Baby P documentary claims police briefed journalists against social workers

    The BBC's 'Baby P: The Untold Story' also features claims that Ofsted covered up a positive inspection of Haringey following Peter Connelly's death

    Baby P
    Peter Connelly (Baby P) died in Haringey in August 2007

    The Metropolitan Police has been accused of using an off-the-record briefing to encourage journalists to blame social workers for Baby P’s death.

    The claim is one of many revelations and questions raised in the BBC One documentary ‘Baby P: The Untold Story’, which is due to be broadcast on Monday.

    In the documentary BBC journalist Tim Donovan says he discovered that the police held a briefing for reporters before the trial for Peter Connelly’s murder ended.

    “There was a police briefing about the likely impact of what had happened here, the nature of the people involved and who was likely to be blamed,” he said.

    “And certainly colleagues told me that there was a very firm impression coming from the police at this briefing that, it was, you know, here we go again. It’s been, you know, social workers, big problems and it’s Haringey, again.

    “Reporters report back to news desks ‘another Victoria Climbié, it’s the same borough’. It didn’t take long for a narrative like that to take hold.”

    Sharon Patrick, a former ITV news producer who also appears in the documentary, was asked if the police were briefing against social workers and said: “I don’t really want to go into that I don’t think.”

    The Metropolitan Police denies that there were off-the-record briefings.

    The 90-minute documentary examines the aftermath of Connelly’s death in 2007 and questions why other agencies including the police, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Ofsted did not come under the same scrutiny that social workers did.

    Ofsted ‘cover-up’

    The documentary features an anonymous Ofsted inspector who accuses the children’s services inspectorate of a “cover-up”.

    The inspector claimed to have seen Ofsted’s report about the inspection of Haringey that was held prior to the scandal.

    The inspector said the report rated Haringey’s services as ‘good’, but says it “disappeared” after the story hit the headlines and when the document was published after an emergency inspection of Haringey, the grade had been changed to ‘inadequate’.

    “I don’t know who made the decision to delete those files, but if you remove that information you remove your accountability,” the inspector told the documentary. “I thought that was a cover-up.”

    Sharon Shoesmith, the director of children’s services at Haringey at the time, also raises questions about Ofsted’s emergency inspection in the documentary.

    “To see the amount of manipulation that went into producing that report was really quite devastating,” she said. “Draft after draft made slightly more negative than the one before.”

    At the time Ofsted’s chief inspector claimed Haringey Council misled its inspectors, which explained why the emergency inspection found the local authority’s services to be failing while a 2007 assessment had rated them good.

    Ofsted accepts that it changed the provisional grade of the 2008 assessment and says this was because the emergency inspection uncovered serious safeguarding concerns.

    ‘Complete story’

    The documentary also includes claims that the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), which was managing St. Ann’s – the hospital where Connelly was examined before his death, tried to cover up concerns that practitioners working there had voiced before the 17-month-old’s death.

    Kim Holt, a doctor who had been working at St. Ann’s before taking stress-related sick leave, told the film makers that after the story broke she was approached by GOSH and their lawyers about concerns she had been raising.

    “They were trying to get me to retract my concerns, sign a confidentiality agreement and take £120,000 for doing it,” she said.

    In the documentary GOSH said that the allegations against it had not been upheld by numerous investigations.

    At a preview screening of the documentary attended by Community Care, the producers said their aim was to try and tell the complete story of what happened after Connelly’s death.

    Simon Ford, executive producer for the documentary’s maker Sandpaper Films, said: “This was never designed as any form of apology for the social workers, this was designed as a comprehensive treatment.”

    Baby P: The Untold Story will air at 8.30pm Monday 27 October on BBC One

    • Sharon Shoesmith will be taking part in a debate on ‘Blame and accountability in child protection: How much have things changed since Baby P?’at Community Care Live Children and Families on 20 November. The event is free to attend for professional social workers.

