OK – so now I’ve had time to have a look at all Lord Laming’s proposals (from his review into the state of Children’s Services following the Baby P tragedy) – but my view is not much altered as his report is much as I expected. Another 50+ recommendations because his first recommendations were not implemented.
There’s some good strengthening stuff – but I still can’t see what will make it different so that we avoid the next time. For example – take the Safeguarding Children Board. This is where all the partners around child protection meet to discuss children at risk. In Haringey it is the Board that Sharon Shoesmith chaired, and it is from this Board that the deeply flawed Serious Case Review into the death of Baby P flowed. So flawed that Ed Balls has ordered a second Serious Case Review to be produced and has put in an independent chair.
Lord Laming has recommended an independent chair for all Safeguarding Children Boards and he further suggests the addition of two members of the public – but I’m not convinced this will really deal with the sort of events that went wrong in Haringey.
In the case of Baby P, my understanding is that various of those attending the Board did raise matters of concern – but the management wore down those who raised concerns and in the end forced through what it wanted to do. So – whilst Laming’s proposal could be a help, what we’re missing is a requirement to minute the discussions and disagreements. Lord knows every other bit of information is recorded, computerised, etc etc – but no records are kept of these crucial meetings – and that makes it far too easy to bulldozer past disagreements.
Next let’s look at Lord L’s recommendation for a National Unit for Safeguarding to ensure his recommendations are implemented. Forgive me – but the last thing we need is more central attempts to micromanage what is happening on the ground all round the country.
The eyes and ears that can really help are on the spot – locally. The tragedy is that they were ignored by Sharon Shoesmith and by the Labour Haringey leadership. It’s a strengthening of local accountability and scrutiny that we really need.
What went wrong in Haringey was that the Labour administration, ineffective and defensive, didn’t challenge officers. Ranks were closed, jobs were protected and there was a refusal by Labour or senior officers involved to engage or listen to the many voices that were trying to warn Haringey that children were at risk.
Quite frankly – I could go on and on. There are wider issues untouched by Laming’s investigation: budgetary pressures, the inspection regime (inspectors say things are good, something goes wrong, inspectors say things are bad), the temptation to fudge or mislead when jumping through government hoops brings funding, the need for whistle blowers to have somewhere to take their concerns and have them acted on; the failures of the health services – and so on.
I don’t want to be a misery guts – but I just don’t feel that Lord Laming’s work is going to really cut through the culture and attitude that Labour Haringey operates and which is the reason (in my view) why we have now had two tragedies, Victoria Climbie and Baby P, in Haringey.