Baby P social workers temporarily suspended

The social workers who admitted failing to safeguard Peter Connelly (pictured) have been suspended from the register.

The social workers who admitted failing to safeguard Peter Connelly have been suspended from the register.

Maria Ward, the practitioner allocated to baby Peter, has been suspended for two months by a General Social Care Council conduct committee. Her manager at the time, Gillie Christou, was given a four-month ban. Both social workers had already been suspended for the last 16 months while officials investigated their conduct.

The committee chairman, Jonathan Roberts, said removing Ward and Christou from the register would have been “disproportionate” and “would only have been done to satisfy public demand for blame and punishment”.

The committee took into account that both social workers had shown insight into their actions, that they were dealing with a “skilled and manipulative liar” in Tracey Connelly, Peter’s mother, and that they had not acted out of malice.

Roberts also said the “systemic failings” at Haringey Council’s children’s services meant Ward and Christou had to operate in difficult working conditions.

“The working environment at Haringey was challenging, to say the least,” he said. “There were shortages of staff, excessive caseloads and a lack of managerial support and supervision.”

Earlier in the hearing Ward and Christou admitted professional misconduct by failing to follow child protection and supervision procedures, in a statement read out by their lawyer.

The conduct committee took into account the “contrition and insight” demonstrated by both women, and their previously unblemished records.

Allowing for the fact they had both already been subject to a 16-month interim suspension order, the committee decided to suspend Ward and Christou for a further two and four months respectively. It took the view that Christou’s misconduct was more serious due to her supervisory role.

Peter, also known as Baby P, died on 3 August 2007 after suffering more than 50 injuries while in the care of his mother, her partner and their lodger – all of whom have since been jailed. Peter had been the subject of a child protection plan under Haringey social services from 22 December 2006.

At the time he was brought into hospital, Peter had several fractured ribs, a spinal injury and an ear infection. One of his fingernails and a toenail had been forcibly removed.

Ward, admitted to four separate failings, including that she did not record visits to the child in Haringey’s computer system “in a timely manner”, leading to a backlog of four months.

Christou also admitted to six allegations of misconduct, including that she failed to record decisions reached during supervision with Ward.

“Proper recording of information is at the heart of safe working practice as a social worker,” the committee said. “This is even more fundamental in child protection where one is dealing with complex and high risk cases involving a number of agencies.”

In relation to Christou specifically, it added: “The keeping of proper records of supervision of a child protection (or any) case is vital for safety and accountability, as well as ensuring detailed and effective follow-up action.”

Ward and Christou also failed to ensure there was an adequate replacement for Peter’s childminder, Ann Walker, who left the position on 23 July 2007 – 11 days before he died. The committee said this must be regarded as “a serious omission” because of the important role Walker occupied in the supervision and care of Peter.

Ward and Christou chose not to attend the conduct hearing because of the negative and intrusive media attention the case has received.

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