Haringey council staff may have “colluded“ in keeping senior
management ignorant of competence issues, according to the
council’s former director of housing and social services,
writes Jonathan Pearce.
Giving evidence to the Victoria Climbie Inquiry, Mary Richardson
– who left Haringey for Hackney council in February 2000
– said she was “absolutely” unaware of competence concerns
over Carole Baptiste’s performance, the team manager who
supervised Climbie’s social worker Lisa Arthurworrey. But
Richardson admitted knowing that “Baptiste was not the strongest
manager we had”.
The inquiry has already heard evidence from Arthurworrey that
Baptiste was often “unavailable”, and more interested in discussing
God and her experiences as a black woman than her cases.
Richardson said she had three explanations for her lack of
knowledge about Baptiste – “one of which may be true”. First,
no-one had the relevant knowledge, but Richardson admitted this
explanation was “problematic”. Secondly, senior staff knew of the
problems, but were afraid to do anything about them – again
Richardson said this was unlikely as there were opportunities and
processes to address the issue.
A third explanation, said Richardson, was that “there was a
degree of collusion around Carole Baptiste’s behaviour”.
Although not offering a concrete reason for such behaviour,
Richardson added: “Race may be a component part.”
When pressed on whether Haringey staff could have colluded on a
race basis, Richardson said: “It’s a possibility but
it’s not an explanation.”