Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Abject Accountability in the Wake of Baby P

I roll my eyes skyward in this 18.5 week picture....

I'm not making reference to the latest Baby P scandal involving Sharon Shoesmith, some Haringey social workers and a Great Ormond Street Hospital doctor, all of whom have launched appeals of unfair dismissal linked to this sad and disturbing case. My expression would be fitting, minus the cheesy grin. Though not directly pregnancy related, I feel this social services / child protection story is well worth a mention.

Baby P, a four year-old boy from the London Borough of Haringey, died of child abuse in 2007. This poor innocent child withstood repeated barrages of abuse by his mother, her boyfriend and her boyfriend's brother until he reached breaking point. The identities of his abusers have just been widely publicized, however I don't want to give these debase individuals any further time or attention - I can't fathom actions of their kind and can only imagine they must have something wired wrong on the inside.

My blood now boils at the total lack of accountability from the professionals who repeatedly failed to recognize the gravity of Baby P's case until it was too late. Haringey's former Director of Children's Services, Sharon Shoesmith, appealed against her dismissal without compensation and just saw this motion fast tracked at high court. Her Deputy and two former social workers launched similar appeals, alongside Great Ormond Street Doctor Sabah al-Zayyat who seeks damages for her dismissal.

I think it's disgusting. Social work and the welfare of vulnerable children is a vital and challenging area that must be taken seriously. Haringey Social Services did have a positive inspection rating at the time of the Baby P scandal, though this review clearly fell short and was not a green light for apathy or carelessness. Shoesmith questions the pressure Secretary of State Ed Balls put on Haringey to dismiss her without compensation in the wake of the 2008 media frenzy surrounding the case and new inspections highlighting departmental failings. Be this as it may, this does not reverse the harsh reality that she was at helm of a social services disaster.

As for Doctor al-Zayyat - she must be having a laugh - she failed to spot Baby P’s more serious injuries days before he died and asserts the weak defense that she was not privy to the child's history of abuse. One would think a registered doctor at one of the UK's foremost children's hospitals might have, unprompted, noticed signs of abuse!

Yes, Shoesmith, dismissed colleagues and Doctor al-Zayyat may be scapegoats for both their own and similar failings around the country. But this case prompted a well needed wake up call for Councils and medical professionals to take a serious and proactive stance in protecting vulnerable children.
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