Page last updated at 23:31 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Three suspended over Baby P case

Sharon Shoesmith
Sharon Shoesmith has been removed from her post but is on full pay

Three senior staff at north London's Haringey Council have been suspended on full pay after a "damning" inspectors' report into the sufferings of Baby P.

The staff include head of children's services Sharon Shoesmith. The Council leader has also resigned.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls earlier said he had directed that Ms Shoesmith be removed with immediate effect.

Baby P died aged 17 months although he was on the child protection register and was seen by professionals 60 times.

The report gave a "damning verdict", Mr Balls said.

The boy's mother has pleaded guilty and her boyfriend and a lodger have been convicted of charges relating to his death. They are awaiting sentence.

Haringey Council confirmed that as well as Ms Shoesmith, Cecilia Hitchen, deputy director of children and families, and Clive Preece, head of children in need and safeguarding services, had been suspended on full pay.

Council leader George Meehan and the cabinet member for children, Liz Santry, have quit.

The positions of three other staff - Gillie Christou, Maria Ward and Sylvia Henry – are subject to review and they are not undertaking child protection duties pending further investigation, the council said.

Mr Balls said there had been a failure to talk to children at risk

Mr Balls said the inspectors' report delivered a "damning verdict on the current management of safeguarding children in Haringey".

One of the factors that was most troubling, Mr Balls added, was the "failure to talk directly to children at risk".

The key failings highlighted include:

  • Agencies acting in isolation from one another without effective co-ordination
  • Poor gathering, recording and sharing of information
  • Insufficient supervision by senior management

Action to be taken includes:

  • A new serious case review to be undertaken into the death of Baby P, with an executive summary to be published by the end of March
  • Education watchdog Ofsted to carry out unannounced annual inspections of children's services across the country
  • More action to be taken at those authorities in England which have had "inadequate" serious case reviews, to see if they have made improvements.

Mr Balls announced new leadership would be introduced in Haringey's social services, with Hampshire County Council's John Coughlan immediately replacing Ms Shoesmith.

"Haringey Council will now remove the current director of children's services from her post with immediate effect," he said.

He added that if he was not satisfied that there was significant progress in improving the department, he would not hesitate to step in again.

Baby P
Baby P died after suffering months of abuse

Mr Meehan and Ms Santry expressed deep sadness at the death of Baby P, acknowledging their responsibility in the case.

Mr Meehan said: "The reasons for my resignation are matters of personal honour and local responsibility.

"I am acutely aware of my accountability to people in Haringey.

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

"We have a hard task ahead to rebuild confidence in Haringey's child protection services."

Councillor Lorna Reith, deputy leader of Haringey Council, said the change in leadership was necessary and it showed how seriously the council was taking the report's recommendations.

'Very worrying'

The Metropolitan Police welcomed the report.

In a statement, they said although their management was good: "We are not complacent and will fully support the new serious case review.

"Police in Haringey and across the Met want children to be safe."

The chief inspector of Ofsted - one of the agencies involved in the report - said the findings were "very worrying".

Christine Gilbert told the BBC: "You had very committed hard-working people working in different services, social care, health police and so on but working in parallel not really talking well enough to one another."

The report looked into the roles of health service, social workers and the police in the case.

Mr Balls ordered the investigation two weeks ago, after saying it was clear mistakes had been made and that those responsible would be held accountable.

The inspectors have been examining why the toddler was not taken into care despite numerous injuries including broken ribs and eventually a broken back.

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