MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, has called for an investigation into an alleged attempt to hide management failings following the death of Baby P.
Following the death of Peter Connelly (Baby P), Dr Jane Collins the Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) commissioned the Sibert Report to investigate both the doctor and the systems involved in child protection, run by GOSH in Haringey.
An addendum of the report was authored by Dr Jane Collins and submitted to the Serious Case Review. The full report has now been released to the BBC in response to an FOI request. It shows Dr Collins’ addendum did not include the report’s vital criticisms of the management and child protection practices.
In a letter to Jo Williams, Chair of the Care Quality Commission, Baroness Blackstone Chair of GOSH Board, Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove and Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, Lynne Featherstone has called for an investigation into Dr Jane Collins’ actions.
Speaking as Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone said:
“There is now clear evidence that information was withheld from the serious case review into the death of Baby Peter. Key criticisms were edited out and it appears there was an attempt to cover-up the fact the situation was ‘clinically risky’.
“The key person in charge in Haringey was dismissed from post. The key managers also lost their jobs. But the Chief Executive and the managers at GOSH who presided over this ‘clinically risky situation’ are still in post. Their roles and culpability have never faced proper scrutiny.
“This can be nothing other than a deliberate attempt to hide the management failings, and subvert the serious case review process.
“It is not possible to learn the right lessons unless all relevant and important information has been disclosed, whatever the potential impact on the hospitals and health trusts involved.”
Commenting on the judgment by the Court of Appeal allowing the appeal of Sharon Shoesmith against a High Court ruling that the manner of her dismissal after the death of Baby Peter was lawful, Lynne Featherstone MP said:
“It would seem that Sharon Shoesmith was unlawfully dismissed because of procedural issues. My understanding is that the court is not saying that she should or should not have lost her job, but that proper procedures to dismiss her were not followed. However, that is a matter for Haringey Council and Ed Balls.
“The Children’s Act 2004, which followed the tragic death of Victoria Climbie and Lord Laming’s report, set in law that the Head of Children’s Services should be responsible for failings in their service. Sharon Shoesmith was Head of Children’s Services.”
Cllr Richard Wilson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Haringey Council, adds:
“The Children’s Act 2004 clearly sets out lines of responsibility for failures to protect children. This was to ensure that never again could bucks be passed.
“People in Haringey and up and down the country who saw how Haringey Council failed to protect Baby Peter, will find it hard to fathom how the Council managed not to follow correct procedure. This is another blow in the process of restoring confidence and competence in Haringey’s Children’s Service.”
Lynne Featherstone, candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, comments on the Sharon Shoesmith verdict:
“After what happened to Baby Peter, Sharon Shoesmith’s position was totally untenable – and rightly so.
“From this case we see further evidence that the culture of cover up and secrecy goes right to the top of the Labour government. Key facts have only come to light because of this court case, facts that the public are entitled to know. More than ever it shows the urgent need for a full public enquiry to ensure that we get to the bottom of the failure to protect Baby Peter.”
Nevres Kemal, Haringey Children’s Services whistleblower and Liberal Democrat candidate for Noel Park in Haringey, adds:
“I am standing for election against the Council who failed to protect Baby Pater and to help end the failure in Children’s Services.”
Nevres Kemal was a whistle blower who warned that Haringey Social Services were failing in their child protection practises. In fact, she had come to me about her concerns at one point, and I had taken her case together with two others (privately to avoid publicity or politics) to the then Leader of Haringey Council, George Meehan and the then Chief Executive, Ita O’Donovan.
The point all three cases demonstrated was that when someone, in this case Nevres as a social worker, another the Governor parent in a school and the other parents of a young boy with health problems, took their concerns to Haringey – the Council turned on them rather than address the real problem.
Haringey Council preferred always to shoot the messenger. In Nevres case she lost her job. In the parent Governor’s case – her son was expelled and she was thrown off the Board of Governors and in the parents case – the Council turned round and accused them of sexual abuse. Haringey Council was forced to apologise – but it took several years and much grief for the family.
When I brought these three cases to the Labour leader and Chief Exe – what did they do – sweet nothing other than close ranks even further and tell me that everything was fine. And it is that closing of ranks, refusal to investigate problems and turn on the messenger, the secrecy, the cover-ups and the lack of transparency that not that long after was exposed by the tragedy that came to light over Baby Peter. In fact, when I went to them, Baby Peter had already died – but they kept that secret.
