Haringey's problems are all of its own making

NOW we learn that another defenceless child (a two year old girl) has suffered grievous harm while on Haringey Council s Child Protection Register. Unfortunately, the council seems at least as concerned with managing public relations aspects, as it does

NOW we learn that another defenceless child (a two year old girl) has suffered grievous harm while on Haringey Council's Child Protection Register.

Unfortunately, the council seems at least as concerned with managing public relations aspects, as it does with addressing the underlying problems.

The announcement of the sacking of several more Baby Peter staff, appears to have been held off until just 24 hours before the verdict in the latest trial involving a mistreated child on Haringey's CP Register. Was there not ample reason for these sackings to have been made months ago?

Was this more municipal media management, cynically timed to soften the shock of further revelations of the previously unknown court case (which finally revealed Peter's name) and about which the council had undoubtedly known for a long time?

We have been told that to in order to improve child protection, the council will do more of what it was doing before and intensify its previous policies. This formula appears to be PR and also suits the council's self-image.

The council leader, Ms. Kober, has previously suggested that her council's demotion to one-star status is unfair, because of the emphasis on child protection. But the heavy weighting is right, because infants and children are the most defenceless and vulnerable citizens of society and that is the proper yardstick by which council's are judged.

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Ms Kober (or her PR editors) is recently quoted as saying,

"We have accepted that things went badly wrong with our child protection in 2007",

This implies that the problem is a transitory blip in a single year. Perhaps the council leader, aged about 30, was not around at the time of the Victoria Climbi� tragedy or has forgotten about the ensuing public inquiry. Or she does not care to remind us. Back then, Haringey paid lip service to mending its ways.

The Climbi� case should have brought radical improvements. The further tragedies on Haringey's child protection register suggest a pattern of chronic problems and not only in calendar year 2007.

The Leader's statement, like previous council statements on the subject, still evidences detachment from what occurred and an unwillingness to take direct responsibility, notwithstanding the late, forced apologies and the tardy resignations by two members from the "cabinet" (but not from the council). Even the ex-leader's self-serving claim to have resigned out of "personal honour" might have been credible, had it not come after weeks of intense media attention.

How did so many senior staff get it so wrong over Baby Peter? We are told that Haringey faces problems in recruitment to Children's Services. As with much else that goes wrong in the LBH - the recruitment difficulty is of their own making:

* Haringey's reputation, going back to the Loony Left days of the 1980s, persists, notwithstanding the propagandist Haringey Pravda/People magazine pushing the image of "Better Haringey" the award-winning, five-star, Beacon-council.

* Haringey has long been choosy in their hiring polices, but not choosy in wanting the best person for the job, regardless of other factors (i.e. solely on merit). They are choosy in terms of political correctness, both in the objective characteristics of candidates and also in job candidates' willingness to mouth politically-correct material.

* Haringey look, for example, at the ability to answer questions like, how are you anti-racist? Give examples of your anti-racism? I do not recommend that the council hires racists. I suggest the emphasis and priorities are misplaced and when it comes to child protection, dangerously so. If you are the best social worker in Britain but couldn't satisfy Haringey's PC criteria, would you apply or be hired?

* Haringey's reputation among social workers was tarnished after Victoria Climbi�'s death and yet real, meaningful change was evaded by the council.

With this history and reputation - quite apart from Baby Peter and the national implications his death had - is it any wonder that social workers of ability are reluctant to come to LBH? Will Haringey recognise that there is a fundamental flaw with their hiring policies?

These chronic factors mean that even with the payment of huge salaries and with the best will in the world (and that is not always present), the situation is not going to be fixed soon. When things go wrong, the council's instinct is to blame others, reach for PR consultants and look for scapegoats. They need to look elsewhere. Most bathrooms will have the glass fixture they need to use.

Clive Carter

Stapleton Hall Road

Stroud Green, N4


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