Haringey defends against Baby P claims

Haringey council has mounted a strong defence to claims made against over the death of Baby P.

Tonight’s Panorama programme reveals those responsible for the 17-month-old’s welfare were divided on how to deal with the infant. It shows extracts of a witness statement by social worker Sylvia Henry, who had wanted Baby P to go into care.

Her superiors at Haringey council went against this decision in accordance with the Children’s Act 1999 – and despite similar concerns by the police.

It followed Baby P being admitted to Middlesex hospital in June 2007 with ‘non-accidental’ injuries. He died two months later.

Haringey council sought to downplay divisions between its staff and members of the police. It pointed out that police representatives were consistently consulted, and agreed, with how to handle the case.

The council argued the decision to return him to his mother after a placement with a friend had not been taken by a single manager alone but by a multi-agency meeting.

And it says police “agreed with the way forward” after a “frank exchange of views” took place in June 2007.

The statement added that the police attended meetings and had records of strategy meetings and conferences but did not express their concerns about children’s services being too “parent-focused” at any time.

The case gained national media attention last week after the boyfriend of the baby’s mother and their lodger were found guilty of “causing or allowing” the infant’s death in August 2007.

Subsequently it was discovered that healthcare workers visited the family 60 times before the child’s death and it was alleged that the Department for Children, Schools and Families received a letter six months before, suggesting child protection procedures were not being followed.

In today’s statement Haringey council made concessions over the allegation that “Baby P’s case reveals a series of missed opportunities to identity the threat to Baby P and take appropriate action, which could have saved his life”.

The council said: “We have accepted that more could have been done to protect Baby P. We are truly sorry for that.”

Children’s secretary Ed Balls will face tough questions over the failings of social services at the council later today.

The letter from Nevres Kemal, who was working on a separate case of sexual abuse, warned government figures that Haringey council was failing to act on her information.

The Conservatives have criticised the bureaucratic nature of social services in light of the case.

Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said last week: “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.”

Following the political storm caused by the case Mr Balls launched a joint area review of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in Haringey, which is being carried out by Ofsted, the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

The review must present its findings to the children’s secretary by December 1st.

In a separate development, the mother of Baby P was all-but identified yesterday, when social networking sites and unofficial news websites revealed it online.

Social networking site Bebo was forced to remove the mother’s profile page after abusive messages were left on it.

The name briefly appeared on a discussion thread hosted by The Sun newspaper, but was quickly removed.