Anyway – the point of this post is that I am delighted that Nevres Kemal, that whistle blower who tried against the odds to get Haringey Council to address its deep, deep problems is going to contest the Noel Park ward to become a local councillor for the Liberal Democrats.
I can think of no one better to hold Haringey to account over its bad ways and secrecy – good luck to Nevres on May 6!
Today is 10 years since Victoria Climbie died. As Leader of the Opposition in Haringey I remember the beating of breasts by the then Labour leader of the Council about how lessons would be learned and how this must never happen again. And then it did. Eight years later – Baby Peter died another dreadful death – with over sixty visits to the home by Haringey Children’s Services and other agencies.
And again the phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ were uttered.
It is clear to me that when Victoria died – lessons were not learned. Only the social worker at the end of the food chain took the punishment – everyone else walked away free – and nothing much changed. That is why it did all happen again eight years later.
But this time – the law had changed as a result of Victoria’s death. For the first time in legislation, two positions were named as accountable for what happened in Children’s Services – the Director and the Executive Member. That was a direct result of Victoria’s death and Lord Laming (who conducted a public inquiry) recommendations.
That is why when Baby Peter died it was so important that the two people in those two positions – now accountable in law – lost their jobs. If no one, now the law had changed, lost their jobs – then again – nothing would have changed.
But this time – changes have been brought in. Scrutinised closely every month and under new Director and Senior Management – the latest Ofsted report this week – found that Haringey is finally improving. It has a long way to go – but nevertheless – let’s hope that this is a real sign of progress and that, thanks to Victoria Climbie and the changes to the law that have now had effect – we really have learned the lessons this time.
The second inspection of Haringey’s Children’s Service has now reported. Last time they found that Haringey was not improving fast enough. This time – the report finds that they have done better. Given the staff are working very hard to improve things and there is a new Director – I would hope that this is the case.
The only question mark is really over how much confidence we can have in Ofsted. This is the inspectorate that gave Haringey 3 stars during the period that Baby Peter was falling through the Haringey net – and when it went public – gave them 1 star.
Hopefully – Ofsted too have improved their inspections and would not be fooled again by doing a desk inspection where Haringey provide (as they say happened last time) false information.
But I am very glad if, at last, things are getting better – both for any children at risk in Haringey – but also for those staff who have had to come through one of the most demoralising and difficult work situations that can be faced.
I was asked by London Tonight which was more shocking – the fact that there was another child, who experienced similar failures by Haringey Children’s Services as Baby Peter – albeit this time thank goodness not ending in a death – or the fact this had only just come to light – four years after the event.
The first I heard of it was when Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph) ‘phoned me to ask my view. My only view – was why was I only now hearing about this case – and from a journalist rather than being briefed by the Labour Leader of the Council or CEO?
Child ‘Y’ happened at approximately the same period as Baby Peter – yet when the furore over Peter broke – there was no mention to me of another case.
It is not hugely surprising that there was another child being let down by Children’s Services at that time. Given the litany of casualness that came to light surrounding the care of Baby Peter – if those same fault lines were undermining the department - in fact it was inevitable.
So – the shocking thing to me is that, despite all the work going on by a staff who are working their socks off to turn Haringey Child protection around, the leadership still displays an unchanged culture in terms of secrecy and cover up. Why was there no statement, no explanation – only the Executive Summary of the Serious Case Review on Child ‘Y’ sneaked onto an obscure website?
How many times have I heard the leadership in Haringey say ‘lessons must be learned’? Sadly – the leadership has not learned one key lesson – that hiding things just makes it worse.
I received an update from the Information Commissioner on progress (or not) on my request for the Serious Case Review (the document compiled immediately after Baby Peter’s death) to be published.
Subject: Information Commissioner’s Office[Ref. FS50234513]
Dear Ms Featherstone,
Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000
Complaint about the London Borough of Haringey – FS50234513
As you know, we have been considering whether we are in a position to make a final decision. In December, we decided that it would be necessary to arrange a meeting to discuss some of the issues raised by this case involving some senior staff members. Unfortunately, due to work commitments just before and after the Christmas break, it has not been possible to arrange this meeting until now. We expect the meeting to take place next week and before the end of January. I hope you will accept our apologies for this delay. I will update you again as soon as possible.
