Climbie social worker 'vindicated'

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A junior social worker sacked after the murder of Victoria Climbie said today she felt vindicated after a ban stopping her working with children was overturned.

A junior social worker sacked after the murder of Victoria Climbie said today she felt vindicated after a ban stopping her working with children was overturned.

Lisa Arthurworrey said she had been badly let down by Haringey council, which had employed her, and insisted she had never been a danger to children.

Ms Arthurworrey was fired for gross misconduct by the north London council in 2002 over a series of mistakes she made in the eight-year-old's care.

She was barred from working with youngsters again by the former education secretary Charles Clarke.

But a care standards tribunal upheld her appeal against his decision yesterday and concluded that her role in the Climbie case did not warrant permanent exclusion from the childcare profession.

Tony Hunter, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There really are lessons for us all."

In councils that were performing well, there was not a "yawning chasm" between senior managers and frontline staff, he said.

Ms Arthurworrey told Today she would have to give "careful consideration" to whether she wanted to continue as a social worker.

"I made many and serious mistakes," she said. "However, it is also true that I was badly let down by my employer and had I been working in a different environment maybe those mistakes would not have been made.

"I have never considered myself as a danger to children, so in that respect I do feel vindicated. I can now pursue careers working with children if I want to."

Ms Arthurworrey insisted: "I am not a danger to children, and this judgment shows that."

She added that before she decided about her future career she needed time to reflect on the whole experience.

Sharon Shoesmith, the director of Haringey's children's service, said the council was "surprised" by the decision.

"As an organisation, Haringey Council has and continues to accept its responsibility for failings at the time of Victoria's tragic death and for these we are sincerely sorry," she said.

"We are surprised that the secretary of state's decision has been overturned, as the Laming Inquiry, Haringey Council and an employment tribunal all found serious weaknesses in Ms Arthurworrey's professional conduct that contributed to the failure to safeguard Victoria.

"It must be remembered that when Ms Arthurworrey was allocated Victoria's case she was a fully qualified social worker who had previously worked in another large London borough and had 18 months post-qualification experience."

The council had worked with "vigour and determination" to implement changes to child protection procedures since the Climbie case, Ms Shoesmith added.

Last October Ms Arthurworrey lost her appeal against dismissal at an employment tribunal, having claimed that she was "hung out to dry" for Haringey's mistakes, chaotic organisation, flawed procedures and poor supervision.

She was assigned Victoria's case in August 1999.

Within six months Victoria was dead with 128 injuries, after suffering months of abuse, torture and neglect by her great aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.

They were jailed for life in January 2001 for the child's murder.

Lord Laming's public inquiry into Victoria's death found child protection services had missed at least 12 chances to save her life.

An internal report by Haringey Council identified eight key mistakes made by Miss Arthurworrey and recommended disciplinary action against her and five colleagues.