Councillors Not Held To Account

November 25, 2008

The two councillors facing a vote of no confidence in the handling of the Baby P case have survived the vote and  remain in their posts.

If things were different, and Haringey Council had been given the top rating in the country for its Children’s Services, would both Councillors not have sent out press releases taking credit for providing such an outstanding service??? So why is it that they and all their colleagues in the Labour group at Haringey do not want to accept responsibility for such an outrageous failure in protecting a child?

Are we seeing Haringey’s Labour group following the example of Gordon Brown in their excuses? When things go well, its the politicians that are taking the right decisions, when things go wrong its someone else’s fault!!

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Panorama and Baby P

November 17, 2008

I’ve just finished watching Panorama on the events leading up to Baby P’s death and the biggest concerns raised were

Management overruling Social Workers according to one of Haringey Council’s staff speaking anonymously, with lack of funds being cited as one of the reasons for management decisions.

Insufficient number of social workers and a high turnover of staff.

High levels of bureaucracy with 60-80% of staff time being spent doing paperwork.

Breakdown of communication between the Police and Haringey Council with differing versions of what was discussed and agreed.

The number of cases being dealt with by each social worker being too high.

The doctor who examined Baby P failing to examine him properly when he was bought into hospital.

Many of the reasons given by social workers referred to in the program were similar to those expressed by the manager of social workers who I mentioned in this post. The lack of sufficient funds, inadequate training and more cases than the recommended amount being given to each social worker being the obvious ones.

While all the concerns highlighted in the program and elsewhere need to be looked at and dealt with robustly, especially as they don’t seem to be specific only to Haringey Council to avoid a repeat of this tragedy, I remain of the view that the death of Baby P was undoubtedly avoidable. While the system remains inadequate even after the Climbie Report recommendations, the failure of individuals to flag up the glaringly obvious concerns in this case is why Baby P remained exposed to violent individuals whose behaviour eventually killed him.


Broken Britain II

November 17, 2008

In September 2008, a poll showed that 63% of all those questioned agreed that British Society is broken. Two recent cases shed light on what is happening in parts of the country and how dysfunctional families are living. The first is the trial of Karen Mathews who is charged with kidnapping her own daughter and lying to the Police about it, and the second is the case of Baby P’s guardians who await sentencing for neglecting a child who subsequently died.

Within both families like many others, there was no stability in the home, with a constant stream of partners moving in and out of the family home. Children unfortunate enough to be caught up in this cycle have a biological father who is often absent and several non biological ‘fathers’ who they presumably call by their first names unable to develop any sort of parental relationship. There is often a dependency on drugs and alcohol by the adults and the needs of the children aren’t even recognised, let alone fulfilled.  This inevitably leads to children being neglected and in worst case scenarios abused. The Government is left to pick up the pieces by finding foster homes and dealing with children with psychological problems which remain well until adulthood. Children’s educational attainment suffers and they are unable to break away from the cycle of state dependency and benefits which means that one generation after the next remain in this culture of broken homes and families. There are no aspirations and there is nothing except despondency and despair.

But is there any way out of this? The Government has been fiddling about with tax credits and schemes such as Sure Start with little success despite its claim to the contrary.

The answer according to Iain Duncan Smith MP is straightforward: If you want to save the child, you must save the family – strengthen the family unit and the child’s chances in life increase dramatically.

The Centre for Social Justice which Iain Duncan Smith set up has produced an interim report on changing Family Law aimed at strengthening marriage and reducing family breakdown. This comes behind a stream of other policy initiatives from the Centre for Social Justice, many of which have already been adopted as policy by David Cameron. Iain Duncan Smith argues that:

Today 25 per cent of children in this country live in single parent families and this trend is set to accelerate. These children are three to six times more likely to experience abuse. A recent US study found that children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents.”

And the Report notes

“This review is working from an underlying assumption that marriage should be supported both in government policy and in the law and that, related to this, fatherlessness (or motherlessness), far more likely when relationships are informal, should be avoided…”

“Marriage also acts as a stabiliser and a signal. Married couples are far less likely to break up than couples who live together without getting married. This is true even when allowance is made for the influence of such factors as income, age and education. The correlation between stability and marriage is strong and widely acknowledged amongst experts.”

