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

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

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

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

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

But this week she conceded that the conclusion had been
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

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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