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You’re pulling heaven down and raising up a whore!


6:19 pm - November 17th 2008

by Unity    


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Of all the comments made in the last few days about the case of ‘Baby P’, I think Mike Power, who’s married to a social worker, has come closest to hitting the nail squarely on the head:

The real point here, as I have stated before, is that there simply is no story. This case is a little more horrific than usual (although there have been plenty of nasty deaths since Climbie that have never been reported beyond a short piece in the local paper) and it happened in ‘loony left’ Haringey. Beyond that there is little to distinguish it from many other child killings that happen (on average once every 10 days). It’s a moral panic + political opportunism + classic tabloid tub thumping.

Having taken the time to read through the executive summary of the serious case review conducted by Haringey Council, which it published on the day that the verdict in the trial of Baby P’s killers, perhaps the most striking thing about this case is just how mundane the events leading up to the child’s death seem but for the final few days of his life, when the injuries that were to prove fatal appear to have been inflicted.

From the mother’s first contact with Haringey Social Services in December 2006 right through to Baby P’s death in August 2007 there appears to have been few, if any, of the classic signs that serious abuse may have been taking place within the family home. The mother appears to have willingly cooperated with both the social workers and health workers throughout and although the SCR notes two incidents where the child was presented for medical treatment with injuries that raised suspicions about the possibility of abuse and/or neglect, both of which were investigated by the police but gave rise to an inconclusive outcome, there seems to have been little or nothing until the final two weeks of Baby P’s life which would indicate that what social workers were dealing with was anything other than a run of the mill case of a newly single parent struggling to cope on her own with the youngest of her four children.

That’s the point that seems to have been entirely overlooked in the media feeding frenzy following last week’s verdict – up until a couple of weeks before Baby P’s death there was nothing in the case, whatsoever, to distinguish it from from any of the thousands of relatively minor cases of abuse and neglect that social workers across the UK deal with every day, the kind of cases that, as often as not, are successfully managed by providing the parent with additional support without ever reaching the point at which the child needs to be taken into care.

That, together with the inability of the police to build a strong enough case to prosecute on the two occasions that the child exhibiting injuries and signs of neglect that did raise suspicions of abuse, seems to explain why, a little under two weeks before the child died of an horrific set of injuries, the Council’s legal team advised its Childrens’ Services department that there was insufficient evidence to obtain a care order.

As a result, what has appearing routinely in the media is the suggestion that Baby P was subjected to a serious and sustained level of abuse over a period of months prior to his death – the Daily Telegraph headed up one its articles with the claim that

“Baby P was used “as a punchbag” during eight months of abuse”

while The Times upped the ante by claiming that Baby P after…

“17 months enduring abuse of an almost unimaginable cruelty…”

That last statement will surely be news to the child’s natural father, who lived in the family home for the first three of those 17 months according to The Times – or maybe its five to six months, which is what it states in Haringey’s serious case review, which also points to ‘limited efforts made by professionals to involve child A’s father in the early period of intervention’ as one of the shortcoming’s identified, with hindsight, in their own handling of the case.

The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence of any serious abuse approaching the scale of the injuries that the child suffered immediately before he died prior to the last two to three weeks of his life.

Other elements of the evidence apparently presented to the court, and reported by The Times see similarly ambiguous. We’re told, for example, that:

The court heard that while his mother gossiped with friends in online chat rooms, her boyfriend took to beating the boy, swinging him around by the neck or legs and pinching him.

And they were told this by whom and what exactly constitutes a ‘beating’ in this context. Only on two occasions between December 2006 and June 2007 did the child receive injuries serious enough to require medical treatment and despite the suspicions that these injuries were not accidental, as the mother claimed, the police failed to find sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution and appear not to have even identified that the had moved into the family home.

While there is no doubt, whatsoever, that the three individuals convicted of causing or allowing Baby P’s death are guilty of the offence for which they were charged, if one steps back from the media coverage and considers some of what is being reported in a cool and dispassionate manner then there seem to be enough ambiguities and inconsistencies here to suggest that the consensually agreed account of Baby P’s last few months that the media and a fair few politicians have bought into, wholesale, may not be the only possible interpretation of the circumstances leading to the child’s death and, in particular, there is an alternative scenario here which, while it has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the trial, is of considerable importance to the related events that have taken place since its conclusion.

Let’s just reiterate one point here, this entire picture of the boyfriend/stepfather as a domineering control freak whose banned everyone from the child’s room and whose permission the mother allegedly required just to give the kid a meal comes from the 15 year old girlfriend of his brother/lodger who moved into the household at the same time as her boyfriend, all of which appears to coicide with an dramatic escalation in the degree of abuse visited on Baby P.

So this is, of course, a perfectly reliable picture of what went on in that house during the final few week’s of Baby P’s life, isn’t it?

Well, obviously, it isn’t – or at least the jury in this case didn’t seem to think so – if they had then the boyfriend would likely have been have been convicted of at least manslaughter, if not murder, assuming that this ‘witnesses’ testimony matches the story given to the News of the World.

You might wonder why any of this is relevant, given that the mother, her boyfriend and the lodger/boyfriend’s brother were all convicted and are all looking at a long stint in prision, and almost certainly in the secure wing reserved, normally, for serious sex offenders who would otherwise be subjected to regular attacks by other prisoners.

