Innocent mother in unlawful child abuse probe: ‘Gove should take over Haringey’s children’s services’

PUBLISHED: 20:15 14 March 2013 | UPDATED: 20:15 14 March 2013

Education secretary Michael Gove

Education secretary Michael Gove

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The innocent mother caught in a Kafka-esque nightmare when Haringey launched a child abuse probe based on an anonymous letter has called for education secretary Michael Gove to take over Haringey’s children’s safeguarding services.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wants the council stripped of its legal responsibility for children’s safeguarding and have it put in the hands of Mr Gove.

She believes lessons have not been learned from past scandals – including the deaths of Baby Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbie – and argues the borough’s children deserve better.

“Somebody’s got to come in because they cannot do it,” she said. “It seems to me the failings in Haringey go right up to the top. They have fought us all the way – everybody knew within the council, but did nobody within that organisation stop and think, ‘This is a waste of public money’? ‘We are victimising this poor family and we are failing children’?”

The woman and her husband, who say child protection is in “our blood” as they both work in the field, were horrified to find themselves at the centre of an investigation which could have ruined their careers and torn the family apart.

“The threshold [for a child abuse investigation] had not been met,” she said. “I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t sleep. It was just the most horrible thing.

“Despite being in the business, my first reaction was still what most people fear – I was frightened they would remove my daughter. They had made errors already, so what would stop them making another one?”

They say they only had the ability to fight against it because they work in the same field, so knew what was happening went against standard procedures.

“We thought, ‘We fail our professions and we fail the children of our borough if we do not take a stand’. It was frightening – it is the first case of a Section 47 being challenged in 20 years.”

She added: “They go out and do checks on people against the Data Protection Act. What they did breaches data protection. They could be doing checks on any one of us and we would not know about it. I want the data mining to stop.”

She hopes the council will now re-evaluate how it deals with low-level complaints. The situation her family found themselves in was, she says, “an extension of the Victoria Climbie and Baby P” incidents. But she fears an obsession with low-level incidents may in fact harm their chances of protecting truly vulnerable children.

“If you want to prevent the next Baby P, what you do not want is to be dealing with vast quantities of dross which means you will miss it.”

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