Balls ‘was irresponsible’

Author: The Guardian   |  

Council chiefs today accuse the children’s secretary, Ed Balls, of being “irresponsible” in his response to the death of Baby P, saying that his “political promises” to prevent a repeat of the tragedy could never be fulfilled.

The head of the group representing chief executives of local authorities said there was no evidence to back up accusations made by Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, that Haringey council, in the north London borough where Baby P died, had misled inspectors by providing false data.

Derek Myers, chairman of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (Solace), also suggested that the warped result of Haringey’s 2007 area performance inspection, which labelled it “good” just weeks after the child’s death, could in fact have been the product of the pressures of Ofsted’s systems.

Gilbert, the chief inspector at Ofsted, has acknowledged flaws in the system of APAs, a largely paper-based evaluation of children’s services, which meant that they failed to pick up on problems in Haringey. Balls said yesterday that he was “glad” that this year’s APAs, due to be published next week, would be the last before the system is replaced with more rigorous inspections.

He has ordered Lord Laming to review the children’s services reforms he designed after the death of Victoria Climbi‚, also in Haringey. In a submission to that review, seen by the Guardian, Solace writes: “We believe that political promises that exhort that ‘such deaths or severe traumas must never happen again’ are irresponsible and serve to obscure a more fundamental debate about the fundamental rights of children and parents.

“In our view good people making good judgments in good systems can still not be enough to prevent some parents harming or killing their children.” Myers confirmed Solace was attributing those promises to Balls.

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