Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Reaction to Baby P investigation

Baby P
Baby P died after suffering months of abuse
Children's Minister Ed Balls has called the findings of an investigation into the death of Baby P "damning" and "devastating".

The head of children's services at Haringey Council has been removed from her post and two senior councillors have resigned, but Mr Balls said there would not be a public inquiry into the case.

A number of politicians, organisations and individuals have reacted to the publication of the report.


Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the details of the case were "tragic and deeply disturbing".

"The report highlights clear failures by the local NHS organisations to communicate properly and share information and expertise," he said. "These failures are unacceptable.

"The protection of vulnerable children requires the very highest levels of performance. We urgently need to learn the lessons of this appalling case."

Mr Johnson said he had asked the Healthcare Commission to carry out further investigations into whether NHS bodies were "applying national child protection standards as vigorously as they should be".


Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said there were still "profound questions" to be answered and it was wrong of the government not to make public the serious case review carried out by Haringey Council into Baby P.

"The scrutiny of what's gone on is inadequate," he said.

"It is quite right that Sharon Shoesmith should go, it is quite right that the elected members who refused to take responsibility should go, but it is also right that the public should be fully informed.

"They're not and, as a result, our capacity to improve child protection in this country is less than it should be."

Mr Gove also said changes must be made to the way Ofsted monitored social workers.

"The current inspection regime is a case of just looking at paperwork, ticking the appropriate boxes and saying all is well, instead of getting down to the grassroots and discovering exactly what is going on - and what is going wrong - in child protection."


David Laws, Lib Dem spokesman on children, schools and families, said the case for a public inquiry was "stronger than ever".

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

"Until the failings of this case are fully in the public domain, we cannot be sure that similar cases will not happen again.

"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.

"It has to be asked how a children's service which was highly rated in 2007 could suddenly be classed as inadequate in 2008."


Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: "This is without question one of the saddest and most shocking cases on which we have ever been asked to report.

"The lessons must be fully understood and fully acted upon, both in Haringey and more widely, including by the NHS.

"The joint area review clearly identifies systemic failings in Haringey. From a healthcare perspective, we were particularly concerned about the inadequacy of systems necessary to enable agencies to work together effectively on behalf of children.

"It is critical to have good communication, between healthcare professionals and between organisations working in partnership on safeguarding, as well as strong awareness of child protection procedures."


The chief executive of the National Children's Bureau, Paul Ennals, said the report had found "a deeply depressing list of failures".

But he said the task of protecting children was an extremely hard one, even for the "enormously talented and experienced people" who had now been appointed temporarily in Haringey.

"It's really difficult for inspectors to get into the heart of practice," Mr Ennals said.

"If you think of inspectors going and inspecting a school - part of what they do is they actually sitting in the classroom and watching the quality of teaching.

"It's a bit harder to follow an emergency social worker at midnight when they're taken in to observe domestic violence.

"[That] means there has been an element of inspectors looking more at processes and systems than at the frontline practises."


Ian Johnston, from the British Association of Social Workers, told the BBC: "Social workers are fed up with carrying the can when things go wrong and in this instance it would appear that responsibility is being taken at a high level for the obvious failings in Haringey."

Mr Johnston said he was concerned that social workers "might feel under pressure to remove more children from their parents".

Speaking of social workers he said: "They don't get enough support. Very often, they're working under a great deal of pressure and they're expected to do the impossible.

"They spend a lot of time covering their backs and recording rather than actually doing the face-to-face work with children and their families."

He added: "We certainly hope that the expectation that people who are not social workers can manage social work services and really know what's going on at the frontline may be revisited."


Christine Gilbert, chief executive of Ofsted, which jointly carried out the investigation into Haringey's handling of the Baby P case, said: "What we found was very worrying indeed.

"We felt that the safeguarding and welfare of children and young people was likely to be poor, given what we were finding in Haringey.

"We found when there was a concern, children were referred, but they were then seen in isolation almost. You had very committed, hard-working people working in different services, but working in parallel, not really talking well enough to one another."

She said that in future "the focus on the child or young person has to be absolutely central".

"The processes and procedures are thus absolutely crucial in making sure that the records tell you about the history of the child, the history of the family, and alert you to problems and difficulties ahead."


Chairman of the LGA Margaret Eaton said: "The report will give children's services in the borough the chance for a fresh start.

"While the inquiry into the tragic death of Baby P appears to show that Haringey is an exceptional case, councils will be working with health services and police to make sure that we not only learn the necessary lessons, but that these are put into practice to stop this happening again.

"It is time to move away from a stop-go approach to child protection and make sure there is instead a consistent and effective programme of work on this important issue."


The Director of the NSPCC Wes Cuell said he was pleased at Mr Balls' decision to ask all directors of children's services across the country to examine their procedures.

"We believe they should focus on an immediate review of children with child protection plans to identify those in greatest danger," he said.

"Urgent action must be taken where necessary to make sure these children are safe."

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