The media’s preferred account of the circumstances leading to Baby P’s death, in which the child was seemingly systematically abused in a serious manner for several months before he died of his injuries, supports the idea that systematic failures in Haringey’s Child Protection services may have played a part in the events leading to the child’s death.

The alternative account, in which the abuse the child was subjected to massively escalated during the final couple of weeks of his life following the introduction of a new, and to Haringey Council, unknown element into the household – Jason Owen/Barker – does not.

It’s also worth pointing out here, as this is rarely if even made clear by the media, but of the much quoted sixty occasions that the family had contact with health and social care workers in the 8 months from December 2006 up until the child’s death in August 2007, only 18 of those contacts were actually with social workers, a little less than half the number of contacts with health staff (37, including three visits to the family home), and the family (minus the boyfriend one assumes) were also seen five times at home by staff from the Family Welfare Association, which is now called ‘Family Action’ and there were another eight occasions that the child’s mother took her son to see health professionals including the two occasions on which the child’s injuries raised suspicions of abuse.

So how come the press and politicians are busily trying to kick the hell out social workers when they account for less than a third of the contact between the family and health and social care workers over the entire period and when – if you actually bother to read things properly and think about the many inconsistent elements that are apparent in this case – there evidence provides an equally plausible scenario which accounts more than adequately for the events leading to Baby P’s death but without relying on systematic failures and incompetence to explain the role of a range of health and social care professionals in proceedings.

Executive summary
From a careful reading of both the executive summary of Haringey Council’s Serious Case Review and a range of media coverage of the case, there is at least enough evidence to support the scenario I’ve set out above as there is the one the media have been relentlessly pushing in the hope of claiming the scalps they’ve been demanding since the end of the trial, particularly as it does seem as if most of the evidence which paints the picture of the mother’s boyfriend as a sadistic abuser appears to rely on the testimony of his brother and his 15 year old girlfriend, testimony which has to be considered to be just a little suspect given that both have an obvious vested interest in blaming someone else for events which took place when both were living in the same household.

Aside from the failure of the community paediatrician to pick up that the child was seriously injured during the developmental assessment which took place only two days before the child died, for which the paediatrician has already been disciplined, perhaps the only thing I can find any clear fault in, as regards Haringey Council is the rather ill-judged and graceless public statement given by Sharon Shoesmith following the trial – and even then I would be prepared to entertain a plea of ‘lawyered’ in mitigation if it were to be shown that her failure to offer and apology and the generally self-exculpatory tone she adopted, on behalf of the council, stemed in part from legal advice intended to avoid making any statements that could be construed as an admission of liability.

So, perhaps you’ll forgive me if I admit to – as usual – being least impressed by the caperings of our elected representatives who one might have hoped would at least have questioned why the outcome of Haringey’s Serious Case Review is so clearly at odds with the media’s version of events before they started trying to ride on the mediass coat-tails and join the search for a scapegoat.

Yes, cases such as this one do raise questions of responsibility and accountability but before demanding that anyone should don the hair shirt and submit themselves for ritual humiliation in the court of tabloid opinion, should politicians not, at least, make some effort to establish that those they criticise and castigate in an unseemly scramble to keep with the Dacre’s have actually got something to be held responsible/accountable for, especially in a case where there are a still a considerable number of doubts and unknowns not least of which being the exact circumstance that led to Baby P’s death.


Footnote…
If you know your theatre, then you may have aleady recognised the source of the title of this piece but if not, its from Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and there should be no need whatsoever to explain why I’ve chosen it!

(Article edited down. A longer version appears on Ministry of Truth)

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


Social workers get it right 99 times out of hundred. (you never hear about the kids they saved. Does not sell rightwing rags) They do a demanding, thankless job that pays shit ,and have to put up with constant carping from right wing press and politicians. Dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t.

And when it goes wrong,they are a target for the right to vent all their hatred of social services. Hence the moronic trolls all gloating and waving their moral hypocrisy about.

Unity – I think you’re doing many social workers and social service departments a huge disservice by avoiding the point about how the department has behaved in response to people raising concerns with it. That consistent stonewalling and prevarication and blaming of the person who raised the complaint is – thankfully – not typical of other councils.

That’s why I think Mike Power has got it precisely wrong to say there is no story. There is a story – and it’s about how Haringey behaves in ways others would never countenance for a moment.

One child killing every 10 days – well that should certainly be a bigger story than just this one.

Mark:

The problem with that assertion is there is nothing to indicate that any of the allegations made by Nevres Kemal about Haringey’s Social Services Department have any direct relevance or bearing on this specific case, whatsoever.

Even if her allegations are true, it doesn’t automatically follow that the systematic failings she claims are present in Haringey were a factor in the case of ‘Baby P’. Kemal doesn’t claim to have worked specifically on this case and she was dismissed by the authority in March 2007, three months before the second of the two incidents in the Baby P case that the police investigated and five months before the child’s death.

In other words, she appears to know no more about the specifics of this case than anyone else who’d been following the story in the press and while her specific allegations in regards to cases she did work on or was directly away of while working in Haringey should be investigated, unless she’s got something specific to add to our understanding of this specific case – and it doesn’t appear that she has – then I see no need to touch on her comments, which are probably a more relevant matter to discuss in the context of Lynne Featherstone’s article.

