New concerns over Haringey office

The situation at Haringey Council’s north
Tottenham office is as bad, if not worse, than when Victoria
Climbie died, the public inquiry into the eight-year-old’s death
was told last week.

A memo sent in June this year from acting team
manager at the office, Rose Kozinos, to social services director
Anne Bristow revealed serious concerns about child safety and
described the situation as “untenable”.

“There appears to be no improvement in sight,”
wrote Kozinos, who was practice manager at the time of Victoria’s
death. “This current climate, if not worse, is the mirror image of
the working environment when Victoria Climbie died.”

Kozinos said that in June 2001 there were
insufficient resources directed to the front line, a high staff
turnover, and a heavy reliance on agency staff and newly-qualified
social workers. As a result, the quality of practice was poor.

Reporting a vacancy rate of nine out of 16
social work posts, Kozinos blamed recruitment difficulties on the
adverse publicity following the trial of Victoria’s great aunt
Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning, the terms and
conditions of employment on offer, and the nature of the work in
the North Tottenham office.

Kozinos told the inquiry she did not feel her
concerns had been addressed by the directorate, despite an earlier
meeting with social services assistant director Ann Graham and
director Anne Bristow to discuss the problems.

She said she was offered counselling following
the memo, but she was not given time off to attend. She said that
prior to that meeting she had never been visited by Bristow despite
requests for support and guidance.

“I was just left there with no contact, no
support apart from the community manager there at the time,” she
said. Kozinos did not attend a second meeting with Bristow and
Graham because she was on sick leave and she resigned from her post
on 18 June 2001.

Meanwhile, the inquiry’s timetable was pushed
back even further this week by what inquiry chairperson Lord Laming
described as Haringey Council’s “long, sad and sorry saga of missed
dates and missed timetables”.

Haringey chief executive David Warwick was
summoned to the inquiry this week to explain why the council had
consistently failed to provide vital information on time, following
the submission last week of 630 late documents and the subsequent
discovery that more information was still missing.

Laming said witnesses might now need to be
recalled because of the new evidence. Warwick, who admitted he was
“embarrassed” at being summoned to defend Haringey’s conduct, was
asked to say whether it was “down to incompetency” or “part of a
plan to actually prevent the inquiry doing a thorough job”.

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