Baby P social workers: GSCC yet to decide on conduct proceedings

The General Social Care Council is yet to decide whether to bring conduct proceedings against social workers involved in the baby Peter case, one year after it launched an investigation.

The regulator announced it was probing the conduct of Gillian Christou and Maria Ward shortly after Peter Connelly’s mother and stepfather were convicted of causing or allowing his death in November 2008.

Ward, Peter’s allocated social worker, and Christou, a team manager, remain under interim suspension orders imposed by the GSCC in December 2008 and renewed earlier this year, and face permanent removal from the register if misconduct is found.

Ward and Christou were sacked by Haringey Council in April this year following heavy criticism in the national media after the criminal trial following Peter’s death. This revealed Peter had been on the child protection register since December 2006, but the council decided against issuing care proceedings and the 17-month-old child died in August 2007 having suffered multiple injuries.

When asked when the investigation into the Haringey social workers was likely to be complete, a GSCC spokesperson said: “I’m sorry we can’t give you an indication at the moment.”

The spokesperson added that, although the investigation was taking time to complete because of the complex nature of the case, it was “very much active and moving along”.

Conduct system pressure

The regulator’s conduct system has been under enormous pressure this year after a Community Care investigation revealed that conduct cases were taking an average of two years to bring to the hearing stage. That was followed by a damning review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which found that a growing backlog of cases had begun in 2007 when managers started deliberately delaying processing referrals in order to save money.

The GSCC has since sacked its chief executive, Mike Wardle, and ministers have ordered the regulator to conclude “older” conduct cases by March 2010.

Barker, 33, was jailed for life in May with a minimum term of 12 years after a further conviction for raping a two-year-old girl. Connelly, 28, was jailed indefinitely with a minimum of five years, while a third person convicted of causing or allowing Peter’s death, Jason Owen, 37, had his sentence reduced to six years last month after successfully appealing.

The interim suspension order for Ward expires on 10 December, while Christou’s expires on 10 March 2010.

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