The social services head sacked over the death of Baby P has said that she contemplated suicide after being publicly vilified and avoids the London Underground following police warnings that she might be pushed under a moving train.
Sharon Shoesmith, who was blamed for a catalogue of failings that led to Peter Connelly suffering repeated injuries despite multiple visits from social workers, police and doctors, said she had been unable to move on since she lost her job in 2008 and now lives on benefits.
The former head of children’s services for the London Borough of Haringey said she believed children were now at greater risk in the wake of the Baby P scandal because social workers were now perceived as people to hide from.
In a rare interview, Ms Shoesmith told Public Servant magazine she avoids public places in case she is recognised and regards any approaching stranger as a possible assailant. She said: “I used to have a £130,000-a-year job running my own department and was a national reference point for Ofsted for special educational needs, but no organisation will take the risk of employing me because of who I am.”
The former social services chief won her case for unfair dismissal after she was sacked by Ed Balls, when he was Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and is seeking compensation of up to £1m.
She said child protection had been turned into an “exact science” with exceptional cases such as Peter Connelly’s driving policy.
“I think children are more at risk now than before Peter died because we [social workers] have become people to hide from instead of people who can help,” she said.
Ms Shoesmith, 59, said she had been brought down to such a low level by public anger at official failings during the Baby P case that at one point she believed she had actually been the cause of his death.
“I was certainly no softy, but being held directly [responsible] for the brutal murder of a child was something that I found impossible to live with. I remember asking, ‘Did I murder him?’ I was in such a state that I actually believed I had killed him.”