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.”

Haringey Labour still haven't learnt to listen to warnings

I met with a whistle blowers’ support and advice service yesterday. Following Baby P and the appalling problem anyone who tried to tell Haringey what was going on met with – i.e. Labour wouldn’t listen and ignored me, other elected Lib Dem members, Nevres Kamal (the whistle blower) and so on. Clearly the next issue has to be getting a failed council like Haringey to understand that they have to change. They cannot go on ignoring those who bring warnings to them just ‘cos they don’t want to deal with stuff and are afraid of it getting out into the ether and damaging them politically.

That is why they refused to scrutinise child protection when the Lib Dems put it forward as an area that needed looking at. Even more shockingly – at Full Council last Monday – Labour once again refused point blank a proposal by the Lib Dems to set up a special permanent group of members to watch over child protection. So – Labour have learned nothing and changed nothing about their resistance to proper engagement and scrutiny. Protect and hide (themselves and their actions of lack of) seems to sill be their creed.

Hence – my meeting with this legal based charity that stand to help those whistle blowers (in complete confidence) who find themselves turned on, spat out, bullied etc as did Nevres when she tried to warn of dangerous and negligent goings on in Haringey Childrens’ Services.

Haringey Council's systematic failures

Some months after the lawyer for Nevres Kemal (the whistleblowing social worker) had written to the four ministers David Lammy (minister as well as the tragic Baby P’s own MP), Patricia Hewitt, Ivan Lewis and Rosie Winterton and got no satisfactory response – her story finally came to me – can’t say how.

Concerned by what I heard – anything that links Haringey with serious failures in child protection automatically sets alarm bells ringing – I decided that the best and most direct action I could take would be to bring it to the attention of George Meehan who, as Leader of Haringey Council (as he was at the time of the Victoria Climbie tragedy), ultimately must bear responsibility for its actions.

I personally wrote to him, both about the issues raised by Nerves Kemal and also two other cases which I thought indicated a systemic failure in Haringey’s Children’s Services.

I quote a few of the paragraphs from my letter of November 2007:

There have been a few cases in terms of Children’s / Social Services issues that concern me and I wanted to bring them to your attention…

[There] is a seeming repeating pattern. A parent or social worker makes a complaint about something to do with a child – be that against the school or the Council department. From analysing three cases in particular, what seems to happen is that the first instinct of the authorities is to turn the complaint on the complainant in a sort of closing of ranks.

I then go on to describe the three cases, the third of which being Nevres Kemal:

The third case: Social Worker Nevres Kemal. I’m sure you know she was dismissed for breach of confidence and trust. But my concern is the pattern again – that tables appeared to turn on her after she raised the issues of no medical reports being completed on a case.

The point I am raising George, is that it would seem that there is a pattern of the Council exhibiting more interest in protecting the school, Authority, department than investigating the actual complaint. Moreover, that in seeking to protect the ‘establishment’ the real issues are not being investigated – which may lead to incompetent people staying in post, bad practice and so on – and worst of all – children being at risk … I could not rest easy without bringing this initially to your attention.

I then asked for a meeting, and finally managed to get one with George Meehan on 31st January 2008. Ita O’Donovan (Chief Executive of Haringey) was in attendance at George’s request – so it was Haringey’s more senior politician and most senior member of staff at the meeting.

I brought the case histories and the letters with me and went over my extreme concerns with them both. They assured me they were as concerned as I was and Ita O’Donovan said she was looking at this in particular and commissioning an expert examination (I believe that is what she said).

But chasing letters following the meeting asking what had happened were not responded to.

So whilst Ms Kemal raised concerns with Ministers – and I subsequently raised them face-to-face with those directly accountable in Haringey – it seems from the unfolding of tragic events that neither route produced the right response. And the horror of this is that if both at local and national level there was no effective response – then we do not have in place adequate safeguards.

Nevres Kemal's injunction should be lifted

A madly busy day again today – so a bit of a blog cheat to point you at the PoliticsHome write-up of my BBC appearance:

Ms Feathstone called for the injunction preventing Nevres Kemal [the Haringey whistleblower whose lawyer wrote to four ministers] from speaking about her warnings over Haringey social care to be lifted.

“She must be unmuzzled. She has to say what she knows and that has to feed in to the investigation,” she said.

The injunction she said was part of a “culture of closing ranks” which had caused some of the problems in care at the council.

“It’s absolutely obstructive. You have to think that everyone is acting on behalf of their own interest to protect themselves,” she warned.

I have also tabled an EDM (a form of Parliamentary petition):

That this House welcomes the Government’s announcement of an independent review of child protection services across the country; and calls for a separate independent public inquiry of Haringey Council’s child protection services in order to restore confidence in the child protection system in this borough.

It’s been signed by 16 MPs already – and if yours hasn’t signed it, you can send them a message asking them to sign very easily via www.writetothem.com. It’s EDM 2487.