Encourage and support marriage, and stabilise the home and family. It’s a simple and effective message that the Government should heed when implementing policies.


Panorama and Baby P

November 17, 2008

A BBC Panorama documentary on the circumstances leading up to Baby P’s death will be shown today at 8.30pm on BBC 1. It will allege that after a hospital visit in 2006, Baby P’s social worker did not want to return him to the family but taken into foster care. Haringey Council has many questions to answer and it will be interesting to see if they respond to any of the accusations made against it in this program.


Ministers Aware of Haringey Council Failings

November 14, 2008

Its now being reported that Ministers were warned by a social worker that Haringey Council wasn’t following the right procedures six months before the death of Baby P. Whether or not anyone from Government took any action remains to be seen but the independent inquiry’s remit just got wider.

Update:

A spokeswoman for the DCSF said: “Our records show that we received a letter dated 16 February 2007, that was forwarded to us from the Department of Health, detailing an employment tribunal issue with Haringey Council, and containing an allegation that child protection procedures were not being followed in Haringey.

“Officials from this department replied on 21 March 2007. In that letter they made the point that ministers could not comment on the specific details of the employment tribunal case.

“Secondly, as is standard practice, they suggested that the individual should notify the relevant inspectorate, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, to take appropriate action and they provided the necessary contact details. The Permanent Secretary of the DCSF has looked at the reply and is confident that the proper procedures were followed.”

Further Update:

Gordon Brown rejects allegations of buck passing and says correct procedures were followed.


If This Is True…..

November 14, 2008

The Times is reporting that social workers in Haringey Council tried to prevent the baby born to the mother of Baby P while she was in jail from being taken into care. If this is confirmed then the children’s department at Haringey Council should be taken over by a Government appointed official with immediate effect. It is beyond comprehension that a mother who pleaded guilty to neglecting a child who subsequently died would be allowed to keep a new born baby. The police it is alleged to their credit intervened and overruled the social workers who wanted to let mother and child ‘bond’ and felt removing the baby would be against the mother’s ‘human rights.’ If this is true, what kind of society are we living in?


A Social Worker’s Response

November 13, 2008

My comments here and here on the case of Baby P has annoyed and angered a Manager of Social Workers who has contacted me and complained that I did not present a balanced view of the pressures social workers are facing, which in turn is leading to decisions being made that have an adverse impact on child protection.

The Manager who wishes to remain anonymous complains that:

‘Laming said social workers should hold 12 cases. On average social workers have 20. Other cases keep coming so emergencies still need seeing to daily. Some times cases with kids on at risk register [are] not seen until first review which is 3 months after case conference. [When] workers are off sick, we don’t get more staff.

If society want social workers to protect kids, give us tools to do the job. Demographics and social deprivation all have an effect on people – stress, drugs and poverty have direct link to child abuse. We are in extremely depressive financial times. The referrals never stop coming in, teams do not grow but stay the same. I clearly feel passionately about this having been a manager for eight years and a social worker for five. People just don’t see the other side.’

‘Social worker training and experience is very poor. A person can now qualify at 19. Without being ageist a 19 year old can go to high risk cases!

As I do not have any experience of working in social services and only had limited exposure to social services funding when I was a councillor, I’ll neither deny or accept for now what has been put forward.

However, even after taking into consideration the pressures on Social Workers, the handling of the case of Baby P is simply unacceptable. This child was visited on 60 occasions by authorities and his case file should have had a bright red danger light flashing next to it. All the obvious signals appear to have been missed and the fact that no one has been held to account 15 months after this tragedy is shameful. Its only after David Cameron’s intervention at PMQ’s that an independent inquiry been set up. Can’t the Leader of the opposition raise concerns regarding the care of a child who subsequently dies who was in the watch of a Local Authority without being accused of playing party politics?

If the provision of social services isn’t adequately funded as our manager has claimed, or the training provisions inadequate, and the workload for each worker unbearable, then this is a damning indictment of the Labour Government’s record in this area. This Government has borrowed and taxed like none other before it and even after this tax and spend binge, if social workers feel there is inadequate funding and unbearable pressures on the system, then there ought to be a root and branch review of the whole system – except we had this after the Victoria Climbie case and yet we’re still talking about dealing with the same issues and concerns now.