Friday, November 14, 2008

What Did Ministers Know About Haringey?

Ministers face searching questions after it emerged the government was warned about Haringey's failing child protection procedures, months before Baby P was tortured to death. The outrage of a child killed under the nose of social services leaves a bitter taste. 

Schools secretary, Ed Balls, was quick to warn that "if there are failures there has to be accountability". A view branded as sheer hypocrisy here by the Orange Party

Now the Daily Mail and Independent have led the way with a front page splash revealing that a Haringey social worker wrote to ministers with warnings six months before the child's death. 

Whistleblower, Nevres Kemal, warned child protection procedures were not being followed, following the Victoria Climbie murder in the same borough eight years earlier.

The buck was passed around in departmental musical chairs. From the department of health to the department for education to the commission for social care inspection. 

Claims of passing the buck brought a swift rebuttal from the prime minister's spokesman, duly reported by his BBC. Though how such a sweeping denial can be made with such certainty, isn't made clear. 

Journalists had been digging hard on this one after the whole country was sickened by the death of this young child despite Lord Laming's child protection recommendations. 

Something didn't stack up. Haringey's initial response, claiming they had done all they could and producing reams of useless performance statistics, caused anger and frustration. No-one has been fired and only yesterday did someone from Haringey finally crawl out of the woodwork to apologise. 

School's secretary Ed Balls told everyone he's sorry and announced an independent inspection just hours after his boss Brown had stood up in the commons with a robotic, inhuman statement. No wonder Cameron was furious.

This case exposes failed government child welfare policies, a local authority social services department which was clearly incompetent and government departments passing the buck. Frustrated, under staffed social workers banged their heads against the wall, fobbed off by local management and government oficials. 

As Balls was quick to point out yesterday, with failure comes accountability. All government ministers should look to themselves and their own departments. 

This was never about playing politics. This is about the death of a toddler and a whole raft of failings of the council at the centre of the scandal. Mistakes like this must never again happen. 

Government ministers must come clean and explain exactly what they knew and what they did about it. Otherwise what was the point of Lord Laming's original review.

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