Local MP calls for investigation into Baby P report

Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, has called for an investigation into an alleged attempt to hide management failings following the death of Baby P.

Following the death of Peter Connelly (Baby P), Dr Jane Collins the Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) commissioned the Sibert Report to investigate both the doctor and the systems involved in child protection, run by GOSH in Haringey.

An addendum of the report was authored by Dr Jane Collins and submitted to the Serious Case Review. The full report has now been released to the BBC in response to an FOI request. It shows Dr Collins’ addendum did not include the report’s vital criticisms of the management and child protection practices.

In a letter to Jo Williams, Chair of the Care Quality Commission, Baroness Blackstone Chair of GOSH Board, Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove and Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, Lynne Featherstone has called for an investigation into Dr Jane Collins’ actions.

Speaking as Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone said:

“There is now clear evidence that information was withheld from the serious case review into the death of Baby Peter. Key criticisms were edited out and it appears there was an attempt to cover-up the fact the situation was ‘clinically risky’.

“The key person in charge in Haringey was dismissed from post. The key managers also lost their jobs. But the Chief Executive and the managers at GOSH who presided over this ‘clinically risky situation’ are still in post. Their roles and culpability have never faced proper scrutiny.

“This can be nothing other than a deliberate attempt to hide the management failings, and subvert the serious case review process.

“It is not possible to learn the right lessons unless all relevant and important information has been disclosed, whatever the potential impact on the hospitals and health trusts involved.”

Call for investigation into the withholding of vital information to the first Serious Case Review into the death of Peter Connelly

The news broke tonight on the back of the Sibert Report finally being released under Freedom of Information to BBC London in the 6.30 BBC London news.

I have raised it on the floor of the chamber and on this blog many times (just use the search button) – that the health care failings in Children’s Safeguarding by Great Ormond Street (GOSH) were never looked into properly and worse.

Finally – with the release of the Sibert Report – anyone can see if they compare the original report with the addendum supplied to the Serious Case Revew what has been removed. The BBC London website has an excellent report on the scandal here.

Whilst the establishment tries to close around Great Ormond Street to protect the Chief Executive – the facts are out there now to be seen by all. GOSH have refuted all the charges and the Board say they have complete confidence in Dr Collins. Shame on them.

In their statement they say they met me about my concerns. No – they met me about concerns about one of my constituents (one of the four paediatric consultants who was put on special leave because she raised concerns about the danger to children in St Ann’s Hospital). That meeting was not about the withholding of information from the Serious Case Review. And moreover – even that meeting was only granted after Baroness Blackstone (Chair of Great Ormond Street Board) had refused to meet me on my own without Dr Collins present. I have the emails!

Haringey was rightly in the spotlight as the lead agency in the wake of the Baby P tragedy – but  perhaps that spotlight detracted from the terribly dangerous conditions in which vulnerable children were being left by the management failures by GOSH.

The fact that these failings – this vital information – never reached the Serious Case Review because it was removed  from the addendum submitted to the Serious Case Review is a scandal. Dr Collins is the author of the addendum.

I have called for an investigation into the withholding of this vital information and wait to see whether real justice will be done.

Liberal Democrat Voice have written a post on this here.

Sharon Shoesmith

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.

Lynne Featherstone MP commenting on Sharon Shoesmith's appeal

Commenting on the judgment by the Court of Appeal allowing the appeal of Sharon Shoesmith against a High Court ruling that the manner of her dismissal after the death of Baby Peter was lawful, Lynne Featherstone MP said:

“It would seem 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 that proper procedures to dismiss her were not followed. However, that is a matter for Haringey Council and Ed Balls.

“The Children’s Act 2004, which followed the tragic death of Victoria Climbie and Lord Laming’s report, set in law that the Head of Children’s Services should be responsible for failings in their service. Sharon Shoesmith was Head of Children’s Services.”
Cllr Richard Wilson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Haringey Council, adds:
“The Children’s Act 2004 clearly sets out lines of responsibility for failures to protect children. This was to ensure that never again could bucks be passed.
“People in Haringey and up and down the country who saw how Haringey Council failed to protect Baby Peter, will find it hard to fathom how the Council managed not to follow correct procedure. This is another blow in the process of restoring confidence and competence in Haringey’s Children’s Service.”

