Sacked council chief tells of Baby P ‘distress’

Sacked social services chief Sharon Shoesmith today spoke of her distress and sorrow over the death of Baby Peter as she warned that the “whole story” of what happened to the toddler had not yet been told.

The former head of Haringey social services said the world had been given the wrong impression by some elements of the media that she was not sorry or distressed by the death of the 17-month-old toddler.

She paid tribute to the “perseverance and commitment” of social workers, who she said had faced the most hostile public reaction ever seen in this country.

“What happened to Peter Connelly was absolutely devastating and I can tell you that there was never any question about me not feeling sorry or distressed about what happened to that little boy, never any question at all about what happened while I was director of one of the services that was there to protect him,” she told a seminar on child protection held in London.

“But for the world to have been given – and I mean the world, because I was abused across the world – to have been given a different impression by some elements of the media was a very callous twist in the story.”

She added that she “lived most days” in the knowledge that the whole story of what happened to the toddler will “eventually be told”.

“We are not there yet, we are certainly not even near that yet,” she said.

Ms Shoesmith said she believed the rise in the number of children being taken into care and subject to child protection plans since widespread publicity over the case had been caused by the reaction of politicians.

“I have seen that called ‘the Baby P effect’ and I hope that language goes,” she said.

“For me, it wasn’t ‘the Baby P effect’, for me it was the impact of the reaction of politicians and other senior leaders.

“What I am surprised about was, were they so naive?”

She added: “We still have the same rate of child homicide at the hands of their parents that has been with us for nearly 30 years.”

She added that Government plans for full publication of Serious Case Reviews into the most notorious cases of child abuse risked exacerbating the “grubby reality” that child protection workers “run for cover” when things go wrong.

“The publication then of Serious Case Reviews might make them run even faster, we do not know yet, or it might simply make them obscure the story from their particular perspective that they might want to put forward.”

Baby Peter died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her lover, Steven Barker and their lodger, Jason Owen.

He had suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.

A series of reviews identified missed opportunities when officials could have saved Peter’s life if they had acted properly on the warning signs in front of them.

Haringey Council sacked Ms Shoesmith without compensation in December 2008 after a damning inspectors’ report found the local authority’s child protection services were “inadequate”.

A High Court judge earlier this year upheld a decision of former Children’s Secretary Ed Balls to remove her from her child safety role with Haringey Council.