Baby P and the £100 m a year department

I was sickened to read of the cruelty and mindless violence of three adults against a baby. I find it difficult to comprehend how such people lack the basic human instinct to protect the weak and vulnerable, and show none of the normal protective maternal and paternal feelings most of us feel towards the young. Of course those three adults are to blame for this tragedy.

We should also ask why on 60 different occasions professionals in child care on the public payroll saw this baby, yet none took action to protect him. We must ask why the Head of Childrens Services at Haringey is still in her six figure salary job, and why she thinks they cannot stop the occasional murder of a baby by adults close to him or her.

For if her defensive remark is true, we must ask why are we spending all this money if the person in charge thinks that her service cannot succeed in its most basic role, seeking to prevent the death of children in her borough at the hands of those close to him.

The failure of Ministers to respond directly to the warning from Miss Kemal, the social worker who turned whistleblower, comes as no surprise. Ministers trusted to their large bureaucracy, referring the case elsewhere. They accepted the assurances of the bureaucracy that all was well, and carried on referring the letters without anger or comment or intervention. These Ministers so often fail to lead these huge bureaucracies, or to demand good service for all the money they send to them.

What is a disgrace is the fact that Miss Kemal is the one who lost her job, when she appears to be the only one who tried to do it properly. I can understand that sometimes babies or children unknown to social services may be harmed by crazed adults beyond the state’s knowledge and reach until the crime is committed. I can understand that there are many marginal cases where on balance social workers will decide to leave the parents with their child, knowing that taking a child into so called care is not a good answer in many cases either. What many of us find difficult to accept in this case is the scale of the physical abuse of this baby before he died, and the inability of many experts to see it and to take the necessary protective action.

If this had occurred in a Conservative Council doubtless we would have heard the BBC constantly reminding us of the political control of the Council, and doubtless Labour spin would have claimed it was owing to a “lack of resources”. This occurred in a well funded left of centre Council. The Conservative party deliberately did not raise the political complexion of the Council when the Leader took this up in the House, only to be told he was “playing party politics” with the issue. The government does need to be involved, and there does have to be a full and detailed Independent Inquiry. It is not good enough to say all the boxes were ticked, all the forms were filled in, all the assessments were made properly, and the Council has gold stars for its overall performance. Clearly major mistakes were made in this case. We need apologies, and disciplinary action. This was the Council which also failed over Victoria Climbie.

If the Head of Chidrens Services thinks doing better is too difficult, and her team did well, then she had best be replaced. We expect more for £100 million a year.

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16 Comments

  1. Patrick Turner
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I agree entirely with this blog. I thought at the time that Browns response to Camerons question was grotesque since when I’ve seen the two photographs that have been released of Baby P illustrating the contrast between the beautiful 12 month old child and the ghastly doomed mite of six months later. I’m haunted by the look of fear and apprehension evident in the childs eyes in the second photo. That none of the bureaucratic incompetents involved in the betrayel of this infant has seen fit to resign will stand as a evidence of the moral bankrupcy of this vile goverment and its myriad of tax payer funded adherents.

    • Robert Whiston
      Posted November 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I’ve just litened to “Any Questions” (Radio 4) wheer JR was a panelist, and all seemed to agree about the awful nature of the Baby P affair.
      Various remedies werer offered up. Various culprits were detailed eg the SS, the police, Whitehall, the minister etc.
      But everyone ovelooks “the child best intrerest” (CBI) fallacy. The CBI isn’t interested in the real interest of the child but is the excuse to automatically award custody to the mother whenever a separation occurs.
      Woudl this tragedy have occurred if the father had an equal opportunity of being awarded protectve custody ? it is doubtful. Statistics tell us that biological fathers are the best guarentee of infant survival and the best guardians while separated mothers and their serial boyfriends are the worst. But still no one takes any notice. Removing the guardianship role and authority of fathers inteh Children Act 1989 has been very costly. In the 30 years up to the Climbie death there have been thirty inquiries into child deaths. Moreover, in the same timeframe hundreds of child deaths have occured but these have not been horrific enough to warrant a public inquiry.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted December 2, 2008 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        An extremely interesting post that I missed originally, can you quote your source for this

        "Statistics tell us that biological fathers are the best guarentee of infant survival and the best guardians while separated mothers and their serial boyfriends are the worst"

        Thank you

        • Robert Whiston
          Posted December 2, 2008 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          RE : Stuart Fairney's post.

          Initially look at the Home Office’s ‘Criminal Statistics’ tables for infnat mortality, ie homicide. (eg Homicides by age of victim).
          Then look at (US) CDC figures for child deaths.
          US statistics – Table 4-4: Maltreatment Fatalities by Perpetrator Relationship (Murder in Families", US Dept of Justice, NCJ 143498)
          Two countries same child death profile.
          Go to Dept of Health figures for child deaths.
          Lastly, got to CIVITAS for books on child maltreatment and deaths, and perpetrators.

