Baby P whistle-blower to sue council

Social worker takes action against Haringey Council after exposing failings
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The Independent Online

The senior social worker who first warned the Government about serious failings in the investigation of childcare cases – six months before the death of Baby Peter – is suing Haringey Council for victimisation.

Nevres Kemal has brought a new claim against Haringey after its refusal to interview her for a job as a social worker when she responded to a national recruitment campaign.

Ms Kemal twice blew the whistle over the mishandling of childcare cases in the London Borough of Haringey. She first raised the alarm in February 2007 over an alleged child-abuse case but was forced out by Haringey the following month. She blew the whistle again in 2008 six months before the killing of 17-month-old Peter Connelly when she told ministers that Haringey's social services department was out of control.

Ms Nevres's intervention precipitated an Ofsted investigation which heavily criticised Haringey and its head of social services, Sharon Shoesmith, who was sacked last year.

But earlier this year, Ms Nevres's attempt to rejoin Haringey was turned down, despite a national crisis in the recruitment of childcare experts. She claims that she is being persecuted for whistle-blowing. In its defence of Ms Nevres's claim, Haringey argued that by speaking to the press, she had broken the terms of a settlement agreed with the council after she had first brought allegations including whistle-blowing in 2007. But council lawyers have told Watford Employment Tribunal that her previous claims against the council "played no part whatsoever" in Ms Nevres's not being shortlisted for the job. This month, Haringey's application to have Ms Nevres's claim struck out was rejected by the court, which found she has an "arguable" case.

Ms Nevres told The Independent: "I thought Haringey had changed and that there was new management. However, it is still the same... Good social workers like myself who will not stand by and let evil triumph and who whistle-blow are still not wanted there."

She added: "I just want to be part of the solution and help to put things right at Haringey, but they won't let me in through the door."

Her lawyer, Lawrence Davies of the law firm Equal Justice, said: "Without our client's action, the public would be none the wiser and Haringey would still be commending itself [over its handling of childcare cases]," he said.

Peter Connelly died in August 2007 after suffering at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger, despite 60 contacts with the authorities over eight months. This week, Haringey was named among the country's nine worst-performing children's services. Ofsted deemed as "poor" the children's department of the borough, plus eight others including Birmingham, Doncaster and Essex, in its annual assessments.

Mr Davies said: "Inspectors investigated Haringey after we whistle-blew in February 2007. They found nothing. The same inspectors went in October 2007 wearing their new Ofsted hats and again found nothing, even though Baby P had died in August 2007."

He said there had been a cover-up over the whistle-blowing allegations which should be properly explored in a public inquiry. Haringey Council said: "We are confident that the strength of our case will be clear at the substantive tribunal. We do not believe that the initial decision weakens that case and will comment further after the hearing."

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