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.