Outstanding as usual Unity. When you actually dig into this case, you quickly find that it doesn’t fit any of the usual stereotypes: this isn’t about any the sort of family in which the children we being brought up in; until the end of 2006 it was the “stable” two-parent family that such figures as Tim Montgomerie are now telling us must always be ideal option. There’s been very little mention made of the fact that the woman had another three children apart from Baby P, all of whom except for the next youngest were apparently doing fine, with concerns raised about the second youngest at one point also.

We’re now also learning that one of the social workers who has been “named and shamed” and is doubtless getting horrible letters and dog shit pushed through her letterbox as we speak in fact wanted Baby P taken into care, but she was apparently overruled by someone higher up. Likewise, another of the social workers, reported in the Sun as being suicidal herself as a result (with the readers naturally telling her to do it), had 18 cases on her files when 12 should be the maximum. Yes, the council has responded poorly, there have been clear management failings, but the witch-hunt currently taking place, along with political point-scoring is not going to solve anything, let alone stop it happening again.

Three dozen cheers for this. Shame none of the ignorant hate-mobs are going to read it. And yes, I agree Lynne F’s conduct on this is shameful and strongly deters me from supporting the LDs.

Are you saying , unless I missed soemthing that because the records of the social worker`s in Harringey show there was not a good enough reason to take action then there wasn`t and on that basis all is well ?
What did you makle of the use of the Bulger incident by New Labour over a prolonged period as part of its electoral strategy ?

Newmania, why are you so fixated on something that happened 16 years ago? It’s not even as if New Labour were the only ones that made hay with Bulger’s murder; the whole “prison works!” fallacy began around that time. We’re dealing with what’s happened now, not then.

Unity: I wasn’t just think of the statements from Nevres Kemal, but also concerns about other cases, and indeed concerns about what we already know over the Baby P tragedy.

Three quick examples:

a. Haringey’s failure to respond properly to concerns about other cases raised by Gail Engert and Martin Newton:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/3464202/Lawyer-promoted-after-Baby-P-questions.html (it’s the part of the article near then end)

b. The CPS’s confirmation that intially Haringey failed to hand over all the relevant information about Baby P (which has a horribly parallel in their similar failure during the Laming Inquiry, where he had to go to court to get all the information he was asking for):
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3451829/Mother-of-Baby-P-has-another-child-while-in-prison.html

c. The attempt to pressure another councillor into not saying in public that he thought there should be a public inquiry, even despite the very limited nature of his comments:
http://neilwilliamslibdems.blogspot.com/2008/11/terrible-tragedy-of-baby-p.html

To say, as in the quote you used, “there simply is no story” is to imply that there is no story, even if a council initially refuses to apologise, tries to pressure a councillor into not asking in public for an inquiry and fails to properly hand over information to the police and CPS.

I think that is a story – because most other councils (of all political flavours) manage to do better than this.

I don’t think I’m rushing to judgement in believing that senior people on the staff and political side should take responsibiltiy and resign over the way Haringey has behaved. Further inquiries may reveal more reasons, and may put other people in the frame, but yes, I think there is good, solid evidence there to, in your words, “establish that those they criticise and castigate … have actually got something to be held responsible/accountable for”.

You sound like someone who has Common Purpose training

11. David Boothroyd

This is broadly right. In particular the connection with the Climbié case seems to be only that they happened in the same borough – in other words, it was just a coincidence, rather than a systematic failure. If the same circumstances with Baby P happened, the same result could have happened in any local authority. That is not a comfort, but a greater concern.

There was a case in Westminster in 2007 (Samuel Duncan and Kimberly Harte) where even worse was done to a baby girl over a longer period; fortunately prompt treatment saved her life. In that case, Westminster social services had returned the baby to her abusive mother rather than a foster family. Needless to say there was then no demand from the Leader of the Conservative Party to have Westminster Social Services disbanded and taken over by outside agencies.

The tabloid agenda of demanding resignations somewhat indiscriminately should be seen for what it is: a simplistic substitute for facing up to the more difficult questions about child protection work. Should social workers be more willing to take children into care? Should they be able to go even deeper into family histories? Should social services departments get more resources? Because I can guess what the response of the Daily Mail would be to each of those questions if it was being asked out of the immediate environment of the Baby P case.

Mark:

1. I’ve just spent half an hour or so checking the meeting records and minutes at Haringey Council and if Martin Newton did request a full review of child protection procedures or make any kind of claim that recommendations made by the Laming inquiry has not been implemented in October 2006, or at any time since, then he must have done it off the record because I’m buggered if I can find it.

According to the council’s records, Newton asked only two formal questions during October 2006, both of which were about the unpopularity of pay and display parking in Muswell Hill.

Nor can I find anything that refers to a feasibility study for such a review and so, before we get into the question of whether the council failed to respond to requests issued by Cllrs Newton and Engert, lets see some evidence to verify that the concerns they claim to have raised were actually put to the council.

2. And your point is?

Seriously, the first question to ask is whether or not the CPS actually requested the full case files prior to the beginning of the trial and, indeed, whether the CPS were asking for this information because they needed it or because the defence lawyers had asked them for it under the rules of disclosure.

It not at all unusual for the CPS to be, shall we say, rather circumspect in the information they request in cases like this, precisely because if any information they have has to be disclosed to the defence.

There’s just not enough information about the circumstances in which information was not disclosed to the CPS to make any inferences about the council’s conduct at this time.

3. As for Cllr Neil William’s call for an independent inquiry last August, perhaps someone should take the time to acquaint him the rule of sub judice, which would have precluded any kind of independent/external inquiry until the case against Baby P’s killers was brought to trial.

