Haringey warnings ignored

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

The office had lead responsibility for Victoria Climbie who died
in February 2000 while a major department wide reorganisation was
under way.

Twelve team managers and senior practitioners wrote a memo 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
among the staffÉ this and the lack of clarity is beginning to
have an impact on staff morale and service users,” it says.

The reorganisation included cutting management posts from 12 to
six. Team managers had to re-apply 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 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 into Victoria’s death.

Meanwhile, the current social services director at Haringey has
backtracked over her claim that social workers were not overworked
at the time of Victoria’s death. Anne Bristow made the claim at a
Haringey policy and strategy meeting last month. 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 1999-2000 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 Carol Wilson and Unison
representatives in June 1999 show the department was considering
transferring a deputy team manager to Haringey east children and
families section, based at north Tottenham, to ease workloads.

The current workload of Haringey children and families social
workers is still excessive, says 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 28 pages in

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