Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Devastating report reveals Baby P failings.

The death of Baby P shocked everyone but I found the attitude of Sharon Shoesmith particularly abhorrent:

Ms Shoesmith emphasised that Haringey was blameless in its handling of the case: "The very sad fact is that you cannot stop anyone who is determined to kill their children. Of course, we are shocked by the details of this, but no agency killed the child."
It was an extraordinary glib answer to a case which many of us found genuinely shocking.

A new report into the failings of Harringey Council has seen her sacked from her post.

On a day which saw two senior figures on Haringey council resign within hours of the report hitting ministers' desks, Ed Balls, the children's secretary, removed Sharon Shoesmith from control of the borough's children's department. He described the findings of the review as "devastating".

The report, commissioned at the conclusion of the Old Bailey trial into the toddler's death, found nine fundamental defects, which continue to put children in danger despite the intense public scrutiny since Baby P was killed in August last year. They included failure to identify children and young people at risk of immediate harm, lack of coordination between agencies and poor sharing of information.

George Meehan, the council's leader, and Liz Santry, its cabinet member for children and young people, resigned within hours of reading the conclusions. It is understood that Shoesmith offered to follow suit and was astonished to see Balls announce her immediate dismissal on live television in the early afternoon. It also emerged that five other council employees have been suspended over their handling of the case.

Balls said he was using powers under the 1996 Education Act to remove Shoesmith and install John Coughlin, director of children's services in Hampshire, in her place. "I have powers to intervene and remove someone who is not fit for office," he told journalists.

I am never in favour of kicking social workers when they are down as they have an almost impossible job to do, but the attitude of Shoesmith, following what was a devastating failure to protect a young vulnerable infant, left most of us gobsmacked.

The highlights of the report make devastating reading:

The failings included:

• Failure to identify children and young people at immediate risk of harm and to act on evidence;

• Agencies working in isolation from one another and without effective coordination;

• Poor gathering, recording and sharing of information;

• Inconsistent quality of frontline procedures and insufficient evidence of supervision by senior management;

• Inconsistent management oversight of the assistant director of children's services by the director of children's services and the chief executive;

• Insufficient challenge by the local Safeguarding Children Board to council members and frontline staff;

• Poor child protection plans.

I won't list here the injuries that the boy suffered at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend and lodger but suffice to say there were over fifty of them and one was left wondering why no-one noticed anything wrong with such a young infant constantly suffering from such wounds.

Balls has done the right thing here. Shoesmith couldn't stay in her role as long as she insisted that her department had nothing to apologise for.

Click title for full article.

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