Beyond that the guy seems to be doing no more than politicking and, yet again, I can find no sources outside of his own blog to corroborate his claim to have issued a statement about the case in August 2007 so, unless it just went to the local free papers and didn’t find its way onto the net then all we have are more unevidenced and unsubstantiated claims made by an opposition politician.

As thing stand we have a serious case review on the table and an independent inquiry in the offing which will either validate the findings of the SCR, in which case we’ve got a growing list of Lib Dem and a few Tories who I’ll be expected to chow down on a hefty slice of humble pie, or it will find significant omission and faults in the SCR report, in which Sharon Shoesmith, at least, is going to be toast.

Now speaking personally, there’s this rather quaint and outdated principle I still like to adhere to which is generally expressed as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and I find it rather a shame that more people are clearly nothing like as keen on it as I am when cases like this hit the headlines.

Is simply asking that we proceed on the basis of evidence really too much to ask or should we all just give up and join the lynch mob? Maybe if someone were to necklace a few social workers this would all calm down a bit.

Newmania, why are you so fixated on something that happened 16 years ago?

Because the very same people pontificating about the use of a tragedy for poltical ends were guilty to a far greater extent of a far more cynical and less justifiable poltical gesture .*It might suit New Labour to start from year zero every year but it looks like a sorry joke to anyone with any understanding of the way they have behaved

Unity: I think you are too readily going from ‘I can’t find it on the internet’ to ‘therefore these people probably aren’t telling the truth’.

Councils are not like Parliament: there isn’t the same Hansard-type full reporting (at any council I’ve had dealings with, and I think in fact at no council, but certainly not at Haringey). Nor are there equivalents of theyworkforyou that means you can find out what someone had done procedurally with a very high degree of confidence. If we are talking about whether an MP did something in Parliament then 30 minutes searching online would give good grounds for agreeing or not. Not so with councils.

I’m particularly puzzled by your comment, “Newton asked only two formal questions”. How are the questions he asked at full council (which I presume is what you mean as those are the ones minuted and online) relevant?

Requesting scrutiny reviews is something often (at least in Haringey and the other councils I’ve had dealing with) done via either a call-in process or through a request at the scrutiny overview committee, so I’m not sure why these two questions are relevant, unless perhaps you’re not familiar with how the scrutiny process works in many councils? (In which case, all the more reason to be very cautious about going from “I can’t find it on the internet” to “I doubt it’s true”.)

As one example – look at item #96 under http://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.asp?CId=128&MId=2241&Ver=4&J=3 – no full list of names is given of what participants said under this item, nor what they may have raised.

I don’t know if this was the occassion when the issue was raised, but it illustrates how if it were, you wouldn’t have found a name and text.

On the CPS, The Times report is fairly damning: “The Times has also learnt that Haringey Council, sharply criticised after the death of Victoria Climbie eight years ago, hampered the investigation into the death of Baby P by not handing over all their information to murder squad detectives. It was only when the trial got to court and the judge requested that they provide all their evidence that police officers were able to see everything they had. A senior source involved in the inquiry said: “The council came in with pages and pages of stuff that we had no idea existed and had never seen before.” Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5141019.ece

Yes, it’s the one source, but the subsequent CPS statement didn’t deny it, which makes for a stronger case than you paint.

And on the question of what you could or coulnd’t find from a local newspaper on the internet, again I think you are too ready to go from ‘I can’t find it on the internet’ to ‘therefore these people probably aren’t telling the truth’.

Neither of the two local paid for newspapers (Ham + High and The Journal) have particularly comprehensive websites. They are both weekly. If you look at their websites and the number of stories that are dated each week, the clues are there that a large number of their stories aren’t online.

(As it happens, the Ham + High site’s search engine is also very poor in my experience, and the site’s content is not picked up well by Google.)

Strictly speaking, you’re therefore wrong to say, “unless it just went to the local free papers…” because there are lots of stories which appear in one or both of these papers that don’t make it on to the internet. Including one of the Journal stories on Baby P from last week. (One story is there, but the second one doesn’t seem to be.)

I think you’re also wrong about the sub judice point, because in other cases bodies upon an incident happening, bodies say they will hold an investigation, part or all of which will take place after any criminal proceedings have concluded. You can make that decision without having to wait until the full legal process has finished. Where is the evidence that Neil Williams was calling for something to happen before then? There isn’t, in either your comments on the pieces I linked to. Moreoever, this wasn’t the reason given for putting pressure on him to withdraw the comments.

I agree with your about proceeding on the basis of evidence. But there’s more to evidence than what you found on your internet searches 🙂

15. Mike Killingworth

Well, let’s look at the dog that didn’t bark – there was a recent horrific case of double child murder in Manchester: the mother was immediately sectioned. AFAIK no one is going after Manchester Social Services. So the media are capable of accepting that child protection can’t protect all babies.

Nor can one rely on the paper trail in the way that Unity supposes. If a caseworker decides not to visit a certain family on a certain day, that isn’t going to make it into the record – yet the whole charge against Haringey is surely about what they didn’t do, not what they did.

And this “one child dies every ten days” thing – the overwhelming majority will be very small babies smothered by mothers suffering from post-natal depression. Not the same thing at all.

