Baby P report damns Haringey council

A report into the death of Baby P has damned Haringey council, prompting a slew of resignations.

George Meehan resigned as council leader just twenty minutes before children’s secretary Ed Balls held a press conference to discuss the report. He was quickly followed by Liz Santry, head of children and young people in Haringey.

The council’s director of children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, has been removed from her post over the “catalogue of failures”.

Ms Shoesmith infamously said in the days after the conclusion of the Baby P court case that no one should lose their jobs over the controversy.

Mr Balls disagreed and told journalists Ms Shoesmith was not fit to perform the duties required of her public office.

In total, six council members have been suspended on full pay.

Mr Meehan said: “For me, this is a matter of moral responsibility.

“As a matter of respect for Baby P it is right for me to resign as leader of Haringey council.”

Ms Santry said: “I am the accountable lead member. I accept that accountability and take my full share of responsibility.”

During the press conference, Mr Balls made clear the report into Haringey’s children’s services came to a damning series of conclusions.

“Overall the inspectors’ findings are, I have to say, devastating,” Mr Balls said.

The inspectors had “a number of serious concerns in relation to safeguarding of children in Haringey,” the joint area review said.

It found children’s services were “inadequate and need urgent and sustained attention”.

Mr Balls said: “There is nothing that I can do to undo the terrible suffering that was inflicted on Baby P during his short life.

“The sad fact that inspectors make clear in their report is that Baby P was subject to a child protection plan from December 2006 following concerns he had been suffering from abuse and neglect. He was still subject to this plan when he died [August 2007],” he continued.

“This is the most serious failing of all. We will not rest until the very best child protection arrangements are in place in Haringey and across the country.”

The Liberal Democrats siezed on the report as evidence a full public inquiry is needed.

“Ed Balls will hope that forcing resignations at Haringey Council will draw a line under this tragic case. However, if we are really to safeguard children in the future then we need more than just a few personnel changes at the top,” said David Laws, the party’s children’s spokesman.

“Until the failings of this case are fully in the public domain, we cannot be sure that similar cases will not happen again. The case for a full public inquiry is stronger than ever.

“The inspectors have today admitted that the existing serious case review is inadequate. This second report is superficial and was pulled together in just 13 days.

“It is wholly unacceptable that crucial details of the Baby P case are still secret.”

The Conservatives backed that call. Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said: “It is now clear that the inspection regime for children’s services in this country failed.

“Ofsted said a year ago, after Baby P had died, that Haringey provided a good service and now they paint a devastating picture of a dysfunctional council.”

Ofsted will now begin impementing unannounced safeguarding visits on child protection services.

NSPCC director Wes Cuell said: “Public services should be held accountable when the children they are protecting die or are seriously injured. This must lead to real and lasting positive change for children.”

In a written statement the Metropolitan Police said: “Where things have gone wrong we will work with our partners to put them right.

“Police in Haringey and across the Met want children to be safe. Our priority is to ensure that effective safeguards, policies and practices are in place and the recommendations from the review are implemented so that London’s children are better protected.”

The 17-month-old baby boy died after receiving sustained abuse at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger in Haringey last August.

Before his death the infant had been placed on the child protection register and seen by health professionals some 60 times, including by a doctor two days before his death who failed to notice the baby’s broken back.

As a result children’s secretary Ed Balls ordered a review of the local authority’s child welfare services.

Mr Balls will ask the inspectors – from Ofsted, the healthcare commission and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary – to investigate particulars details at the council in more detail.

The three convicted of Baby P’s death are due to be sentenced next spring.