Baby P’s Mother Jailed

May 22, 2009

Baby Peter’s mother has been jailed indefinitely and told that she will serve at least five years in jail. The Judge described her as ‘manipulative and self-centred’ with  ‘a calculating side as well as a temper. He added that ‘I reject the suggestion that you were blind to what was happening in that house or that you were naive…Your conduct over the months prevented Peter from being seen by social services. You actively deceived the authorities.’

Her partner was jailed for life and told that he would serve at least ten years for abusing Baby P and the rape of a two-year-old girl.

The sentences have come on the same day as the findings of the second serious case review which concluded that the abuse and death ‘could and should have been prevented’ and that Baby P ‘deserved better from the services that were there to protect him.’ And that ‘the panel deeply regrets the responses of the services were not sufficiently effective in protecting him.’

As I have mentioned previously, the death of Baby P was wholly avoidable. All vulnerable children have to be protected and the systems in place to do so have to be comprehensive. Lets hope we don’t have to discuss any similar cases in the future


Unnecessary Reviews

December 7, 2008

The Telegraph is reporting that a task force will be formed to review all areas of social work including including leadership, training and recruitment following the cases of Baby P and Shannon Matthews.

This is typical of the way Labour handles any difficulties it faces in Government. The answer to any problem or concern is always to order a review which makes numerous recommendations, which is then followed by new and complex legislation leading to a complete overhaul of the existing system at huge financial costs and often demoralising employees. Ministers refuse to show any leadership and look to others to provide answers deflecting all questions by monotonously repeating the line that we should wait for the findings from the review.

After the Victoria Climbie case there was a major overhaul of children’s services with restructuring of existing departments in local authorities, new multi agency bodies being established and a whole raft of recommendations introduced by new legislation being hurriedly implemented. Some four years later more reviews have been commissioned which no doubt will make more recommendations and lead to more changes in working practices. Had this been done by a new Government, we could have given it the benefit of doubt but when it is being done by a Party that has been in power for 12 years, how can we have any confidence that it knows what it is doing?

What Ed Balls should have done is talked to social workers himself to determine what is actually happening in their profession. A typical response would have been similar to the response I received here from an experienced manager of social workers. He doesn’t need another review, he needs to ensure the recommendations in Lord Laming’s report are followed and make the welfare of vulnerable children a priority and not Government targets and financial considerations as has been alleged. It requires everyone from the Minister to social workers to constantly monitor that best practices are being followed and not give the impression that they are only responding after tragic events have occurred.

And where does the commissioning of reviews stop and how many reviews does Ed Balls want? We have one by Lord Laming into the death of Baby P, another into the contact social services had in the Shannon Matthews case, the one announced today as well as the interim report that he received last week in the Baby P case – far too many for effective governance of any service, let alone one dealing with vulnerable children. His actions are an abdication of ministerial responsibility and admissions that he simply doesn’t know what is happening in his own department.


Broken Britain by IDS

December 6, 2008

Following on from my post yesterday on Karen Matthews dysfunctional family life, read this excellent piece on the problems relating to Broken Britain by Iain Duncan Smith. IDS is doing excellent work on identifying why there is social and family breakdown in many areas of Britain through the Centre For Social Justice and how these should be rectified.


Should We Be Surprised at Karen Matthews Behaviour?

December 5, 2008

Karen Matthews was rightly described as pure evil after being convicted for her shocking role in the kidnap of her daughter. Here was a mother of seven children by five different partners concocting a plan to have her daughter drugged and kidnapped so that she could gain financially. Obviously finding a job and working like most people didn’t cross her mind, but a scheme so devious in nature that it is incomprehensible did. Even among cases where family breakdown and social deprivation is prevalent, this surely takes the biscuit.

However, even when Karen Matthews was giving her Oscar winning performances in front of the cameras and pleading in her very thick Yorkshire accent to Shannon to ‘coome hoame’ there were many including myself who weren’t convinced that Karen Matthews was being totally honest. And when I learnt that Karen and her partner were more interested in watching television and bickering over which channels to watch during a visit by an official to talk about Shannon’s disappearance, I was even more convinced that something wasn’t right. Naturally when Karen Matthews was arrested and charged, this did not come as a big surprise.