          Here are a few URL to also help but some may now be out of date – such is the nature of the internet, I’m afraid.
          1., http://www.cdc.gov/nchswww/data/nvsr47_9.pdf
          2/. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
          3/. “Researchers Identify Risk Factors For Infants Most Likely to be Homicide Victims”
          EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE
          Wednesday, October 21, 1998, 5 PM Eastern Time, Robert Bock (301) 496-5133
          An infant's chances of becoming a homicide victim during the first year of life are greatest if he or she is the second or later born child of a teenage mother, according to an analysis of birth and death certificates by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Homicide is the leading cause of infant death due to injury
          4/. CDC: Newborns Face Highest Murder Risk http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa03120

        • Robert Whiston
          Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          You ask for my source re: "Statistics tell us that biological fathers are the best guarentee of infant survival …" To do justice to the question would require a small essay. In actuallity there are several even many. The US provides the best breakdown of child abuse/deaths by perpetrator and victim age, sex and relationship. In this country Civitas is a good source. Unfortunately, the Home Office and Dept of Health produce figures that have to be "interpreted" with other stats. The age, sex and relationship of the perpetrator and victim are rarely listed – but they used to be before the 1989 Act ! ! To get a picture of what is going on one has to look at the crime as a product of the human condition and one that does not recognise national boundaries. Those 'advanced' and comparable countries to ourselves all produce, more or less, the same rate per 1,000 or per 100,000.

  2. Janet Boaler
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    So far it looks as if it is going to be ‘all talk and no do’. The forthcoming enquiry is bound to clear all the major players in Haringuey Council, who will keep their jobs. Clearly, the only action which needs to be taken immediately is to demand the resignation of Ms. Shoesmith. This is just another example of excessive beaurocracy which hampers ministers from taking responsibility for the actions of their officers. The only thing which might make any difference would be a protest march by the public, mainly consisting of HaringueyCouncil tax payers!

  3. lucysharp
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    The response of the Shoesmith woman is sadly typical of her kind. Social service departments are full of people like that. Their remit is based on faulty assumptions. Some people are just not fit to have care of children, and no amount of monitoring and supervision is going to change that. Social workers are obsessed with equality and diversity to the exclusion of humanity, let alone common sense – even health and safety takes second place. This poor little boy was tortured and murdered by creatures who do not qualify as animals, let alone as human beings, and yet sixty visits (or sixty accounts of visits – I am not convinced that they all actually took place) were not sufficient to make his caseworker face up to the reality before her eyes. Unless the underlying state policy of condoning cruelty and neglect in support of the "human rights" of those who inflict it is replaced by one which defends the helpless against the heartless and feckless there will be other victims. How many more children are suffering now, this minute, whose plight is known and yet ignored?

  4. Richard
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Have a look on the council's web site to see some of the projects where they manage to do well.

    The bust of anti-apartheid campaigner Oliver Tambo that they managed to erect outside Tambo House two months after baby P died is undeniably impressive. I wonder how much was spent on that at a time when 25% of their social worker posts were vacant. (http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/news_and_events/olivertambo/olivertambobust.htm)

    Marvel at the achievements of the council's 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month' including a fascinating presentation on 'Lesbian Feminist Studies School Stories and Same Sex Marriage'. (http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/council/how_the_council_works/equalities/equalities_diversity_events.htm)

    If you missed that, how about 'Black Hair Day', where the council pays for free hair care advice from 'the world's best braider'.

    I'll have to stop now. Thoughts of a baby having his fingernails ripped out with pliers make the antics of the loony left seem much less amusing than they once were.

  5. mikestallard
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Word inflation needs to be looked at here. A big leftie trick is to take strong words – "rape", "child abuse", "racism" – and to use them in situations which do not merit them. Thus, a woman who quite willingly goes to bed with a stranger and then tries to stop him half way through is being "raped", a teacher who tries to stop a pupil smashing a window by holding him back is guilty of "child abuse" and another teacher who talks to a black child in his native language is deemed guilty of "racism". (All the above are real cases with real people in them".
    Social Services appear unable to spot the difference between real child abuse and smacking; smoking and drug abuse; and believing in Jesus and believing in African juju.
    This means they have far too much work to do. Also, of course, the people who ought to be out there judging the cases are safely in their little offices in front of a Computer with the fire on and a nice cuppa.

    Hey – isn't this an excellent example of how Labour bureaucracy works! A little chap dies, but the bureaucrats roll on regardless. "Child Safety Administrative Executive (£70k)" anyone?

  6. Neil Craig
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    The unacknowledged link between these child killing incidents & the amount of crime is the break up of the traditional family. I rather hate to say this because I would like hippyism to work & even think that something derived from it will some day. However it has been statistically demonstrated many times that inmates of prison, the illiterate, homeless, alcoholics & almost every other indication of human failure come proportionately many 10s of times more often from those without a father or brought up in social "care". The same applies with cases like this obscenity, or those much less blatant, which don't get reported. The killing is virtually never done by the father but by the mother's new boyfriend or even the mother herself.

