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What happened to Baby P?

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Paramedics tell Panorama about the moment they found Baby P

Last Tuesday (November 11 2008) a young mother and two men were found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a 17-month-old boy known only as Baby P.

He suffered horrific abuse, but Haringey Council in North London, which was criticised in the Victoria Climbie case, never took him into care.

Baby P
Baby P had a broken back, cracked ribs, numerous cuts and bruises

This was despite the fact that he had been put on the "at-risk" register and had 60 contacts with health and social work professionals and police over eight months.

Following Baby P's death, three separate inspections have been ordered and a national review by Lord Laming.

In What Happened to Baby P?, Panorama reporter Alison Holt reveals the findings of a six-month investigation into the mistakes and missed opportunities that led to this little boy's death.

'Very reluctant'

The programme team discovered that there was a split in Haringey social services over how to protect the boy at the very start in December 2006 - when he was first referred with non-accidental injuries to the Whittington Hospital.

Central to this difference in opinion was senior social worker Sylvia Henry, a team manager at the Tottenham social services office.

Computer graphics of Baby P's injuries

She had wanted Baby P to be taken into care and had found him a foster placement.

Ms Henry's witness statement seen by Panorama clearly shows her saying that she was "very reluctant" to let Baby P be looked after by family friend Angela Godfrey, but she was bound by the Children's Act 1989 to explore placement options with extended family and friends.

Her statement also said: "My impression of Angela was that she believed the local authority were overreacting and that the explanation for Baby P's injuries were those of his mother's, that they were caused by rough play and by his head banging".

While in her care, Ms Godfrey continually pressed for Baby P to be returned to his mother. He did not suffer any injuries while in her care.

Ms Henry's witness statement also claims that Ms Godfrey had asked for a "large sum of money, possibly 320 per week, as payment for being a foster carer".

Mother's friend

Ms Henry was eventually instructed by Service Manager Clive Preece that Baby P should go home.

She had delayed his return as police had expressed a similar opinion to her own that the child should remain "out of the care of his mother".

Baby P's bloodied clothing
The north London toddler was on a child protection register in Haringey

That is according to her witness statement given to the murder investigation team in January this year, but this dispute was never revealed in court.

Ms Henry claims to have kept the foster place open but as there was no evidence for a prosecution, "reluctantly it was agreed that with changes to the home environment in place and all the support services in place with the family there were little grounds for Baby P to remain out of the care of his mother".

The programme also confirms that the boyfriend of Baby P's mother, one of the men found guilty of causing or allowing his death, was known about as early as December 2006.

A confidential police report prepared after the child's death reveals that his name was recorded in the minutes of the first strategy meeting held at Whittington Hospital within hours of Baby P being referred with non-accidental injuries.

It notes that the man was mentioned by his first name as the mother's friend and that this information was "not expanded".

'Real picture'

Panorama hears from someone who knew the boyfriend, describing him as a loner who struggles with mental illness.

A woman who has known him for 14 years reveals that "he has a thing about hurting animals".

The programme has also learned that police and social services had a serious disagreement over Baby P not being taken into care when he was admitted to the North Middlesex Hospital on 1 June 2007 with more non-accidental injuries.

The confidential police report describes this as "a frank exchange of views".

Despite this disagreement, police eventually agreed to sign up to a care plan that meant Baby P was - yet again - returned home to be further abused.

The document contains no mention of Baby P being admitted to the North Middlesex Hospital in April 2007 with a large swelling to his head.

Sources have told Panorama that police were never told about the visit at the time and that the Met Police child protection team were therefore missing a vital piece of the real picture of Baby P's abuse and growing list of serious injuries.

'Struggling to cope'

The confidential police document also suggests that social services had become "too parent focussed" on the mother and that the mother's apparent co-operation had led to a "rule of optimism".

The programme also hears from a Haringey insider who reveals that social workers were struggling to cope with their workloads and that most of their time was spent doing paperwork rather than finding out what was going on in people's homes.

As one anonymous social worker put it: "That little boy was hurt by somebody in that home and all the boxes are ticked, just like they wanted, and he still died horrifically."

Haringey has told Panorama the only consideration in any decision is the welfare of the child.

It denies that any concerns about the placement of Baby P with Ms Godfrey were raised.

In relation to claims of disagreements with police, Haringey states you would expect a rigorous discussion between professionals when dealing with child protection and that police agreed to the final plans for Baby P.

Panorama: What Happened to Baby P? will be broadcast on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 17 November

video and audio news
Panorama: What Happened to Baby P?

Haringey Social Services response
17 Nov 08 |  Panorama

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