16. Mike Killingworth

Oh, and the Sun has deleted and blocked all discussion of the case. They cite legal reasons, but I suspect that they too were disgusted with what some of their readers were saying. Probably people who quite rightly had had their own kids taken into care.

“That consistent stonewalling and prevarication and blaming of the person who raised the complaint is – thankfully – not typical of other councils.”

Yes it is. It’s normal behaviour.

If a caseworker decides not to visit a certain family on a certain day, that isn’t going to make it into the record – yet the whole charge against Haringey is surely about what they didn’t do, not what they did.

Nobody’s blaming Haringey for not having enough caseworker visits, though.

Mark:

Look, so far as the three Lib Dem councillors in Haringey are concerned, we have two that claim to have for a review of child protection that could only be initiated by a political decision and nothing in the records of the council’s political meetings to show such a request was ever made.

No, not every that goes in local authorities is documented the way it is in parliament but I’d still expect to see at least a formal motion being raised for a request for such a wide-ranging and expensive review.

And as for Neil Williams, all we have appears to a statement no one noticed and a series of unverified claims about how the council allegedly responded and why, which is some considerable distance shy of being gospel.

As for the evidence issue, it remains to be seen whether that’s of any relevance here and why information wasn’t seemingly passed on to the police but there are any number of reasons why this could have happened and the fact that this emerged via an anonymous source does suggest that its best approach this with a degree of caution at least until we know enough to be sure that this is both germane to the case at hand and that we’re not just looking at an exercise in buck-passing and arse-covering by the police.

Again, let’s see what the independent inquiry turns up based on the evidence before we reach any conclusions about whether the council may or may not have been at fault.

I can’t remember which of the numerous Baby P articles I have read but the author put forward her idea that society has an inability to accept the concept of female violence and culpability in horrific crimes. This caused the social workers and whoever else was involved to fail to see through the chocolate camouflage hiding the extent of the abuse.

I therefore put forward the case that Unity has an inability to accept the fact that the system which is made up of individual people got it wrong and allowed this boy to die. Unless we work out who, why and what went wrong, this will happen again. Somebody – social worker, health visitor, policemen etc did or didn’t do something. Its exactly this idea of personal responsibility that seperates the conservatives from the liberals – so it doesn’t surprise me that the right want someone to take responsibility and the left say no one is at fault and there is no story.

I think the author’s idea can be extrapolated to modern day Britain where Labour cannot accept the fact that benefits leads to a culture of entitlement which leads to a “Broken Britain” – another concept that Unity would probably call a myth, even in the face of this obvious workless household.

So thank G-d for the media uproar because noone from Haringey would have stood up and honestly reviewed what went wrong because for them nothing did.

“Its exactly this idea of personal responsibility that seperates the conservatives from the liberals – so it doesn’t surprise me that the right want someone to take responsibility and the left say no one is at fault and there is no story.”

Or, “it’s exactly this idea of personal responsibility that separates the conservatives from the liberals – so it doesn’t surprise me that the right want to blame the State and society for everything, while the left are willing to accept that sometimes terrible people will do terrible crimes that can’t be predicted or stopped in advance”.

Lilliput:

I wonder if the problem here is either literacy or comprehension because underneath that mound of boilerplate Tory screed, you really don’t appear to have got the point, which is that even if the best and most effective systems, individuals will still make judgement calls in a given situation that turn out, with hindsight, to have been wrong.

That doesn’t mean that they’re bad people or incompetent or anything else, it just means that they’re human beings and that, sometimes, shit happens – in which case all you can do is try to learn from the experience and not repeat any mistake you made again.

As for whole ‘Broken Britain’ thing, we have an underclass on which most the social problems that hit the headlines with depressing regularity are centred, but the existence of such an underclass does not mean that Britain in ‘broken’ and as we’re taking about responsibility here lets start with the Tories sticking their hands up and accepting that the origins of that underclass lie in the unintended consequences of the Thatcher’s economic reforms of the early 1980’s, all of which is demonstrable using socio-economic data.

John b your argument would be correct if Baby P was not known to social services but what is the point of having the social services if they can’t stop horrible people from doing horrible things. Its the fact that we pay for a service which we don’t get that’s the issue.

And Unity, do you think any of the Fortune 500 think shit happens when something doesn’t go to plan – I don’t think so, they untangle every aspect of the process until they discover where they went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t mean people get fired, it means that if they don’t do it and do it fast, their competitors will do it for them.

I believe that there has always and will always be an underclass in Britain and the world for that matter. I’m not an expert but I have read Dark Heart and The Welfare state of Britain (both by very respected journalists) and both mention that their were always poor people. The point is which system reduces or stabilizes the percentage of the underclass and my point was that you refused to acknowledge that due to the human condition handing out benefits under the current system creates a bigger underclass.

And as for Thatcher, there are as many people who think that Britain’s current success is due to her reforms as those that felt she detroyed Britain – I can’t tell which it was but I think I recall reading something where she does say “we have to go back to the soup kitchens?”

“John b your argument would be correct if Baby P was not known to social services but what is the point of having the social services if they can’t stop horrible people from doing horrible things. Its the fact that we pay for a service which we don’t get that’s the issue.”

You could make the same case for the Police. But we get very few resignations from them ,and very few apology’s from them either. Just as well Clarissa Dick is a policewoman and not a social worker. Her mealy mouthed “we could not have done anything else “ would not be acceptable to the tabloids if she worked for social services.
But funny, we never here any complaints from the Right about the number of unarmed people shot dead in this country each year by the police or the amount of people who die in police custody each year. Why are social services held to a higher standard? …… Because Social services are seen as left wing, and anti family and all the other Tory bug bears.
Which explains why this has been used as a political bandwagon.

