Haringey Council named in High Court case for child services failings

Council severely criticised for inadequate safeguarding

Credit: Stephen Furner

By Luchia Robinson

Haringey Council has been criticised by the High Court for a series of failings to protect two vulnerable children in a case of ‘fundamental errors.’

The Honourable Mr Justice Hayden overturned a previous ruling to keep the council’s identity anonymous, in a case where two children were at risk of harm because of their mother’s relationship with a convicted sexual offender. It was ruled that the council, who at the time, had been informed of this relationship via an anonymous phone call, had not adequately acted to assess the potential harm posed to the children.

Mr Justice Hayden said: ‘I regret to say that social services failed in any way adequately to assess the information that was at their disposal, or easily attainable, in order to conduct a risk assessment.’

The decision to name the council was made following representations from members of the media who presented evidence from an Ofsted inspection outlining further ineffectiveness in Haringey’s Children with Disabilities department.

The press had been barred from the court proceedings (which concluded in March) as the judge had ruled that the children’s identities may be revealed through jigsaw identification (the piecing together of information regarding the case). However, the risk of identification was deemed minimal when outweighed by the public’s right to be informed, in light of the overwhelming evidence of the council’s shortcomings.

The court ruling, (published online), found the Local Authority to be responsible for a series of failings which included: not having child protection measures in place; inadequate sharing of information between professionals; having an inexperienced social worker assigned to the case; inadequate monitoring; no proper risk assessment undertaken, and failure to inform the children’s father of the risk posed to his children.

Mr Justice Hayden stated that the council not telling the father of the risks posed ‘created difficulties of a different kind and contributed, in due course to the Local Authority making some fundamental errors in which they fell considerably short of their obligations to safeguard and protect the children subject to these proceedings.’

Cllr Zena Brabazon, Deputy Leader of Haringey Council and cabinet member for children and families said: “The most important thing for me to note is that the children remain safe, and their well-being is our primary focus.

She added “We firmly believe that this judgment is not a reflection of our wider practice in children’s social care.

Opposition Spokesperson for Children and Families, Cllr Tammy Palmer (Liberal Democrats), said: “It’s appalling that such severe failings from a local authority should happen anywhere, but this is especially alarming in a borough with such a catastrophic history of failing to protect our most vulnerable children.
 
“Haringey’s residents need urgent answers from the senior leaders of this council about what went wrong and whether this is a one-off or indicative of a systemic failure.
 
“In order to rebuild trust and confidence in the light of these damning findings, any investigation or inquiry must be prompt and it must be public.”

Haringey Council is carrying out a review into this case, and an independent assessment is to be commissioned.

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