Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

'Clear evidence' of Baby P errors

Ed Balls: 'There was clear evidence agencies failed' in Baby P case

There is "clear evidence" mistakes were made "singly and collectively" in the Baby P case, according to Children's Minister Ed Balls.

He told MPs people will be held to account for mistakes, and said inspectors had been told to report back on Haringey Council by 1 December.

Baby P died in 2007 after suffering terrible abuse, despite being on Haringey's child protection register.

Mr Balls said a further report by Lord Laming will be ready early in 2009.

He told the House of Commons it was clear agencies had failed to adhere to statutory procedures following the death of the 17-month-old baby.

"The case of Baby P is tragic and appalling," he said.

'Shocked, appalled'

"We have a responsibility to take whatever action is needed to ensure that such a tragedy cannot happen again and that all children are able to grow up safe - in Haringey and across the country."

In his statement, Mr Balls confirmed national inspectors, sent into Haringey after the tragedy, would report on 1 December.

He also said Lord Laming had begun an urgent review of safeguarding children services, which will report early in the new year.

The public are tired of hearing that the correct procedures have been followed when a child died in agony
Michael Gove

"He will report on the key features of good safeguarding practice and whether they are being universally applied across the country ... "

Other matters to be looked at by Lord Laming included "key barriers ... that may be impeding children's professionals in their work and stopping good practice becoming common good practice ... "

Updating MPs on work undertaken since the court case into Baby P's death, Mr Balls said the whole nation had been "deeply shocked, appalled and angered by the terrible suffering this little boy endured".

The case raised serious questions about what steps were needed to ensure the safety of children across the country.

"It is our collective duty to do what we can to prevent such a tragedy happening again."

'Accountability needed'

He said a serious case review had started immediately after the court case, with ministers receiving the full confidential report on 12 November.

"Having studied it, we concluded that there was clear evidence that agencies had failed - singly and collectively - to adhere to the statutory procedures for the proper management of child protection cases.

"This raised serious concerns about the wider systems and management of services safeguarding children in the borough."

Michael Gove
Michael Gove said the case had been imprinted on everyone's brain

Mr Balls also said: "Professionals working with children in this country do a tough job, often in very difficult circumstances.

"They have a great responsibility - and they make difficult judgments every day.

"But where serious mistakes are made, there must be accountability."

For the Tories, Michael Gove said the "horrific circumstances" of Baby P's "short, agonised life and terrible pain-wracked death" were imprinted indelibly on everyone's minds.

He said: "Whatever legal, or procedural, changes follow the inspectors' inquiry and the Laming inquiry, the most important change is a change of culture.

"The public are tired of hearing that the correct procedures have been followed when a child died in agony.

'Bland assessment'

"The public are astonished that a director of children's services can say, after the death of a child, that 'in the light of the good performance, a full scrutiny review would not be beneficial or add value to the service'.

"The public are, rightly, insistent that we act swiftly and comprehensively to hold those responsible in this affair to account and make the changes necessary to improve child protection across the country."

David Laws
Mr Laws called for a "full and independent" public inquiry

Liberal Democrat children's spokesman David Laws said it was "deeply unsatisfactory" the full serious case review was unavailable and that the executive summary only represented an "extremely bland and incomplete assessment".

A review was carried out after Baby P died last year, and a 15-page summary of the serious case review was published at the end of an Old Bailey trial last week.

Mr Laws called for a "full and independent" public inquiry and said he had heard that council officials in Haringey were selecting the staff investigators were able to talk to.

Mr Balls accepted that the executive summary was only a summary but said his hands were tied with regards to publishing the full document.

The minister also said it would have been "quite the wrong thing to do" to wait for a public inquiry at this stage because of the amount of time it would have taken, but that he ruled nothing out.

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