My reason for this suspicion was not simply a hunch but from having seen at first hand even in the short time I was a councillor, the way dysfunctional families lived and their detachment from reality. In one case where a constituent came for help because her children had been taken away, the version of events according to her and from the limited information I could glean from social services due obviously to legal reasons were so far apart that it was beyond belief. The mother portraying herself as a complete innocent having done nothing wrong and blaming the Local Authority for inexplicably taking away her children but on the other hand very serious allegations of drug taking and child neglect being made against her. So when we learnt at the outset of the number of partners and children Karen Matthews had and her socio-economic background, it was inevitable that people were suspicious.

But when anyone dared to raise concerns about the way Karen Matthews lived, they were accused of being a snob and of being judgmental. One person who I had a conversation with while Shannon was missing blamed the Local Authority, the Government and Society for not doing enough to help people like Karen escape from her lifestyle – exactly the self pity defence that she put forward. Individual responsibility never once cropped up and the fact that people have to in the end make decisions for themselves was almost irrelevant. It was indicative of her lifestyle and priorities when Karen was offered two trolleys of food free from a local supermarket that one was filled to the top with alcohol.

But while there is no excuse or reason to justify Karen Matthews’ behaviour, it can be argued that all the living conditions were in place similar those of the mother of Baby P for an unsavoury incident involving any one of her children to take place – and which eventually did. There was complete family breakdown, multiple partners moving in and out of the home, no stability in the home, high dependency on welfare benefits, poverty of aspiration, no morality in the home and no guidance from elsewhere and little or no pride in the area where they lived or any desire to improve civic society.

If people choose to live such depressingly dysfunctional lives and are allowed to do so, we should not be surprised when they engage in depraved and repugnant behaviour. When I read of the drawing by Shannon showing an explicit sexual scene with ‘Mummy and Mick’ as a caption, it made me and no doubt everyone else who read it gasp at what a child was being exposed to and how that would affect her during adulthood.

When there are no boundaries to appallingly bad behaviour should we be surprised when we see someone like Karen Matthews drug and kidnap her daughter and play out a game with the Police and the whole country where she is a distraught mother searching for her child which she has kidnapped?


What Delayed Independent Baby P Report?

December 1, 2008

The report into the death of Baby P has been published and can be read here. The report highlights serious failings in Haringey Council and makes so many recommendations that one is left to wonder whether anything was being done correctly, and marvel at the sheer incompetence of the way Children’s Services in Haringey have been operating. For an Authority under whose watch Victoria Climbie died, its behaviour has been shockingly complacent.

After he was handed the report Ed Balls has acted swiftly for which he should be commended. Two elected members have resigned and six council employees including Sharon Shoesmith have been pushed which was long overdue. But it is truly remarkable that the report Ed Balls commissioned now wasn’t commissioned immediately after the death of Baby P. As there were ongoing criminal investigations, that report obviously wouldn’t have been published but what prevented the then Secretary of State from commissioning a detailed and in depth review of Social Services in Haringey last year? For over a year the outrageously arrogant Sharon Shoesmith was left in post and we can only speculate as to how many children in Haringey were put at risk or their cases dealt with in the incompetent manner described in the report. What explanation can the Government offer for sitting on its hands and doing bugger all for 12 months? And what were Government appointed Inspectors doing once they learnt of Baby P’s death?

A few weeks ago Gordon Brown accused David Cameron of playing politics for demanding an independent investigation into the death of Baby P. As a result of this political pressure, an independent report was commissioned whose findings will now lead to vulnerable children being afforded better protection and incompetent staff being removed from their posts. I hope Brown now gives Cameron an apology and thanks him for playing politics!


Leader of Haringey Council Resigns

December 1, 2008

Following the publication of the report into the death of Baby P, George Meehan the leader of Haringey Council , and Liz Santry, cabinet member for children and young people have resigned. The report states that there was ‘insufficient strategic leadership and management oversight by elected leaders.’

Sharon Shoesmith, Head of Children’s Services has been sacked -no doubt there’ll be universal support of this decision. Ed Balls has appointed a new team to take over the authority’s children services. More on this later.


Baby P Report

December 1, 2008

A report into the fiasco leading to Baby P’s death has been handed to Ed Balls who has pledged to publish at least some parts of the report. We should learn later today whether any action will be taken against individuals involved in the case or whether the Government will take over the running of Children’s Services at Haringey Council.