Haringey ‘still failing’ after Baby P

By Ian Dunt

Haringey council has only made “limited” progress since the death of Baby Peter, an official report has found.

The Ofsted report, carried out with officials from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, found the tragedy could happen again, since there was still a failure to assess the status of vulnerable children in the area.

The report will deal a body blow to Ed Balls, children’s secretary, who spearheaded reforms to children’s services in the borough six months ago when the scandal broke.

Mr Balls quickly sacked Sharon Shoesmith after a damning report into her department and replaced her with Peter Lewis, director of children’s services in neighbouring Enfield.

“The report which Ofsted has now submitted. identifies important ongoing challenges for Haringey, in particular, in improving standards on the front line,” Mr Balls wrote in a letter to Clair Kober, leader of Haringey council.

“Haringey must prioritise improving standards of front-line practice and supervision and that Haringey’s plans must be kept under vigilant review with progress now accelerated.”

There were some good aspects to the report, which found progress had been made in clearing the backlog of cases.

But a shortage of competent staff and managers meant young people were “not yet consistently safeguarded”.

Eight out of 57 cases inspected raised “serious safeguarding concerns”. All were categorised as low priority until the council agreed to “urgent and significant action” once they were reviewed.

Frequent staff changes, high workloads and “inadequate communication” further hindered efforts to satisfy inspectors.

“Despite persistent and concerted action, significant shortcomings in staffing and in the capability of some managers and social workers have restricted the rate of progress and children and young people are not yet consistently safeguarded,” the report said.

Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in Haringey, said: “If there are concerns about the progress then there have to be question marks about the measures the government has taken so far.

“If children are at risk they have to consider the last resort, which is effectively taking the department into special measures. I just don’t think you can leave it and see. If it doesn’t get sorted now, it’s going to get worse.”

Poor communication among social workers ands doctors meant Baby Peter – or Baby P as he was known then – was seen 60 times without any action taken to prevent his ultimate death at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “There are no quick fixes to the problem of protecting children from people determined to do them harm.

“Since the tragic story of Baby Peter came to light a huge amount of work has been done to improve the safety-net nationwide which protects thousands of children every single day, and that is on-going.”