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Ed Balls' full statement on the report into children's services in Haringey

Date:2 DEC 2008

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls made the following statement at today's press conference:

The whole nation has been shocked and moved by the tragic and horrific death of Baby P.

All of us find it impossible to comprehend how adults could commit such terrible acts of evil against this little boy.

And the public is angry that nobody stepped in to prevent this tragedy from happening.

I want to say very clearly at the outset: social workers, police officers, GPs, health professionals, all the people who work to keep children safe, do a very difficult job, often in really challenging circumstances - all around the country and in particular in Haringey.

They make difficult judgements every day that help to keep children safe - and many of them are unsung heroes.

But they must also be accountable for their decisions.

And where things go badly wrong, people are right to want to know why and what will be done about it.

In the case of Baby P, things did go tragically wrong.

I received the full confidential Serious Case Review into the death of Baby P on the morning of 12 November.

After studying it and seeing the clear failings of practice and management that it highlighted, I immediately arranged for the secondment to Haringey of John Coughlan, the Director of Children's Services in Hampshire, to oversee that proper procedures for safeguarding children are in place and being followed.

We also immediately decided that Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary should carry out an urgent inspection of safeguarding in Haringey.

At 6 o'clock yesterday evening, I received the final draft of the inspectors' report.

The Children's Minister and I studied it overnight with our experts.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert presented the final report to us at 9 o'clock this morning and to Haringey Council shortly thereafter.

And copies of the final report and my response have been passed to the Home Secretary, the Health Secretary, the Opposition spokespeople, the two local MPs and the Chairman of the Select Committee.

This morning, I met with the Leader, Deputy Leader, Lead Member for Children's Services and Chief Executive of Haringey Council to discuss the report's findings and my response.

I am grateful for Haringey's co-operation and agreement to act upon my decisions.

And as you will know, in the last hour, the Leader of the Council and the Lead Member for Children's Services have announced their resignations.

Over the past fortnight, as part of their work, the Inspectors have studied the case files on Baby P and his family, the full Serious Case Review and a significant number of other child protection case files - and their report delivers a damning verdict on the current management of safeguarding in Haringey.

In their summary judgement, the Inspectors say that there are:

"...a number of serious concerns in relation to safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey. The contribution of local services to improving outcomes for children and young people at risk or requiring safeguarding is inadequate and needs urgent and sustained attention."

They find that:

"...the arrangements for the leadership and management of safeguarding by the local authority and partner agencies are inadequate."

The catalogue of failings reported to me - many of which are clearly apparent in the case of Baby P - include:

  • a failure to identify those children and young people at immediate risk of harm and to act on evidence;
  • agencies generally working in isolation from one another and without any effective co-ordination;
  • poor gathering, recording and sharing of information;
  • inconsistent quality of front-line practice and insufficient evidence of supervision by senior management;
  • insufficient management oversight of the Assistant Director of Children's Services by the Director of Children's Services and Chief Executive;
  • incomplete reporting of the management audit report by senior officials to elected members;
  • insufficient challenge by the Local Safeguarding Children Board to its members and also to front-line staff;
  • an overdependence on performance data, which was not always accurate;
  • and poor child protection plans.

  • The Inspectors also highlight a failure to talk directly to children at risk; and where children were not seen alone, it worries me greatly that the Inspectors find little evidence of management follow-up to ensure that children suspected of being abused were properly heard and able to speak up without fear.

    Furthermore, in the particular case of Baby P, Ofsted has judged the Serious Case Review into his death to be inadequate.

    Having studied the nine individual agency management reports on which the Serious Case Review is based, the inspectors judged:

  • only three to be good;
  • one to be adequate;
  • and five to be inadequate - with the reports from Haringey children's social care services and the Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust judged to "lack rigour in their analysis and thus significantly undermine the integrity of the serious case review."

  • And they conclude that:

    "As a result, the serious case review misses important opportunities to ensure lessons are learned."

    Overall, the Inspectors' findings are - I have to say - devastating.

    Their report sets out detailed recommendations, all of which must now be accepted in full.

    And having studied their report, I have decided to take immediate action.

    My first priority is to put in place a new leadership and management team in Haringey children's services to ensure that vulnerable children in the borough are properly protected.

    I have directed Haringey Council to appoint John Coughlan as Director of Children's Services.

    Haringey Council will now remove the current Director of Children's Services from her post with immediate effect.

    Mr Coughlan is one of the most highly respected Directors of Children's Services in the country - and I am grateful that he has agreed to extend his secondment to Haringey to manage the transition to new management.

    My direction takes place under section 497A (4B) of the Education Act 1996.

    It takes immediate effect and will last until 31 December 2008.

    I will identify a new Director of Children's Services to take up post from 1 January 2009 - and it is my intention to direct this appointment too.

    As a result of my direction, Mr Coughlan will now be in charge of making all appointments in Haringey children's services. He has decided that Libby Blake should be appointed as his deputy

    So I am also directing her appointment. Ms Blake is currently seconded to Haringey from Kensington and Chelsea where she is Director for Family Services.

    I have asked Mr Coughlan to consider and address any immediate staffing issues raised by the Baby P case.

    Mr Coughlan will consider further staffing capability in Haringey children's services in the coming days. I am sure that he will have the full support of all Haringey staff as he prepares to implement the recommendations of the Inspectors' report.

    I have asked Mr Coughlan and his successor to provide me with monthly reports.

    I have also asked Ofsted to review the progress made on the implementation of the Inspectors' recommendations and report to me by the end of June.

    On the basis of these regular reports and the report from Ofsted, I will then decide whether further sanction is needed - and in particular whether I should use my statutory powers to require the Council to enter into a contractual arrangement with an external provider for the delivery of some or all of its' children's services.

    And in the mean time, if I am not satisfied that there is sufficient progress, I will not hesitate to intervene again.

    But I believe that I need to go further now to ensure that all the Inspectors' findings are acted upon across all local agencies and that all the lessons of the Baby P case are learned and acted upon.

    It is unacceptable that the Serious Case Review into this tragic and terrible case has been found inadequate.

    So I am also today directing Haringey Council, under Section 7A of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, to appoint a new and independent Chair of its Local Safeguarding Children Board.

    Mr Graham Badman, who last week retired as Director of Children's Services in Kent, has agreed to take up this post. He will start work this week.

    I have asked him immediately to begin a new Serious Case Review into the death of Baby P.