The news this morning that four Ministers were told in February 2007 - six months before the death of Baby P - that Haringey Social Services were failing to protect vulnerable children provides yet more evidence of systemic confusion and incompetence, not only in Haringey, but at the heart of government. Four letters were sent to four different Ministers, but instead of acting on them, the Ministers or their private offices just passed the buck to others. One of these letters was sent to David Lammy, a Haringey MP. It seems to me he has some very difficult questions to answer, as does the Child Protection Inspectorate, which was also sent a letter.
Ed Balls announced an inquiry on Wednesday which will report within two weeks. Someone, somewhere must admit that the buck stops with them. Looking in from the outside, that person is Sharon Shoesmith, the Director of Children's Services at Haringey Council. So far she has admitted no culpability and shown absolutely no empathy. She refuses to apologise and says that all procedures were followed to the letter. The woman is deranged. Social workers visited this poor child 60 times and failed on each occasion to spot what was going on. Jon Gaunt writes in today's Sun...
The RSPCA wouldn’t have visited this flat 60 times and done sod all. But the SS — that’s social services by the way — in Haringey left Baby P at the mercy of his “mother” and believed her lies. Why? Probably because they didn’t want to be judgmental and because they subscribed to the New Labour mantra of accepting all kinds of family.
The dignified apology issued on behalf of Haringey Council by one of their councillors yesterday was long overdue but welcome nonetheless. Perhaps the council is emerging from being caught in the headlights, at long last. It now needs to show decisive management action and announce that
Sharon Shoesmith has been relieved of her position. She clearly cannot continue in her post as her credibility is shot to pieces.
One further point. A few years ago the government issued a diktat to local authorities that they should combine the senior management posts of Director of Social Services and Director of Education. It caused turmoil in many councils, with a lot of them warning that the job was too big for one person, and although the overlap between the two positions was clear in the area of children's welfare, this was not the way to improve management structures. I do not know whether this contributed to the management failures that led to this tragic case, but it is at least worth asking the question.
Bob Piper has followed Gordon Brown's lead and descended into the gutter on this issue, accusing me of being "complete scum" for writing the Margaret Beckett quote of the day post below. Like Gordon Brown he accuses me of saying something I never did. He accuses David Cameron of "play acting" at PMQs. What a disgrace to the world of blogging Bob Piper has become. Let me say this to him. Yesterday, I was phoned by a Labour MP who I have only ever spoken to once before. He had read my post-PMQs blogpost. I expected him to defend his leader to the hilt. Instead, he said this: "I want to apologise for the behaviour of my Prime Minister at PMQs. I was ashamed of what he did." Bob Piper should be equally ashamed of what he has written.