    Children need a father, boys in particular need one more than they need the mother.

    Becuase it is politically incorect to say this & because the empire building of social work departments requires ever more children to "care" for the actions of social workers have been, on balance, hugely destructive to society & the individaul they "help". This is how you get a £100 million budget as anybody who understands Public Choice Theory knows.

    At all stages they support custody going to the mother & have often been actively involved in trying to persuade the mother to break up the family.

    There is of course, far more work for them if the child is stuck with a useless mother, or in a "care home".

    One obvious answer is to encourage adoption & we can see that far from doing so social work departments actively prevent adoption because it weaken their power. It is otherwise impossible to explain how they could refuse to remve baby P while at the same time they are denying couples the right to sopt or even foster because they smoke, though there is no real evidence that passive smoking is any sort of problem at all let alone a seriouis one.

    If, as soon as it was known the baby was being harmed, presumably 59 visits ago, the mother & boyfriend had been arrested for something relatively minor like GBH & the child removed to the care of either his father or adopted he would be happy & alive & even the mother & boyfriend would have a better future. But Harringay's social work empire wouldn't get its £100 million.

    Liberals are often denounced for caring about criminals & saying that "society is to blame". But society is to blame – it is just those most to blame are those who most involved in the "caring professions"

  7. TaDa
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It is shocking how this tragedy has so quickly become another tool for politicians to score points off of one another.

    Perhaps all politicians should look at the statistics that show 1-2 children a week dying through cruelty in the UK.

    I read your article looking for some answers as to what any government might do to improve the situation but all I saw was a call for someone to be sacked.

    Reply: We employ specialists to identify children at risk and give them protection.When they fail to do so in such a case, we need to investigate why and change the senior personnel responsible.

  8. Frugal Dougal
    Posted November 17, 2008 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    I'm with Neil Craig – social work managers probably looked at the arrangement in the house and decided that the three people charged were in an "alternative family" arrangement, therefore objective necessity dictated that they were unable to be guilto of child abuse.

    Casse in point – an independent inquiry in Wakefield last year found that social workers who had expressed concerns about a gay couple who fostered children weren't listened to by middle managers:
    http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2007/09/0

    I've worked with a lot of social workers and haven't found any politically correct crusaders for some years – because they're all in management, sacrificing our children to the dogma that certain groups are not only impeccable but untouchable.

  9. Andrew Forbes
    Posted November 17, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    It's a terrible case, and it seems terribly cold blooded to be making comments, on the back of it, on the standard of administration in this government.

    But the truth is that we could pick any number of cases, from any number of local and national government departments, that have made it into the news, somewhere; they will all be examples of how the mindset of public service has changed in the last decade. In their own minds, they don't exist to provide services any more. They exist to employ public servants.

    This core attitude is something of a supertanker which the next government must set about turning around.

  10. Erwin
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi, sorry bumping in.

    A baby has died in horrible agony, excrutiating pain, asking for help, defenseless, terrorised, abused, humiliated, ignored in cold, alone, in deep saddness. His nickname was 'smiley'….

    …just a reminder.

    One of the reasons why I hate politics. A lot of talk, a wagon of excuses and no act, no responsibility just titles without real value.

    Have a nice day.

  11. Robert Whiston
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    I am disappointed with the level of debate on this (and other) forums with regards Baby P. Yes, I have some sympathy for some views expressed but to put matters into historic context the contributors are only failing in the same way that pundits in the our media have failed by missing the point.
    We have at present an exclusive 4 cornered boxing ring; we have the police, the Social Services, the legal system "all letting down the mother" and the pundits (including press and politicians) and all are punching one and then the other.
    For 30 years or more it has ever been thus.
    Attempts to re-appraise and break out of the cycle of blame and admonishment have proven a futile exercise.
    To invert an Australians expression the situation 'is broke so it has to be fixed'.
    The formulaic approach does not work. We have to therefore think outside the box. Instead of a 4 cornered boxing ring lets make it 5 sided with the biological father as the 5th protagonist.
    To date no one has discussed this new element. I am not suggesting this would lead a total cure but it might produce a reduction.
    If Social Services are accused of always trying to keep the child at risk with its parents/family let us be clear that we actually mean by parents/family, i.e. exclusively its unstable or inappropriate mother.
    A father is a parent and so should be considered as such by Social Services before they whisk off a hapless child into 'care' or leave them with a lethal mother.
    How this reminds my of Alabama in the 1960s – "I am a man I have rights" scrawled on the many placards.

  12. OUTRAGED
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    RIP Little Angel, no more pain for you little man.
    Come across this website, it’s so sad of what actually happened, my heart goes out to the little boy.
    wbsite is http://www.zoopslife.com

    A Good one, can’t believe this one… its on the sun’s website, the mother of baby p is having a halloween party with the other inmates in Holloway Prison, she is photograpghed!!! Having fun at the party!!! http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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