“Because the very same people pontificating about the use of a tragedy for poltical ends were guilty to a far greater extent of a far more cynical and less justifiable poltical gesture .*It might suit New Labour to start from year zero every year but it looks like a sorry joke to anyone with any understanding of the way they have behaved”

The problem with this is that a good number of those of us here have no memory of 1992 (I was 8), and likewise, around the only higher-ups from New Labour then still with us are Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. In any case, the “broken society” nonsense which has been coming from the Conservatives over the past year, especially when as Unity points out that much of the responsibility if we have a broken society is down to the Tories, has been just as vicious and downright wrong as anything since then.

“Because Social services are seen as left wing, and anti family and all the other Tory bug bears”

Why is it a political issue to be anti- or pro- family. I think this case illustrates perfectly that the only reasonable environment to bring children up in is a stable family.

The fact is that this woman already has 3 older children then Peter then another one (born in prison), but seemed to have little interest in them and was ‘bored’ and playing online poker constantly, and bringing home ‘boyfriends’ and lodgers, while claiming benefits and having a paid-for child minder for her children (why?) Baby Peter was discovered at 11am, in his cot – had she just got up then? My son wakes at 7 every morning and if he is not awake by 7.15 I start to worry until I hear his little voice calling me – what the hell was she doing?

Is it politically incorrect to say that this situation is wrong? How dare this woman produce baby after baby and expect the state to support her? Why is it that I am here, happily married but not well off at all, with a husband who was made redundant but has had to take a job he hates just to make ends meet, while I work part time at home while my mother in law looks after my son – we want another child desperately but know that it is irresponsible at the moment until we have a little more security. But people like this woman know all the loop holes in the system, claim everything they are ‘entitled to’ without ever putting any money back into the ‘pot’. How much does it take to look after a family like hers every month? Probably the taxes of about 10 honest working people.

This country may not be totally broken but it is definitely cracking under the weight of the under-class. Something has to be done about it. Welfare should be there for those who need help, short term, not as a ‘career’ choice. I am so angry. Poverty is not an excuse for this kind of behaviour. Honest, good people in this country need to stand up and be counted and say enough is enough, we are not going to support scum like this any more.

I feel that the problem must be confronted through education. At the moment our schools are failing our young people by not preparing them for real life. I think that the time has come to make a lot more less time for geography and other pretty pointless subjects in the curriculum, and devote at least 1 day a week to social education in different forms. Not just sex education, although that needs to be covered far more widely in the context of relationships, but also household budgeting, cooking, childcare, community projects (working with the elderly, toddlers, creating youth centres, gardens etc). This should be a modular program that must be passed by attendance and contribution before a child can move up a year. It is that important – far more important than maths or history. It might make the difference between someone learning how to look after a baby from their own mother, who may have had no clue either, or from a professional, who can stop the cycle of teenage parenting. Someone I used to work with, who got pregnant in order to keep her boyfriend (honestly! it really does happen – and no it didn’t work) said to me that all a child needs is love. I disagreed, and still do. The first thing they need is love, but also they need a mentor, a guide through life to show them how to be a good person and to get the most out of the precious gift they have been given, life. We need to equip our young people far better.

Phew, I feel a bit better now. I really want Baby Peter’s short tragic life to make a difference and not be a complete waste, and wish that everyone could unite to stamp any kind of violence towards children out, rather than pointing the finger and missing the point of who actually hurt him in the first place. We have got to sort our country out.

Unity – one final bite at your comments:

“I’d still expect to see at least a formal motion being raised for a request for such a wide-ranging and expensive review.”

Requests for scrutiny reviews are often not (in many councils, much of the time) made in this way if by formal motion you mean, for example, a motion at a full council meeting, which are usually recorded in council minutes.

As I said, I think you’re assuming that council actions would be recorded in a way that isn’t actually the case, so it’s a bit like claiming that it’s very unlikely I had breakfast ever this year because you can’t find evidence of it on the internet. You’d be looking in the wrong place for the evidence (unless there’s a spy webcam in my kitchen I don’t know about…), or at least placing too much weight on your failure to find evidence of my breakfast habits on the internet.

Unity

You begin your article by quoting with approval a comment that “there simply is no story”.

Now you are urging us to “see what the independent inquiry turns up based on the evidence before we reach any conclusions about whether the council may or may not have been at fault”.

Why the change in position? If you were consistent you would be telling us there is no need for an inquiry.

Or is it fine for you to reach a conculsion before the inquiry but not for other people to do so?

Lilliput and very angry, you seem to be saying that if these people didn’t get benefits, this wouldn’t have happened. I’ve read that the killers were mentaly ill, I’m sure you know someone who would be more than happy to employ them. But in truth, if they didn’t have benefits, they would be on the street and baby P would have died of pneumonia. By looking for someone or something to blame, you are not only not solving the problem, but creating more problems. I wonder how many children in Harringey are being beaten as we speak because the social workers have been too busy fighting the media frenzy.

I fear you’re trying to shrug off too much. For example, the phrase “a newly single parent struggling to cope on her own with the youngest of her four children” is ridiculous. Even if we accept that the really heavy-duty abuse/torture did not start until a few weeks before the baby’s death, the idea that the mother was previously just an ordinary single mum who was a bit overwhelmed is not just euphemistic, but a downright dishonest evasion.

