Baby P death ‘a wake-up call’ on child protection

Peter Connelly’s horrific death was a “wake-up call” for people to raise concerns about children they feared were being abused, campaigners said.

The case prompted a wave of public anger and a series of departures at Haringey Council, which stood accused of failing to save the little boy.

A review by Lord Laming of child protection services across England found local authorities had failed to adopt reforms ordered after the earlier death of Victoria Climbie, who lived and died not far from where Peter lived in Tottenham.

The aftermath of Peter’s death also saw a record number of applications to take children into care.

But councils are finding it increasingly difficult to find social workers to deal with the cases.

The NSPCC said that in the wake of Peter’s death the vigilance of members of the public was making it “more and more difficult” for abusers to hide.

It said the number of calls to its helpline had increased significantly since Peter’s death.

Between April 2008 and March 2009, the helpline passed on 11,243 suspected child protection cases to police or social services, an increase of more than a third over two years.

Authorities took action to investigate and protect the children in 98% of the cases, the charity said.

The volume of calls – mainly from neighbours, friends and relatives – about suspected physical or sexual assault or neglect continues to grow.

In June, 1,000 were referred to agencies, equivalent to one an hour.

Christine Renouf, director of the helpline, said: “The brutal torture and death of Baby Peter was terrible but we know it was a wake-up call for some people to look out for children.

“People are now taking responsibility for stopping this abuse. It is becoming more and more difficult for child abusers to hide their crimes.”

Meanwhile, the Government has announced a £58 million plan to transform social services in response to Lord Laming’s report in March.

It was Lord Laming who conducted the landmark inquiry into the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000 – also under Haringey’s watch.

After Baby Peter’s death a report ordered by the Government condemned the north London council’s child protection services as “inadequate”.

Children’s services director Sharon Shoesmith was sacked along with key social workers.

Claire Kober, leader of Haringey Council, said today: “Our focus is on making sure that we bring about major improvements to child protection services in the borough.

“It is our top priority and we will do all we can to ensure that children are safe.

“Baby Peter’s death was a tragedy that could and should have been prevented.

“We have apologised unreservedly for the shortcomings in our child protection service which failed him so badly.”