At least I feel they are looking properly at my request – as Ed Balls disagrees with me vehemently. I think if your read the following original post – tell me if you think I am right – or whether Ed Balls is right to want to keep this under wraps. His chief argument is that staff will not speak if they know the Serious Case Review will be published. My view is that it is a duty to speak out and that if there were a public inquiry or tribunal – they would have to under oath.
This was my original post on the issue – in full as link didn’t seem to be working.
Serious Case Review – Baby Peter and Beyond
I have been trying, ever since Baby Peter’s tragic case, to get the Serious Case Review published. A Serious Case Review (SCR) is produced after any such case by the agencies involved in that child’s care. It tells the chronological story of who did what and when. It is an invaluable document – but it is kept secret. An Executive Summary is published – but that really doesn’t tell anything like the whole story.
I have been battling to change this – so that SCR’s can be published. In Baby Peter’s case I have asked the Information Commissioner to publish the SCR for Baby Peter. I don’t believe that the ambition of that over-used phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ can ever be fully realised if the causes and actions are hidden.
The Information Commissioner came back to me to ask for more information as to why I thought it would be in the public interest for the SCR to be published. I sent him my reasons – which I paste below – and now the Information Commissioner is going back to Haringey Council for further information. This was my email to the Commissioner:
Having been Leader of the Opposition on Haringey Council when Victoria Climbie died and now MP in half of Haringey during the Baby P tragedy – I have come to the conclusion that a contributing factor to cases like these (and others) is the secrecy, the closing ranks culture and the lack of transparency.
The Serious Case Review (version 1) which I was allowed to read virtually under lock and key in the Department of Education (where I could not make notes or record any part of the document) was an eye opener to me. The executive summary of the same document which is published did not reflect the key problems, in my view, that were at least part-causal in the eventual tragedy.
The thing that struck me most was the litany of casualness with which people did their jobs (appointments missed, not followed up; files lost, handovers not done, meetings not attended). There was a litany of failures like these at every level, virtually by every person and every agency. I think that most people would expect that once a child is on the protection register and their case being brought to the Safeguarding Board – that there would be a rigour about all aspects connected with them.
This casualness and lack of care is only really demonstrated if you get to read the whole document. It does not come through in the summary and itself is cumulatively causal in my view.
Literally hundreds of professionals across the country emailed me about their knowledge and experience – as did the general public. I believe that the phrase which is dragged out ‘lessons will be learned’ won’t be fully possible if the facts of the case and the failures in the case are kept hidden. As I say, the Executive Summary, does not reveal the extent of the small, but cumulative failures – which I believe many professionals would recognise in their own fields and therefore be able to do something about. Therefore it must be in the public interest to be able to see the whole document.
Simply issuing another 150 Laming-like recommendations every time a tragedy happens simply adds procedures that take professionals away from their work without ever being able to see the why and wherefore of such recommendations – nor to judge or be able to critique the new ways from an informed position. The issues are kept between local authority, the other agencies and the Government – so keeping out those who would, could and should benefit from reading the whole story.
I am not an expert nor a professional – but unless and until we really open out all the issues around cases such as these – there will continue to be an air of defensiveness and self-protection which work against the safety and well-being of children at risk.
Social workers need to work in an atmosphere of support and good management – which can only come from opening up the real events, letting them stand there for all to see – and those in the professions taking those lessons away.
The argument Ed Balls makes to me against publishing the Serious Case Review (s) is that staff would not speak freely if they knew that what they said might be published. My view is that anyone working in any field where there is such an event has a duty to speak and say what happened. They would have to if the case goes to public inquiry or hearing. Names and personal information should be anonymized. It was anyway in the SCR I read and social workers were referred to as social worker 1 or social worker 2. It is also the case that quite a lot of time elapses between the event and the publication as the SCR is written immediately (usually) and the case and the trial and exposure comes much later.
OFSTED did an audit of Serious Case Reviews and found that nearly two thirds, I believe, were inadequate. So – additionally – this would not have come to light without OFSTED’s exposure. If they were published – these inadequate SCRs would have been exposed much earlier. So – whilst the Serious Case Review I am most concerned about is obviously the Haringey one – it is clear there is a wider issue too.
So – I believe it is totally in the public interest for the Serious Case Review to be published. Secrecy, lack of transparency and openess and closing ranks are at the heart of the problem in Haringey.
I hope you find in favour of publication.
