Haringey fails to retain staff

The team with lead responsibility for Victoria Climbie at the
time of her death has only two of its original members remaining,
Community Care can reveal.

Of the 18 original staff on the north Tottenham duty
investigation and assessment team, 16 have either left, been
suspended, or taken long-term sick leave since Victoria Climbie’s
death in February 2001.

According to public sector union Unison, staff have left due to
a lack of support from management and the poor reputation of
Haringey social services following the case.

One Haringey social worker, who asked not to be named, said:
“The worst thing I can have on a job application is the fact that I
work for Haringey Council.”

Haringey social workers are unhappy that social services
director Anne Bristow told a public meeting last month that social
workers were not overworked at the time of Climbie’s death (News,
page 3, 19 July).

Staff claim they were not consulted about their workloads and,
the day after Bristow’s comment, Unison representatives had to
visit the north Tottenham office to persuade them not to walk

Empty posts at the Tottenham office are currently being filled
by a series of short-term agency workers. The team’s only manager
is also agency- employed.

In June last year, four months after Victoria Climbie’s death,
inspectors criticised Haringey children’s services for high vacancy
levels and low staff morale. A Social Services Inspectorate
investigation concluded: “Unless the service is appropriately
resourced, a difficult situation can only get worse.”

A spokesperson for Haringey Council accepted there was a high
turnover of staff in the team, but said it was not all due to poor
morale and lack of support.

“It is a situation we are trying to remedy,” he said. “Wherever
possible we want to recruit permanent staff. It is inevitable after
any incident such as the Climbie one there would be a very
difficult period.”

He said Haringey had recruited 62 new social services staff
across the borough from January to July this year.

He also indicated that Haringey Council officials have overruled
an apparent ban on social workers writing an independent submission
to the Victoria Climbie inquiry during working hours.

A group of former and current Haringey social workers are
submitting written evidence to part two of the public inquiry,
which will look at the broader issues surrounding the Climbie case.
The group’s convenor, Pauline Bradley of Haringey Unison, wrote to
Bristow last month to complain about her refusal to allow staff
time off to write their report and her comment that their report
would “not be helpful to the council”.

However, Haringey’s spokesperson told Community Care
that staff contributing to the report would be offered “reasonable
time to prepare, provided it doesn’t jeopardise their work”. He
added that a considerable amount of management time was being spent
preparing documents for the inquiry.

Workers writing the report include two from the youth offending
team, a former investigation and assessment worker, a child
protection adviser, a current and a former manager in children’s

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.