Thursday 13 November 2008

Dreadful sense of Deja Vu at Haringey

According to the ex- deputy leader of Haringey council:

The "script" for this kind of Inquiry is now almost traditional. The Minister goes on TV to insist that: "this must never happen again". Responsibility is pinned on a few expendable front-line staff, all conveniently sacked in advance. Criticisms are made about poor communication, with earnest recommendations about better co-ordination and possible restructuring. Council officers - all new appointments - go on TV to say that everything has changed since the case began. Everyone looks very earnest. Voices crack with compassion. Nothing essential changes.

After a couple of days of TV bulletins we cannot watch, and newspapers we would rather not pick up, these words are chilling by any measure. But how much more chilling, when I tell you they were written not during the past few days, but in January 2003, in the wake of the previous Laming enquiry following the death of Victoria Climbie under the care of the same council.

In the Climbie case the authorities missed their chance to save the child 12 times, in the case of "Baby P" it seems that sixty visits could not identify the risk... are we not now entitled to ask whether these failures are not the result of under resourcing but rather the result of poor quality, wasteful management? How much longer must we tolerate a culture in our public service which determines that whatever else happens the organisation is paramount and blameless, and that somehow - as long as more money and more consultants and more reports keep coming - they will eventually get it right.

During the Climbie enquiry it emerged that the various publicly funded services involved had reached a secret "no blame" pact in advance of delivering their evidence. According to the Evening Standard at the time:-

The deal was done in an apparent attempt to downplay the roles of Haringey social workers and North Middlesex Hospital doctors, both of whom are accused of missing chances to save Victoria being murdered.

The secret agreement took the form of a letter, signed by six managers from Haringey and the Health authorities.. and addressed to George Meehan, who remains the leader of Haringey Council.

The fact that George Meehan has not resigned, publicly and immediately, tells us everything we need to know about this failing public authority which is so keen to consume our taxes in ever increasing quantities, but delivers only excuses and evasion in return.

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