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    13 Responses to Baby P documentary claims police briefed journalists against social workers

    1. Ezzie October 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

      Why doesn’t this surprise me??!! If we create the blame culture such as we have, then it follows that there will be manipulation, lies and cover ups!!! Media like to blame social workers. You never see any positives do you!! and police like to cover their backs. Everyone always tries to move the blame elsewhere. If we want to blame anyone blame the government for the cutbacks and the overstretched systems we all work in. Almost every professional, no, make that EVERY professional I know in public service tries their best in the compromising systems that are supposed to assist us and every professional makes mistakes. We are human beings working with other human beings and if that wasn’t a flaw in itself, we have a workplace that constantly undermines safety by the very fact that caseloads are too high and report writing and red tape a long and tedious task for much of the time.

      • Dave October 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

        Come off it Ezzie, the social work team looking after Peter Connelly had very protected caseloads. It was a difficult case where judgements turned out to be wrong and confidence in his mother’s ability to keep him safe misplaced. Resources aren’t going to be magically increased any time soon, so our profession better do what it’s always done, learn from its mistakes and learn from best practice.

    2. Lynne Brosnan October 22, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Surely baby Peter Connolly’s death is about accountability and not blame. This toddlers death should not be in vain. He was let down, seriously let down, and what we are seeing now is a typical blame culture which will result in the inevitable “lessons have been learnt”. In Peter’s name take responsibility and let him rest in peace.

    3. Wendy October 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      Perhaps we should remember that there is no substitute for good training and good supervision, without this we should refuse to accept difficult cases.
      As a ex team leader I feel we should always be making time for not the once a week supervision. but in the case of difficult cases daily supervision if necessary

    4. Chris October 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      I’m a third year social work student and am not surprised at all by what i am hearing. When it comes to it you always hear comments like “known to social services” or something to that effect. Well I’ve spent the last three years being taught about working together to ensure a child’s safety and multi disaplinary working, there’s no I in team and surely if one fails we all fail and should take our shair of the blame. I feel that those who have covered there own backs and hidden behind others are disrespecting Peters name.
      it may not be an apologie to the social workers involved, who I’m sure did the best job they could all things considering, but it should be, this should then be the start of the public seeing that we as a profession are not the bad guy and that at times we are let down by others around us so that one day they will start to trust us to do the right thing if they find themselves needing our helps.

    5. Ian Kemp October 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Hi Dave
      I do not know how long you have been in social work or indeed if you are a social worker. I have worked in social work in all areas for over 42 years in every area from social worker to team manager. I have also experienced working in over 26 local authorities as some private agencies.
      You seem to have rather limited view of what social work is about . I certainly am not a supporter of the over bureaucratic system that we have created in local authority with layer upon layer of managers .. Social work will never be a proper profession in that system . Never the less you cannot escape the fact that with the pressure can be extreme and one has to priories as best one can what the situation is relative to the amount of work coming in . More often then not you will rely on the judgement of the medical professional and the police as to when you are trying to priories competing demands . Which comes first . ?
      Most cases in a social child protection depth are very similar and you will try to make a judgement based on what information you have from other agencies when you are deciding which one is more important .
      From my experience human judgement
      under pressure is always going to be chance and there is a degree of luck eg there but for the grace of god ——- act act
      That I afraid is the nature of bureaucratic response’s to problems .. No amount of inquiry or learning lessons or indeed training will I fear alter this . Good supervision often disappears in many departments as limited resources mean that social workers no matter how well tried and skilled can be over whelmed by the sheer pressure of the resource staved work that unfortunately is modern social work to day ……… Its a long story I am |Afraid and there are no easy answers whatever the media or people think. To be more professional I think that social work would need to be organised in a very different way for it to become more professional .

    6. Lin October 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

      If every politician willingly gave up their 11% pay rise then that would definitely pay for some much needed resources.

    7. Philip Measures October 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! What a murky world the social work profession is in.

      the OFSTED Inspector who makes the allegation of a previous Inspection Report into Haringey going missing needs to be totally up-front as to s/he is and OFSTED needs to be able to fully justify why the earlier Inspection found that things were good!

      As long as social work continues with its current aggressive and oppressive management regime grassroots workers will remain terrified to speak out. The Sickness Policy and Procedures in organisations such as CAFCASS certainly deter workers from being off sick for any length of time for fear that they will be dismissed.

