Baby P social workers admit failures

The social workers responsible for safeguarding Peter Connelly could be struck off after admitting their failure to protect the boy amounted to professional...

The social workers responsible for safeguarding Peter Connelly could be struck off after admitting their failure to protect the boy amounted to professional misconduct.

Maria Ward and Gillie Christou, formerly employed by Haringey Council, were charged with breaching the code of practice for social care workers by the General Social Care Council on the first day of a hearing in London today.

Ward, Peter Connelly’s allocated social worker, admitted to four separate failings, including that she did not comply with a child protection conference plan and visit Peter at least once every 14 days.

Instead, she left periods of up to 22 days between calls to the house, a GSCC conduct committee heard.

In addition, she did not record these visits in Haringey Council’s computer system “in a timely manner”, leading to a backlog of four months.

On one occasion, Peter’s mother Tracey Connelly contacted Ward to inform her she was taking the children to Cricklewood.

Connelly ignored Ward’s initial request to return to Haringey. Despite this, Ward did not go to the house to check if the family was indeed away, verify Peter’s location or contact the local authority for Cricklewood or the police to alert them to the situation.

When Connelly contacted Haringey Council’s children’s services to tell them she had returned with the children on 9 July 2007, Ward did not visit for a further two days.

Ward also admitted she had not ensured there was an adequate replacement for Peter’s childminder after she left the position on 23 July 2007 – 11 days before Peter’s death.

“It’s likely that, had a suitable replacement been found, the opportunity to inflict such injuries would not have been present, or would have been brought to the attention of social services much more quickly,” said the GSCC’s representing officer Marios Lambis.

Christou, Ward’s team manager, also admitted the six allegations against her, including failing to properly record the outcomes of supervision meetings about the case.

This demonstrated “systemic failings in the social work department of Haringey Council at the time of Peter’s death”, according to Lambis.

“Christou’s role as team manager was to provide sufficient support and, where necessary, intervention to make sure the actions in the child protection plan took place,” he added.

“Someone of Christou’s training, qualifications and experience would or should know that further investigations were needed.”

Neither Ward nor Christou attended the conduct hearing. In a statement read out by their joint legal representative, Nick Toms, they said they had been “devastated” by Peter’s death in November 2008.

Their absence from the hearing was not a failure to recognise the importance of these proceedings, the statement said. Rather it was “because of the way this case has been dealt with by some in the media, and their fear it will happen again”.

The conduct committee is considering whether the facts of the case amount to misconduct and, if so, what the appropriate sanction should be. The hearing resumes on Tuesday.

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