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.

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.

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.