Govt knew of Haringey failings before Baby P death

The government has admitted it knew about problems with children’s services at Haringey council before the death of Baby P, but has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families received a letter from a social worker dated February 16th 2007 containing an allegation that child protection procedures were not being followed in Haringey and calling for a public inquiry.

The woman, Nevres Kemal, was prevented from speaking by a court injunction.

She had been working on a separate case of sexual abuse when she warned government figures that Haringey council was failing to act on her information, and that she was dismissed for causing controversy.

The letter was sent to Patricia Hewitt, then health secretary, David Lammy, then culture secretary and junior health ministers Rosie Winterton and Ivan Lewis. Mr Lewis was responsible for the Department of Health’s social care portfolio.

“Officials from this department replied on March 21st 2007,” a government spokesperson said.

“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 department’s permanent secretary is therefore satisfied that “the proper procedures were followed”.

Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said: “The public are tired of hearing that ‘correct procedures have been followed’ when a child died in agony.

“Ministers were told six months before Baby P’s death that there were profound problems in Haringey’s Children’s Services Department. Yet all that appears to have happened is the sacking and gagging of the whistleblower and bureaucratic buck-passing in Whitehall.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “It’s right that procedures were followed.” He stressed Number 10 was taking a keen interest in the case, and would be working with Ed Balls on the matter.

Mr Balls told the BBC this afternoon: “It shouldn’t have happened again in Haringey. What I can’t do – what I’d love to do but can’t do – is change the history with this little boy.”

The council’s healthcare workers visited the family of murdered Baby P 60 times but failed to prevent the infant being effectively used as a punchbag by his mother, her boyfriend and his lodger, throughout the 17-month-old’s short life.

Baby P died in August last year but the case shot to public attention this week after the conviction of the three responsible.

Criticism of the bureaucratic culture in social services by the Conservatives has created a political storm out of the case, making the government’s admission it knew about Haringey’s problems all the more embarrassing.

Today, Conservative leader David Cameron made further comments on the situation.

“This is an absolutely tragic case of a baby who seems almost literally to have fallen through the cracks of a bureaucratic system. If letters are sent with both Haringey and children in the same sentence, then that should have been a real wake up call,” he said.

The review, which began yesterday afternoon, must present its findings to Mr Balls by December 1st.

Yesterday Haringey council apologised for its failings for the first time. Liz Santry, its cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I have to say that we are truly sorry that we did not do more to protect him [Baby P].

“Our duty is to protect our children. We did not do so in this instance and I would like to say how truly sorry we are.”