Social services 'chaos' before Climbie death

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The Independent Online

More than 100 at-risk children were waiting to be assigned to a social worker only months before Victoria Climbie's death, it was revealedy.

Haringey Social Services, the last local authority to deal with the eight-year-old before her death in February 2000, was in such a state of disarray that 109 of the children for whom the authority was responsible had not been allocated social workers in May 1999.

Furthermore, the senior councillor overseeing social services was unaware of the state of affairs. Yesterday Gina Adamou, then lead member of Social Services, blamed the authority's senior staff, insisting she had been kept in the dark about the matter.

The inquiry heard that a report dated 17 May, 1999 listed 61 unallocated in the western section and 48 on the eastern side.

"As the lead member you did not know at that time there was 109 children who the authority had accepted responsibility for that had no social worker allocated to them?" asked Lord Laming, the inquiry chairman.

"If I was not told by the director or assistant director I would not know, no," replied Mrs Adamou, agreeing with Lord Laming that it was a "quite serious" state of affairs.

"I was quite upset when I saw this document on Wednesday for the first time," she said.

"I can understand you being upset Mrs Adamou. The question that the inquiry has to understand is, was that a failure on the behalf of the members of the authority – in particular the senior members of the authority – or was that a failure on behalf of the officers and the senior officers of the authority?" replied the chairman.

Mrs Adamou insisted the fault did not lie with the elected councillors.

Victoria was "imprisoned, beaten and starved" for months by her father's aunt Marie Therese Kouao, 45, and her partner Carl Manning, 28, at a flat in Tottenham, north London. When they were jailed for life, the Government ordered a public inquiry into how four authorities, two police child protection teams and two hospitals had failed to save her.

A spokesman for Haringey council said: "Victoria's case was allocated within a matter of days. By November 1999 we had reduced the number [unallocated] to six."