Warnings at Haringey ignored before Victoria Climbie`s death

    Seven months before Victoria Climbie’s death, managers in
    north Tottenham area office of Haringey social services told
    department bosses that a proposed restructuring could be dangerous
    to service users, writes Gideon
    Burrows
    .

    The office had lead responsibility for Victoria Climbie who died
    in February 2000 while a major departmental-wide reorganisation was
    underway.

    Twelve team managers and senior practitioners wrote to the then
    director of social services, Mary Richardson, on 7 July 1999
    warning her the proposals were “potentially dangerous and
    detrimental to the people who we offer a service”.

    “These proposed changes are causing a huge amount of anxiety
    amongst the staff…. This and the lack of clarity is beginning
    to have an impact on the staff moral and service users,” it
    continues.

    The reorganisation included cutting management posts from twelve
    to six. Team managers had to reapply for their own posts.

    Among the authors of the memo was Angella Mairs, the immediate
    team manager of Lisa Arthurworrey, Victoria Climbie’s social
    worker. Mairs was suspended in March this year following an
    internal investigation into the case.

    The assistant director of social services, Carol Wilson, was
    also told in meetings with union representatives during June and
    July 1999 that team members were concerned about the effects of the
    restructuring.

    Both Richardson and Wilson have now left Haringey to take up
    director jobs elsewhere. They have refused to speak to
    Community Care, but are understood to be giving evidence
    to the Laming inquiry.

    Meanwhile the current social services director at Haringey has
    backtracked over her claim that social workers were not overworked
    at the time of Victoria Climbie’s death.

    Anne Bristow made the claim at a Haringey policy and strategy
    meeting. She later issued a statement confirming: “we are of the
    view that our social workers did not have excessive workloads in
    1999/2000”.

    But this week she conceded that the conclusion had been
    “premature”.
    A spokesperson for Bristow said: “We have had another look at the
    information available for 99/2000 period. It is not as robust as we
    originally thought, and we now feel it is premature to draw any
    conclusions from it about workloads at the time.”

    He added that Haringey fully recognised that staff felt and feel
    under pressure in social services.

    Minutes of a meeting between assistant social services director
    Carol Wilson and Unison representatives in June 1999 reveal the
    department was considering transferring a deputy team manager to
    Haringey east children and family’s section, based at north
    Tottenham, to ease workloads.

    * The workload of Haringey frontline children and families
    social workers is still excessive, says public sector union
    Unison.

    Staff have complained that the forms they have to complete are
    50 pages long compared with only seven pages in neighbouring Tower
    Hamlets, and twenty eight pages in Hackney.

     

     

     

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