Saturday, February 07, 2009

Shoesmith claims that minister was "reckless".

I've spoken before about the case of baby P and of the dreadful attitude of Sharon Shoesmith, the leader of Haringey's children's services who was fired after she refused to accept that her department had any lesson to learn from the terrible tragedy which fell upon that child.

Well, she has given an interview to the Guardian this morning in which, whilst admitting that she and her department "were out of touch with public opinion", she nevertheless goes on to attack Ed Balls and the decision to remove her from her office.

Speaking for the first time since her removal by Balls on live television in December, she claimed political opportunism and press hysteria had created "a local tragedy and a national catastrophe".

In a wide-ranging interview, the former Haringey children's services director said she felt an inquiry ordered by Balls into child protection in the borough had been an attempt to "discredit" her. She said the report, carried out by Ofsted inspectors and used by Balls in support of his ­decision to remove her, was misleading and lacked balance.

She accused Balls directly of making the task of protecting children in Haringey more difficult. The consequences of his "reckless" attack on Haringey, said Shoesmith, would be to make it "more of an uphill struggle" to achieve his aim of raising the standing and status of the social work profession.

This woman simply doesn't get it. A child died, after suffering the most horrendous injuries, (within the area in which she was charged with protecting children) and she felt that her department had no lessons to learn and nothing to apologise for.

The minute she stated that, it became impossible for her to remain in her position. Let's remember what happened here:
Baby P was 17 months old when he died after suffering more than 50 injuries at the hands of his abusive mother, 27, her boyfriend, 32, and their lodger, Jason Owen, 36, despite 60 contacts with the authorities over eight months.
Her comment at the time was this:
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."
But, of course, you can stop people from killing their children, that is the entire point of social services. That is why they have the power to remove a child from abusive parents. To stop further harm.

Her attitude set off a wave of revulsion around the country, resulting in the Sun newspaper receiving one and a half million signatures calling for her resignation. And yet, even today, she simply doesn't get it.

Today she regales us with the story of how she nearly killed herself and implies that she is as much a victim of this tale as baby P was.

Don't get me wrong, I am not someone who thinks that every child's death must be the fault of social services and that someone must pay a price. However, in this case there was a shocking breakdown in the level of care baby P could reasonably have been expected to have. And Sharon Shoesmith's attitude was that she and her department had done nothing wrong.

But, even today, she is said to be considering putting forward a claim of wrongful dismissal.

Ed Balls said last night: "I make no apology for the actions I took in Haringey last December, which I judged absolutely necessary to make sure children in that borough are properly protected. I believe that every community, every parent and every social worker would expect me to put the safety of children first. That is what I did - and faced with the same situation again I would have no hesitation in taking exactly the same decisions."

I back the decision which Balls took, it was simply unthinkable that she could remain in her position whilst refusing to admit that her department had been guilty of serious failings.

I am simply stunned that, after all this time, she is still pleading her case in public.

Click title for full article.

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