31. Person of Choler

Unity’s post is a typical response by a left winger to criticism of a massive uckfup by a social “services” department.

The response usually comprises two parts. First, detail the record of administrative trivia leading up to the atrocity in order to show that procedures were followed. Procedures, you see, excuse everything.

Second, howl piteously about the attacks on the poor little government agency by right wing media and politicians, hoping to draw attention away from the simple facts of the horror.

It simply beggars belief that even partially competent employees of a non-negligent agency could fail to notice after 60 social worker visits in 8 months that something dreadful was looming for Baby P.

“A little more horrific than usual”, says one Mike Power, married, no less, to a social worker. Can Mr. Power fill us in on what is “usually horrific”.

Ala – I know what you are saying but I still believe that the culture of benefits for single parents of multiple children needs to be phased out from a certain date, so that there will no longer be a socially acceptable situation of someone with no income having more children than they can ever hope to provide for. Then those children wouldn’t have been brought into the miserable world that they were brought up in. I find it incredible in this country that we tolerate so many hundreds of thousands abortions every year and make it so acceptable for people not to take responsibility for their own contraception PRE conception by letting them have a bigger house, more income etc every time they have another child. I don’t mean to withdraw benefits from now for everyone with children, I know that that would lead to more children being under the poverty line. I just think that the future needs to be different. Why is it socially acceptable for people to have multiple children with no father on the scene? It is wrong and the rest of us have to pick up the pieces by providing money and support for them. Am I a nutty right winger for believing this, or just someone who can see that it is just wrong and we are failing to promote community, family and respect to the next generations?

Very Angry, you are talking to the deaf and dumb here for the authors of Liberal Conspiracy don’t believe that there is a problem anyway and that the percentage of the population on benefits is anything to get worried about. They in fact see nothing wrong with healthy women thinking that its ok to bring children into this world without being able to feed them.

Ala, are you trying to tell me that death by pneumonia is worse then death by multiple beatings? Why is it deemed ok to give them money to socially engineer their survival but not give them birth control so they don’t make babies they can’t look after – because thats seen as social engineering?. The truth is that had we have prevented her from having that baby in the first place, she wouldn’t now be spending the rest of her life in prison.

34. the A&E Charge Nurse

Unity – personally, I find your “no story” take on this incident to be at odds with the evidence [if anybody in ‘the system’ had been in a position to map out the full sequence of worrying incidents] ?

Of course, the big debate is how different protagonists interpret ‘the evidence” , and to what extent the concerns of professionals translate into meaningful courses of action [such as removing an endangered child from the family home] ?

Lets take the time-line of events in Peter Connollys short, miserable life before his spine was finally snapped.
*Diagnosed with oral thrush a few weeks after being born.
*Developed diarrhoea and vomiting a few weeks later.
*Vomiting feeds [third medical problem].
*Mother treated for depression when Peter is 3 months old.
*Marriage problems reported [requiring professional help].
*Bruising to head and chest reported – the first time that injuries are highlighted. Despite being just 7 months old Peter was alleged to have “fallen down stairs”.
*A further infection is reported soon after the alleged “fall” [respiritory tract infection].
*The child [now 10 months old] is admitted to the Whittington hospital with further injuries. Bruising reported, forehead, nose, sternum, shoulder ? mechanism of injury.
A few weeks later an x/ray is taken of the leg, why ?
Two further x/rays of the leg are taken on seperate occasions [Peter is 11 months old].
*More head injuries reported when the child is 13 months old after being “pushed against a fireplace by another child” [sibling ?] – admitted to another hospital [this time the North Middlesex].
*A further visit to the North Middlesex took place because of “bruising” highlighted by a social worker, 2 months before Peter was murdered.
*Attended St Annes hospital, [a third hospital], a few days before he died, why ?

All of this against a background of an unemployed, depressed mother with x3 other children to care for (sic), a new boyfriend, and the boyfriends brother [plus his his 15 year old girlfriend] are you keeping up at the back ?
I have no idea to what extent social workers were aware of these worthless protagonists but in a cramped home I find it difficult to imagine that there was not some suggestion that they were, at least, floating around in the background ?

Anyway, we have an infection prone, and unhappy child with multiple suspicious injuries, that, if we accept your account, amounts to little more than grist to the social services mill, presumably because of the HORDES of chavs and inadequates increasingly overwhelming our public services ?

The really worrying thing is that in many respects you may be absolutely right ?

“And Unity, do you think any of the Fortune 500 think shit happens when something doesn’t go to plan – I don’t think so, they untangle every aspect of the process until they discover where they went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t mean people get fired, it means that if they don’t do it and do it fast, their competitors will do it for them.”

Now there’s a naive statement. When something doesn’t go to plan in a Fortune 500 company exactly the same thing happens. People dissemble, politic, blame somebody else, cover up, etc. This idea that private companies are better run, less bureaucratic or more open is pure fantasy. Anyone who’s worked for a large corporation can easily think of people who’ve worked their way up through the ranks, leaving a trail of disasters behind them.

Very angry: You seem to be completely ignoring the fact that the woman involved was married, as the A&E charge nurse points out above, until the December of the year before Baby P died. The family was stable up to that point, with little to no evidence of any abuse against any of her other children. Are you seriously advocating that the state should have done more to keep them together? It’s all very well going on about women having children with multiple partners without a father being around but that is completely irrelevant to this specific case.