Comment on Sharon Shoesmith verdict

Lynne Featherstone, candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, comments on the Sharon Shoesmith verdict:

“After what happened to Baby Peter, Sharon Shoesmith’s position was totally untenable – and rightly so.

“From this case we see further evidence that the culture of cover up and secrecy goes right to the top of the Labour government. Key facts have only come to light because of this court case, facts that the public are entitled to know. More than ever it shows the urgent need for a full public enquiry to ensure that we get to the bottom of the failure to protect Baby Peter.”

Nevres Kemal, Haringey Children’s Services whistleblower and Liberal Democrat candidate for Noel Park in Haringey, adds:

“I am standing for election against the Council who failed to protect Baby Pater and to help end the failure in Children’s Services.”

Nevres Kemal – Haringey Whistleblower – to stand as a Liberal Democrat in Council Elections May 6!

Nevres Kemal was a whistle blower who warned that Haringey Social Services were failing in their child protection practises. In fact, she had come to me about her concerns at one point, and I had taken her case together with two others (privately to avoid publicity or politics) to the then Leader of Haringey Council, George Meehan and the then Chief Executive, Ita O’Donovan.

The point all three cases demonstrated was that when someone, in this case Nevres as a social worker, another the Governor parent in a school and the other parents of a young boy with health problems, took their concerns to Haringey – the Council turned on them rather than address the real problem.

Haringey Council preferred always to shoot the messenger. In Nevres case she lost her job. In the parent Governor’s case – her son was expelled and she was thrown off the Board of Governors and in the parents case – the Council turned round and accused them of sexual abuse. Haringey Council was forced to apologise – but it took several years and much grief for the family.

When I brought these three cases to the Labour leader and Chief Exe – what did they do – sweet nothing other than close ranks even further and tell me that everything was fine. And it is that closing of ranks, refusal to investigate problems and turn on the messenger, the secrecy, the cover-ups and the lack of transparency that not that long after was exposed by the tragedy that came to light over Baby Peter. In fact, when I went to them, Baby Peter had already died – but they kept that secret.

Anyway – the point of this post is that I am delighted that Nevres Kemal, that whistle blower who tried against the odds to get Haringey Council to address its deep, deep problems is going to contest the Noel Park ward to become a local councillor for the Liberal Democrats.

I can think of no one better to hold Haringey to account over its bad ways and secrecy – good luck to Nevres on May 6!

Victoria Climbie – have lessons been learned?

Today is 10 years since Victoria Climbie died. As Leader of the Opposition in Haringey  I remember the beating of breasts by the then Labour leader of the Council about how lessons would be learned and how this must never happen again. And then it did. Eight years later – Baby Peter died another dreadful death – with over sixty visits to the home by Haringey Children’s Services and other agencies.

And again the phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ were uttered.

It is clear to me that when Victoria died – lessons were not learned. Only the social worker at the end of the food chain took the punishment – everyone else walked away free – and nothing much changed. That is why it did all happen again eight years later.

But this time – the law had changed as a result of Victoria’s death. For the first time in legislation, two positions were named as accountable for what happened in Children’s Services – the Director and the Executive Member. That was a direct result of Victoria’s death and Lord Laming (who conducted a public inquiry) recommendations.

That is why when Baby Peter died it was so important that the two people in those two positions – now accountable in law – lost their jobs. If no one, now the law had changed, lost their jobs – then again – nothing would have changed.

But this time – changes have been brought in. Scrutinised closely every month and under new Director and Senior Management – the latest Ofsted report this week – found that Haringey is finally improving. It has a long way to go – but nevertheless – let’s hope that this is a real sign of progress and that, thanks to Victoria Climbie and the changes to the law that have now had effect – we really have learned the lessons this time.