Shoesmith: Baby P death did not represent service failure

The death of baby P did not demonstrate a systematic departmental failure, Sharon Shoesmith (pictured) said today. Picture: Rex Features

The death of baby P did not demonstrate a systematic departmental failure, Sharon Shoesmith said today.

The former head of Haringey children’s services told MPs: “They thought they could keep this little boy in his family and they were wrong. It was as simple as that.”

Shoesmith admitted that the department had begun to “wobble” just before the death of baby P, but she disagreed with Ofsted’s rating of it as “inadequate”.

“The services had taken quite a knock and there were huge issues of confidence among social workers and the department went into turmoil,” Shoesmith told the House of Commons education committee, which is taking evidence on child protection.

Shoesmith criticised the Ofsted inspection services, saying a developmental aspect had been lost when the body took over from the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

“I think what Ofsted did was graft social care inspection on to an education model. We seem to have lost some of the developmental side we had with CSCI,” she said.

When asked by MPs whether social care lacked the public respect because children’s services’ heads were unwilling to resign when things went wrong, Shoesmith said this was not the case.

“There was not the evidence to sack those social workers in Haringey in terms of what they had done,” she said. “I have to ask, where were the resignations in health? There were some very serious mistakes there as well.”

Shoesmith also revealed the personal impact of the baby P case on her.

“Quite early on I decided that, once I got though the stage of being at risk myself and having dealt with death threats and other nasty things coming through my letter box, I realised the one thing I had was my health,” she said. “I have decided not to go into any bitter misdirection. I think it is a very complex story. Of course, I look back on it and part of me can’t believe what happened.”

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