The team of social workers with lead responsibility for Victoria
Climbie at the time of her death has only two of its original
members remaining, Community Care can reveal,
writes Gideon Burrows.
Of the 18 original staff on the north Tottenham duty
investigation and assessment (I&A) team, 16 have either left,
been suspended, or taken long-term sick leave since 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 worse 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 that social workers
were not overworked at the time of Climbie’s death.
Staff claim they were not consulted about their workloads and,
the day after the comment, Unison representatives had to visit the
north Tottenham office to persuade them not to walk out.
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 Climbie’s death,
inspectors criticised Haringey children’s services for high
vacancy levels and low staff moral. 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
moral 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
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
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 independent 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.