Septicisle – I don’t know if anyone knows whether the 3 older children are the husband’s (Peter’s Dad’s) although in his statement he spoke about taking Peter out for the day, not ‘the children’. I understand what you’re saying about what I said being irrelevent to this case but I am trying to look at the bigger picture – we can’t do anything about Peter and this specific case except look backwards and blame people, but we could use the anger involved here to try and change the view of society so that large numbers of children are not the way to go unless you have unending love and time (and the financial resources) to bring them up well. One child that you don’t want is an accident. 5 is wrong.

Jonathan:

What I said was that Mike hs come closest to hitting the nail on the head not that there is ‘no story’.

There is a story here, in the sense that this case has a narrative to be considered and understood, one that may well not be the narrative that media, politicians and an assortment of would keyboard vigilantes have been relentlessly pushing as the sole possible account of this case.

I’m quite prepared to see the more speculative and conjectural elements of my argument proven wrong if the evidence supports a different interpretation of events. This isn’t about whether I’ve read the situation correctly or not, its about pointing out that things may not be quite so clear cut and obvious as many seem to think, which is why we have inquiries that base their judgements on the evidence they have put before them.

A&E Charge Nurse:

Yes, when the catalogue of injuries incidents is put in front of you it does seem obvious that there was a problem and that action should have been taken, but all that proves is that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

What the Serious Case Review indicates is that none of the professionals involved in this case realised that the boyfriend had moved in or that his brother, underage girlfriend and kids had shipped up on the scene either, and the evidence to date suggests that the all these individuals worked together to keep social services in the dark and leave them under the impression that the household consisted of only the mother and her kids.

Rightly or wrongly, we live in a society in which we are often uncomfortable with the idea of a woman, and especially a mother, abusing a child. If there’s a man in the house then we find easier to think in terms of there being a perp, if not then we tend to characterise the woman as something of a victim

I have no doubt that that’s a illusion you don’t share – if you’re anything like typical of the A&E staff I know then you’ll have seen way too much in the line of work to harbour any cosy notions of that kind – but that’s a perspective you’ll have gained from the cold light of experience which most people don’t have access to and without that perspective this case will have looked very different to those on the inside.

“Rightly or wrongly, we live in a society in which we are often uncomfortable with the idea of a woman, and especially a mother, abusing a child. If there’s a man in the house then we find easier to think in terms of there being a perp, if not then we tend to characterise the woman as something of a victim.”

Which is why feminism will serve us little use in advancing further gender equality.

of course there is a story. a child is murdered in a place where he should have not been. yes ‘social workers’ do many good jobs, but one job not done properly is ONE too many.

let us not beat around the bush, baby P’s murder is entirely Haringey’s fault. Sooner we all, professionals accept the truth we can then move to be constructive!! Why is it that we become so defensive when we know we have made a damn mistake. Why support wrongdoers? Sharon Shoesmith should go. She showed no remorse and the very fact that she tried to cover up on the first day demonstrates that she herself is guilty. sooner we come to a fact that unless local authorities are not made to be accountable they will continue to have many more Baby ps and Climbies. As it remains these senior managers are not accountable to anyone but themselves. Is it not time that we on humanitarian grounds make a stance and make these ‘untouchables’ accountable?

41. Tracey Horn

The pay is not what why a person should be a social worker, and the thanks they gets is the fact they saved a life. I wouldnt say this is thankless. The child is very appreciative indeed!

You, the social worker are at the front lines of the war between good and evil on earth. You are in the unique position to save the lives of our most innocent of victims when others cannot or will not. Do not take this responsibility lightly. It is the most important role a person can have as a human being. If you feel that you are not being paid enough and have distanced yourself from those who you protect please consider taking up another post for the good of the children. You are not able to fulfil your role at this time.

There is no better feeling in the world to watch a shy, nervous, timid child who have suffered abuse develop into a self assured happy child due to your aid and unselfish actions. Going home each night knowing a child is safe in bed with a full tummy because of YOU should be all you need. This feeling is enduring, lasts a life time and outweighs money by far. How much you get paid cannot and should not be attached to your occupation. If you find you do not cry anymore at what you see then I fear you have lost touch with what it is to be human. One needs to cry to perform at their best when they are saving the lives of children. Maternal instinct and the desire to help a child is the strongest, most beautiful and profound instinct in the world and it is the reason we have survived for so long. Without this there can be no hope.

42. Tracey Horn

To all the abusers in the world I have this to say. You are broken. You were either born broken or your parents broke you when you were very young. This is not your fault but continuing to strike your child or abuse them is. Please seek the help you need and give your child to someone who is able to provide the safe home they so truly deserve. Stop the cycle. Don’t turn your children into the monsters that you are. Don’t let one of your actions spill the blood of a child and end in the death of the innocent.

To all the innocent angels who have passed away due to the actions of their parents of anyone else I pray that you saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it embraced you with its love and compassion welcoming you home. You are finally free from the pain and anguish.

I pray for a better future. The earth is in pain and we all need to take responsibility in healing it. Let’s make 2009 a better year for all.


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  1. jonthebeef

    Retweeting @MartinSFP: Excellent article about ‘Baby P’ – a less sensationalist view that the tabloid media response: http://is.gd/7RL1





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