Baby P social services chief sacked

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The Independent Online

The head of children's services at Haringey Council was sacked today in the wake of the Baby P abuse case.

Sharon Shoesmith was dismissed "with immediate effect" and will not receive any compensation.

A short statement released by the north London council said: "Sharon Shoesmith has been dismissed from Haringey Council with immediate effect.

"The decision was taken today by a panel of councillors.

"Ms Shoesmith will not be returning to work in Haringey. She will not receive any compensation package. She will not receive any payment in lieu of notice."

The Children's Secretary Ed Balls removed Sharon Shoesmith from her post on 1 December after a damning report into her department's shortcomings.

But the 55-year-old remained on full pay while the council considered her case.

The senior council manager provoked widespread anger for the way she responded to revelations that Baby P was killed while on the child protection register.

At a press conference at the end of the trial, she said: "The very sad fact is that we can't stop people who are determined to kill children. I am satisfied that the action that should have been taken was taken."

Inspectors were sent into Haringey in north London after the trial of those responsible for the 17-month-old baby's brutal death.

They identified a string of "serious concerns" about the area's child protection services, which they described as "inadequate".

In a 16-page report, they condemned everything from poor record-keeping to a failure to identify children at immediate risk of harm.

Haringey is the same council that was severely criticised for failing to prevent the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000.

The three people convicted over Baby P's death will be sentenced at the Old Bailey next spring for causing or allowing the death of a child.

Earlier today the council admitted spending £19,000 on media training for high-profile employees involved in the case.

Ms Shoesmith and Liz Santry, Haringey's Cabinet member for children and young people, who resigned earlier this month, are thought to be among those who received special training.

David Winskill, the Liberal Democrat councillor who requested the figure, said he believed the media training had been designed to protect Haringey from criticism but had failed.

"As a Haringey rate payer, from what I saw on the TV and having an idea of how much it cost, it's a classic example of spending big and getting very little," he said.

Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, added: "It is absolutely outrageous that this money has been wasted on spin doctors.

"Every single penny of this cash would have been better spent on improving our children's service."

Mr Winskill, a member of the council's overview and scrutiny committee, requested the figure from council leader George Meehan, who resigned shortly after the question was tabled.

The subsequent reply from the leader's office read: "The cost of paid for media advice to the council from three sources included media training for key spokespeople. The total estimated final cost will be £19,000."

The names of the firms used were given to councillors but were not made public.

Baby P, who cannot be named for legal reasons, died in a blood-spattered cot in August last year.

He had suffered more than 50 injuries at the hands of his abusive mother, 27, her boyfriend, 32, and their lodger, Jason Owen, 36, despite 60 contacts with the authorities over eight months.

The council was criticised for refusing to apologise for its failure to protect the little boy.

As he offered his resignation, Mr Meehan admitted: "We failed."

Ms Santry, who also stepped down at the start of this month, said she had considered resigning earlier but believed it was her "duty" to stay and explain the circumstances and actions taken.

A Haringey Council spokesman said: "It is reasonable for any employer to ensure that staff in the full glare of the media spotlight are given some training to help them deal with this sort of unusual situation."

Ms Featherstone welcomed Ms Shoesmith's departure.

She said: "I very much welcome her departure without a single penny. Hopefully it marks a break with the culture of secrecy, failure and deceit that failed Baby P.

"Under her watch, inspectors and the people of Haringey were lied to and those who sought to challenge her were silenced.

"Once the truth was finally uncovered the horrific catalogue of failings clearly amount to wilful neglect of duty on her part."

Councillor Robert Gorrie, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrat opposition, said: "This is the right decision. No one should be rewarded for failure in public service.

"This is another step in the difficult journey of rebuilding confidence in our borough's children's services.

"Those in top jobs in public service should be put on notice - there is no hiding place for incompetence and deceit for those charged with looking after the vulnerable children in our society."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We said last Monday that it was in the power of the Secretary of State to remove Sharon Shoesmith from her post as director of children's services but her employment was a matter for Haringey.

"The Secretary of State is satisfied that Haringey appear to have moved swiftly to resolve this in the right way."