Haringey's Baby P apology comes too late to convince the public

HARINGEY COUNCIL S apology has come a week too late to convince the public that it really has come to terms with its failings in the tragic case of Baby P. And despite council leader George Meehan s unambiguous statement at Tuesday night s highly-charged

HARINGEY COUNCIL'S apology has come a week too late to convince the public that it really has come to terms with its failings in the tragic case of Baby P.

And despite council leader George Meehan's unambiguous statement at Tuesday night's highly-charged cabinet meeting, it is difficult to see how the current hierarchy can remain intact in the face of a public onslaught. The outcry appears only to intensify as more and more information about the circumstances surrounding Baby P's preventable death reaches the public domain.

Great sums of public money have already been spent by way of the inquiry into the death in similar circumstances of Victoria Climbie, and the recommendations were designed to ensure that such a breakdown in childcare services could not happen again, either in Haringey or anywhere else.

Of all local authorities, Haringey most of all needed to ensure that no child on the 'at risk' register would die a slow and tortuous death while under the council's jurisdiction. And Mr Meehan is only one of many people who were in positions of authority at the time of the inquiry, and who are still there today, so current failures cannot be attributed to any lack of continuity.

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It also goes without saying that when she accepted the position of departmental director, Sharon Shoesmith must have known that her reputation and that of her department would be on the line should there be another incident which echoed the Victoria Climbie tragedy. The death of Baby P certainly falls into that category.

Ms Shoesmith has been greatly praised by local headteachers, and rightly so, for her commitment to education in the borough. But the disciplines involved in caring for children in the school system, where properly-trained teachers can act as a vital line of defence against abuse, are very different to those required to ensure the safety of vulnerable infants of pre-school age marooned amid the dangerous detritus of obviously dysfunctional families.

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It is not only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see that there were enough warning signs to warrant the removal of Baby P into council care. This was not by any means a borderline case where the parents deserved to be given the benefit of any lingering doubt. A lot of people knew that at the time, but through an incomprehensible breakdown in procedures, Baby P was allowed to remain in the very place where his life was in the greatest danger.

A public inquiry will not bring the little boy back, but it seems to be the least the public will settle for. Even that may not be enough to restore confidence in Haringey's ability to protect the most vulnerable children in its care.

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