Haringey’s director of children’s services has insisted the council will “never have a sense of complacency” despite dramatic improvements identified by Ofsted in its second progress report following the Baby P case.
In his first major media interview since children’s secretary Ed Balls oversaw his appointment in December 2008, Peter Lewis exclusively spoke to Community Care about the changes he has introduced.
Despite the progress Ofsted noted, Lewis said: “I can’t imagine for one moment that people are going to say Haringey has been fixed. We still have a long way to go.”
However, he said morale among social workers had improved because of better supervision. He said Haringey had introduced a scheme where senior managers, including Lewis himself, sat with frontline workers on child protection cases with children aged under three.
“We don’t make any case decisions or interfere with line management but we can support and unblock problems.”
Lewis said the department had also invested in its integrated children’s system and administrative support so frontline staff spent less time in front of computer screens, as well as training to promote reflective practice.
The department has recruited 25 new permanent staff so far, including a group of US social workers, but Lewis said Haringey was still using agency staff.
However, everyone had to undergo an induction course which specified a practice standard, he said.
Lewis, formerly director of children’s services at Enfield Council, has had to report to Balls monthly but denied it had made life more difficult.
“There was a clear recognition from everyone by the time I arrived that something had gone terribly wrong and it was the responsibility of everyone around that partnership table to get it right.”
Although Haringey has invested heavily in children’s services, Lewis said “resources are tight and are only going to get tighter”.
Lewis said that following the Victoria Climbié case and subsequent government enquiries and policy changes, many councils, including Haringey, made the mistake of thinking that implementing review recommendations was enough.
However, he said the job “will never be done”, adding: “Our aim is to be ‘outstanding’ in 2012 but then we will have to think of what’s beyond outstanding because nobody can be complacent in this job.
The case of baby Y
Responding to a Sunday Telegraph allegation that the serious case review (SCR) of a “Baby Y” case, with many similarities to Baby P, had been “buried” on Haringey local children’s safeguarding board’s website, Lewis said: “Baby Y is the last of the SCRs of that era. It is an historical issue. The LSCB has published the report and that’s what they’re supposed to do. My job is to make sure we have learned the lessons of those reports and they’re alive in our team discussions.”