The social workers who admitted failing to safeguard Peter Connelly (Baby P) will challenge their dismissal by Haringey Council at an employment tribunal today.
Maria Ward, the practitioner allocated to Baby P, and her manager at the time, Gillie Christou, claim they were unfairly dismissed by the north London authority in April last year.
A General Social Care Council conduct committee suspended Ward and Christou from the social care register for two and four months respectively in May after they admitted that their failure to protect the 17-month-old amounted to professional misconduct.
The social workers admitted a total of 10 allegations including not completing enough visits to the child’s home, failing to keep proper records and not replacing a childminder when she left her post.
However, the conduct committee’s decision will have no bearing on the unfair dismissal claim. “At the employment tribunal the test will be whether Haringey Council acted reasonably at the time of the dismissal, taking into account all the circumstances and the information available at that time, including the fact that there was an ongoing GSCC investigation” said John Read, employment law editor at Xpert HR.
“The GSCC found Ward and Christou are OK to practise again, but that doesn’t mean it was necessarily unfair for Haringey to dismiss them, provided it had a genuine belief that they were guilty of misconduct,” said Read.
Peter died on 3 August 2007 after suffering more than 50 injuries while in the care of his mother, her partner and their lodger – all of whom have since been jailed. Peter had been the subject of a child protection plan under Haringey social services from 22 December 2006.
The hearing at Watford Employment Tribunal in Hertfordshire opened yesterday but was adjourned until 12pm today.
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