Climbie`s social worker outlines defence

Lisa Arthurworrey, the Haringey social worker allocated to
Victoria Climbie’s case, told the public inquiry into the girl’s death
yesterday (Thursday) that she had been overworked, ill-informed, and
inadequately supervised in her work, writes Lauren Revans.

Outlining
Arthurworrey’s defence at the second day of the inquiry, her lawyer Jane Hoyal
said she was a “relatively young social worker” who had been in child
protection for only 19 months when she was allocated Climbie’s case.

She was perhaps one of the most inexperienced officers in
her office, and with hindsight, perhaps was allocated one of the most complex
cases a child protection social worker could be allocated,” Hoyal said.

“At the time she was allocated Victoria’s
case, Lisa had 19 files. That is seven more than the recommended ten to 12
advised by Haringey. Haringey advises a maximum of nine child protection cases;
she had ten. She was described as working in an office under bombardment.”

Hoyal told the inquiry that Haringey’s
fundamental restructuring process during 1999, including halving the number of
managers from 12 to six, “appears to have distracted [some of her colleagues]
from their duties including the supervision, guidance, and management of Lisa”.

Arthurworrey’s team manager, Carol Baptiste,
was found in November 1999 to be “professionally unfit for her job”. Baptiste
and her replacement, Angella Mairs, were both subject to “months of uncertainty
before the management changes took place”, Hoyal said.

“Working in a diverse, very busy area of
Tottenham, with a clientele which included many people whose first language was
not English, and suffered from multiple problems, [Arthurworrey] was left,
literally at times, by her superiors to rely on her own judgment without
appropriate guidance and support,” Hoyal explained.

She added that Arthurworrey had not been sent
the discharge summary from Climbie’s two-week stay in the North Middlesex
Hospital where she was admitted in late July 1999 with scalding to her head and
face. She also denied that consultant paediatrician Dr Mary Rossiter had
mentioned marks or physical abuse in relation to Climbie’s old injuries.

Outlining Haringey Council’s defence to the
inquiry, Elizabeth Lawson QC said there was nothing in the dealings with
Climbie’s great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao or her boyfriend Carl Manning that
should have alerted the social workers involved to the possibility these were
people capable of systematic abuse and murder.

“Many of those cases about which this inquiry
will hear nothing will have presented as more grave, urgent or pressing than
Victoria’s did at the time,” Lawson said.

She went on to remind the inquiry that social
workers had to carry out their work within a legal framework and said Haringey
did not believe there was ever enough evidence to satisfy a court that the
child should be removed from her “carers”.

Lawson added that the council denied
allegations by counsel to the inquiry Neil Garnham QC that the decision to
close Climbie’s file in February 2000 had been based “on a hunch of a social
worker”.

“This was not something that Lisa Arthurworrey
dreamed up, it was not a hunch,” she said. “Ms Kouao had told Rose Kozinos on 2
November that she was planning to go back to France again.”

The first phase of the inquiry, expected to
finish late December, was due to hear evidence from Climbie’s parents today
(Friday). Outlining their position yesterday, their lawyer Joanna Dodson QC,
said: “So far as individual failings are concerned, Mr and Mrs Climbie believe
that those professionals who failed to protect Victoria should be called upon
to account for their actions, and they hope this inquiry will do that. They
wish to make it clear that this is not in order to punish the individuals
involved, but in the hope of improving professional practice in the future.”

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