December 8 2013 Latest news:
by Alex Wellman
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The case of former Haringey children’s boss Sharon Shoesmith has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds – money which an industry insider claims could have created an entirely new team for the beleaguered service.
The Broadway has discovered that on top of a reported payout of £600,000 to Ms Shoesmith, Haringey Council has also been forced to find £196,000 on external legal fees fighting the cases through the courts since 2009.
The lawyers’ fees mean the total cost of two judicial reviews, two employment tribunals and the six-figure settlement could now stand at £796,000.
Ms Shoesmith was head of the council’s children’s services department that failed to ensure the safety of Peter Connelly, who died in 2007 after suffering horrendous abuse at the hands of his mother’s partner Steven Barker.
Ms Shoesmith was sacked in 2009 by then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls but refused to fall on her sword and subsequently took legal action against the decision, claiming unfair dismissal.
In 2011 she won a high court case and this week Haringey Council agreed a reported settlement of £600,000.
Mr Balls said the payout “left a bad taste in the mouth” while one child protection officer who was falsely accused by the council of child abuse, labelled Ms Shoesmith’s pursuit of damages as “absolutely appalling”.
The officer, known as AB and who won a High Court case earlier this year against Haringey, also told how the money could have been better used to support children in need in the borough.
She said: “If I think about what the average social worker earns, about £38,000 or so, that would equate to almost an entire new team.
“Think about what that could have done with that total and when you factor in volunteers, it is incredible.”
It has recently been revealed the council let down another little boy, who was left with his abusive family despite repeated visits from social services, health workers and the police.
Cllr Richard Wilson, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, said: “It adds insult to injury and shows we are still paying the price for mistakes made four years ago.
“Haringey Council’s determination to keep the details of the settlement secret shows it has learned nothing from the past. It is unacceptable and taxpayers deserve to know the details of the settlement.”
A spokesman for Haringey Council said: “The legal fees relate to a very complex and long-running process that involved a number of different strands of litigation.
“Following the decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of Ms Shoesmith, and the Court’s direction that the parties seek to resolve the issue of compensation, the London Borough of Haringey and Ms Shoesmith have reached a settlement in this case.
“The terms of the settlement are confidential. We are unable to comment further on this matter.”