      Experienced practitioners, such as myself, have left social work because we could take no more. Enormous amounts of skill, experience and expertise have been lost- and continue to be lost – due to Government-driven oppression and a ‘target-driven’ rather an ‘outcomes-driven’ approach – we need to know what works and why? What achieves good outcomes? A demoralised and frightened workforce most certainly achieves none of these.

    8. Noni Thibela October 22, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

      You can do everything, but, at the end of the day, when parents want to kill their children, they will win. You will knock off work and they will be with their children and their HUMAN RIGHTS. Let us be careful about criticising social workers!

    9. Leena n Dominic October 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      The very idea of parents wanting to harm their children for their sadistic pleasures is too sickening to comprehend. However, I have been following the baby P story closely and the hospital staff who treated him for his injuries, “social services”, police and to some extent the lady who looked after baby P for 4 weeks before she took up a job, could and should have done something substantial to save him, probably everyone conveniently felt that someone else could take care of the situation… wondering how did they sleep peacefully @ night knwoing something was so so wrong

    10. Shoutycapz October 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      The reaction of the media and the general public at the time of Baby P’s death was horrifying. Not one of the numerous articles at the time, the radio phone-ins etc asked how to better protect children in future. All anyone seemed to care about was who was to blame, who should get sacked, who was incompetent. It’s quite obvious who was to blame – three people were convicted of causing his death. Yet, as always the tabloid media (and on this occasion even supposedly reputable news agencies) turned on the social workers (who frankly had done a far better job than most of the other professionals involved, including the police and the health workers) and behaved like leaders of a lynch mob stirring up anger and hatred and inciting the mob. Even after the BBC’S excellent documentary last night, Newsnight was still playing the same “whose fault was it?” game. The truth is, all of the agencies involved in protecting children are equally responsible for safeguarding, and all of those agencies are overstretched and underfunded, which puts children’s lives in danger. The -Con-Dem cuts to public funding have made the situation much, much worse and children are now more at risk than ever, but nobody wants to face up to two very difficult but obvious facts – 1. Safeguarding children costs money; and 2. It is impossible to protect them all children from harm.

      • Sue October 29, 2014 at 9:09 am #

        Totally agree with Shoutycapz. I’m not a social worker but worked closely with some of them at a local authority.
        Was horrified of the coverage of the time and am not surprised that, even after this excellent documentary, the tabloid coverage still focuses on Sharon Shoesmith’s tribunal award instead of the very serious issues that came to light on the programme. Missing reports; former ITV producer who couldn’t say she wasn’t secretly briefed by police at the time; David Cameron vitriol at the despatch box which was not accurate and helped feed the press furore; The Sun publishing incorrect information and stirring up hatred – unsurprisingly quiet this morning; Health Service lawyers trying to cover up lack of action over the known inadequacies of their service.
        Where are the apologies from these people in power who ruined the lives of so many hard working people after this sad incident?
        I’m fortunate to have retired from the local authority I worked at but know how hard most of the people there work, and how much more pressure they are under following years of cuts. Agree very much with your conclusions that Safeguarding children costs money; and it is impossible to protect them all children from harm.
        The saddest thing for me in all this is the constant attitude from press and misinformed public that social workers/health workers/police don’t care, don’t try and help children and aren’t affected by these issues. Thank you to the documentary makers for giving some of these people a voice at last.

    11. angela November 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      I watched the baby P documentary and can honestly say that I was not surprised at all that once again the social work profession was held a scapegoat because off the failures by other agencies. I don’t know why we seem horrified about the media’s coverage when something goes wrong – we must remember journalists are uneducated and only interested in making profits on the backs of others. These people have no idea about the social work, its role and functions, they are not able to understand or comprehend that all agencies working with children have a “duty to protect them from harm” and that social workers are one part of this.
      In contrast, I believe that this documentary showed that the social worker involved did what she could to seek other professionals opinions such as (health and police) and was let down because of the delays in reports and their lack of urgency. I felt that the social worker displayed real courage and emotion to what happened.
      I think it’s time that the social work profession stands up and demands more respect and better representation just like the police and health service!.