Haringey children’s services: Failings reflect ‘broader and deeper malaise’ in social work team, says High Court judge

Haringey Council. Picture: Ken Mears

Haringey Council. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Haringey’s children’s services team was responsible for a “litany of failure” in a child protection case involving a disabled boy, according to a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Hayden, of the High Court’s Family Division, has allowed the media to identify the council involved, saying it “was entirely inaccurate” to describe the case as an isolated one, court documents reveal. This had been the council’s contention.

He slammed the council’s handling of a case involving a disabled boy whose parents were separated and whose mother became involved in a relationship with a convicted sex offender.

The judge said in his ruling: “This case cannot be seen as an isolated example of strikingly poor practice but is reflective of a much broader and deeper malaise within Haringey’s Children with Disabilities Team.”

In an application to name Haringey in public, journalists Brian Farmer and Louise Tickle drew the judge’s attention to a 2018 Ofsted inspection which said in the council’s children’s services department “thresholds in the children with disabilities team are not well understood nor well applied” and that “in the majority of cases, plans focus on the needs of the parents rather the child”.

The judge said these findings could have folded “seamlessly” into his own judgement in the particular case, which, he said, “can only give real cause for public concern”.

Mr Justice Hayden said town hall social workers had “lost sight” of child protection and safeguarding procedures during the case, which he said saw an “alarming” failure to initially appreciate the threat posed to the disabled child, known as B and his sibling, by their mother’s partner.

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The council says it has made “significant changes” to its operations since the 2018 Ofsted report and has since been commended by the watchdog.

Cllr Zena Brabazon, Haringey’s children and education chief, said: “The most important thing for me to note is that the children remain safe, and their wellbeing is our primary focus.”

She said the council’s conduct in this case was “completely unacceptable and fell far below the council’s usual social work practice”.

Cllr Brabazon added: “We firmly believe that this judgment is not a reflection of our wider practice in children’s social care.“

Haringey is undertaking an internal review, and will also be commissioning and independent assessment in light of this case.