accountable for the services that they are paid to ‘manage’. In any other area of work ‘managers’ must ‘manage’ or indeed they are sacked. Currently they are well protected because the public and those with authority are content for frontline staff to take the flack when systems fail.
Mandatory reporting would place a legal duty on frontline staff to report child protection concerns. This would force councils to ensure that their child protection services will be able to respond appropriately to those concerns. Councils will have to deliver ‘value for money’ – that child protection systems are effectively protecting children. It simply depends on whether or not the public is willing to pay for better child protection systems. Good child protection systems will have effective management with responsiblity for children & families first and local authority PR last.
I agree with previous but one post in that Whistle blowers need to be encouraged and protected and action taken. we need an independent body overseeing the safe guarding of vulnerable children and adults as Haringey are clearly getting it wrong and the perceptions and judgements driving decisions is inadequate to protect our children. Haringey seem to be more worried about the cost of care and intervention rather than the support to parents/mothers who are struggling and are vulnerable to abusive stepfathers as in baby T and Bay P cases. We need a systematic change in the way we work with families with children on the at risk register and we need safeguarding to have more authority and investigative powers that can order intervention rather than being pressured by costs and word of mouth given by failing services. I don’t think that Lynn is trying to politicize this issue I think she is very concerned that this is still happening after Victoria? Why are we still failing? Is it about the money that it costs to save a child’s life?
I have reported concerns about young people in care and need and the action by safeguarding has been inadequate and slow to action. I suspect this may be because of lack of resources, time and money to run an effective safeguarding service. Also Haringey has the demographics and needs of inner city boroughs but receives outer London borough funding from central government. This needs to change.
I agree that blame does not help but equally so someone needs to be held accountable for so many repeated failing! what price for a life concerns me when 2000 children a year nationally are killed through parental abuse and neglect?