Kim Holt has finally broken cover over the health team’s part in the Baby Peter tragedy with an interview in the Sunday Telegraph with Andrew Gilligan.
Who is Kim? She is (or rather was) a senior paediatric consultant in Haringey’s child protection health team.
Kim first came to me (over a year ago), terrified to talk to me, as she had been gagged – forbidden to talk to anyone. However, because I was her MP, she and I believed that must give her cover as it couldn’t be the case that a citizen loses their right to talk to their MP.
Kim was desperately worried that children in Haringey were at risk because none of the senior managers at Great Ormond Street were taking proper notice of the concerns she and three other senior consultant paediatricians had raised about the dreadful way things were being handled by management in charge of the child protection health team. The four consultants were so worried that they took the unusual step of jointly signing a letter enumerating their concerns and stating that they believed management were ignoring them. This was exposed in the Evening Standard recently also by Gilligan – with a scanned version of the letter for all to see.
In fact, when Kim tried to raise these issues and became vocal about them – guess what – the establishment turned on her. She was bullied by management – and worse – the situation was ignored. She eventually found herself on ‘special leave’ where she has been for two years – kept away from work by management at taxpayers’ expense to try and stop her exposing what had been going on.
Worse than that – additional to keeping her from working (and she a senior consultant paediatrician with an impeccable track record of 25 years of dedicated service) they tried to buy her silence. They offered her £120,000 if she would sign a statement saying all her concerns had been addressed.
But Kim wouldn’t be bought off. Kim’s real and genuine concern is and always has been the well-being of the most vulnerable of children. That is why over the year or so since she first came to me – I have completely and totally supported Kim and believed that she is the victim of bad management, bullying and a desire by those in charge to not rock the eminent boat of Great Ormond Street.
So – when Kim first came to see me to tell me about the bullying – I went to see Richard Sumray, Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT) to talk to him privately about this situation. The child protection task had been handed over from Haringey PCT to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The existing senior manager in charge had been transferred across from Haringey PCT to GOSH. It was now a matter for GOSH. That is what he said – but he also said he would look into it.
Then the Baby Peter trial concluded and all hell let loose. Haringey Council was rightly first in line, as the lead agency and the most culpable, and got all the attention. But knowing a little at that time about the health team and wondering why there was a locum in place – the locum who failed to recognise Peter’s broken back and ribs – I started asking questions.
I raised it in Parliament and if you look back in Hansard you will see me raise the issue of why out of four senior paediatric consultants, two had resigned, one was on sick leave and one on special leave. (You will also read that our health spokesperson Norman Lamb raised it too). I was, at that point, still bound to keep Kim’s confidence but was desperately trying to get the health team management looked at.
Kim was still not working and in my view was being kept from working because of her whistle-blowing. At this point, I ‘phoned Ed Balls office and told them of the dreadful treatment of Kim Holt and said if they didn’t do something at some point this would all blow up and with the reputation of the world’s foremost children’s hospital at stake – they needed to act.
I was very pleased that I was called shortly after this by the Chief Nurse from London Strategic Health Authority who I met with and who undertook to carry out a private investigation of the issues around Kim’s bullying and exclusion.
That investigation reports this coming week. Kim gave an interview to the Sunday Telegraph – finally – because she believes the report leaves out the important issues. She is gagged from talking about what is in the report. I have not seen it – but have met with its author and the NHS chief nurse who briefed me on their view of the content.
Now we wait to see the report. But if it doesn’t get Kim back to work, it doesn’t dismiss any managers and it doesn’t tackle the bullying culture – then it will all have been for nought.
Following on from my recent post on who inspects the inspectors, I raised the issue in Business Questions in the Commons.
The point I made was that with OFSTED giving 3 stars to Haringey just before the Baby Peter tragic story broke – and giving them 1 star soon after – we needed a debate on how to inspect the inspectors.
Harriet Harman – actually said she thought this was an issue for consideration. There was a lot of support in House for my request for a debate – so fingers crossed.
Of course, it’s even worse than I had time to state in the Commons (you only get a few words before Mr Speaker has a go at you for verbosity). Recently the judge in the Sharon Shoesmith appeal is having to investigate whether a hand written note which apparently instructs everyone at OFSTED who has emails re the Baby P case to delete them is genuine and whether its instruction was followed.
If it was – and emails turn out to have been deleted – this is just outrageous. We wait to hear the outcome of the judge’s investigations.