Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

'Accountability' pledge on Baby P

Computer graphics of Baby P's injuries
The Old Bailey jury saw computer graphics of Baby P's injuries

Staff will be held accountable if a report finds there were failures in the case of a 17-month-old boy killed after months of abuse, Ed Balls has said.

The children's minister has ordered an inquiry to examine the role of all agencies in the case of Baby P.

An initial investigation found evidence of "poor quality practice, management and supervision of staff" in Haringey, north London, Mr Balls said.

He also said "everybody is sorry" over what happened in the case

Mr Balls told the BBC: "If there are failures, then there's got to be accountability."

He added: "We should all be terribly sorry what happened to this poor little boy. We can't change that, we can't take away his suffering but I'm sorry.

"I would think everybody in Haringey is sorry. I would think everybody across the country is sorry."

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Paramedics tell Panorama reporter about the moment they found Baby P

"But being sorry is not enough."

Mr Balls said the government had to make sure that lessons were learnt and say "it should never happen again."

"That's my determination. That's my responsibility," he added.

The review by Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary is due to make an initial report by 1 December.

It will examine the role of all agencies involved in the case of Baby P - the local authority, the health authority and the police.

Meanwhile, as the baby's mother and two men await sentencing for causing the death of Baby P, a cross-party of MPs has called for an independent public inquiry.

Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone, a former Haringey councillor, has tabled a Commons motion calling for an inquiry "in order to restore confidence in the child protection system in this borough".

Climbie case

While the inquiry takes place, the director of children's services in Hampshire, John Coughlan, has been drafted into Haringey to ensure proper procedures for safeguarding children "are in place and properly applied".

The body that regulates social workers, the General Social Care Council, has said it is also conducting an inquiry into the case.

It said it has a duty to look into potential breaches of its code of practice.

The death of Baby P, who cannot be named for legal reasons, took place in the same borough where eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was tortured to death in 2000 by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend.

An official inquiry by Lord Laming subsequently laid down a raft of recommendations designed to prevent similar cases of abuse.

But Haringey's social services are now once again in the spotlight for failing to prevent the death of a vulnerable child.

The government has asked Lord Laming to review if his recommendations stemming from the Climbie case were being put into practice nationwide.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls: 'I'm sorry'

Opposition MPs have criticised Haringey Council's internal review into the Baby P case, saying it was not independent enough.

The council says action has already been taken on key points.

Its report concluded: "This serious case review has revealed clear evidence of appropriate communication between and within agencies as well as weaknesses in specific areas of information flow."

Key recommendations included ensuring there are "robust arrangements" of the monitoring of medical conditions, reviewing how organisations work together and building on existing training of staff.

But MPs have attacked the council for not dismissing anyone following the case.

So far two social workers and a lawyer employed by the council have been given warnings, but no-one has lost their job.

A paediatrician who examined Baby P has not had her contract renewed.

She is believed to be appealing against the decision.

Fifty injuries

The news that the government has now launched another review into what happened in Haringey has not been universally welcomed.

Dan Norris, a former child protection officer and now Labour MP for Wansdyke, said he was unconvinced another report would make any difference.

He said there have been numerous reports in the past 30 years which have made similar findings about things like better communication being needed.

He told the BBC: "I think we all know if we put our hands on our hearts, that even after this inquiry we know tragic things like will happen again in the future, and we're missing a trick somewhere."

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Baby P died after suffering 50 injuries including a broken back, eight fractured ribs and extensive bruising.

He had been on the register of at-risk children in Haringey, and before his death was visited 60 times in eight months by social workers, police and health professionals.

After a nine-week Old Bailey trial, Jason Owen, 36, from Bromley, and a 32-year-old man were convicted of "causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable person".

The boy's mother had already pleaded guilty to the same charge, and all three will be sentenced on 15 December.

The mother and her 32-year-old boyfriend also cannot be named for legal reasons.



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