Abducted boy ‘was abused while in Haringey’s care’

Relates to:
Date: 2008-12-08
Source: Times On Line

Police are investigating allegations that a five-year-old boy was abused while in the care of Haringey, the London council that was severely criticised over the death of Baby P.

An investigation was launched by Scotland Yard last month after claims that the boy, who had been a victim of child trafficking, was beaten while in the care of his foster family.

The boy, known as Child C, had been taken from his home in Africa and, once in Britain, was adopted as a “miracle baby” by a follower of Gilbert Deya, the evangelist who claimed to be able to cure infertility through prayer.

The boy was seized by police and since 2003 has been in the care of Haringey council, which has moved him between six sets of carers.

he police were called in last month after whistleblowers presented a dossier of evidence to Sharon Shoesmith — the director of Haringey’s department of children’s services, who was suspended last week — claiming that the child had been subjected to abuse and physical harm.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that it was investigating allegations of neglect.

The Guardian quoted a report which said that while in care of an adoptive couple Child C had his head banged against a wall so hard that he needed hospital treatment.

The dossier contained “a stream of information about his unhappiness and partial rejection by his adopters”, according to the newspaper.

Anonymous complainants suggested that Child C was unhappy and would not eat properly. The adoptive mother complained that he was wrecking her marriage and left him with a social worker, it was claimed, only taking him back when the local authority agreed to pay £26,000 for looking after Child C.

Concerns were raised by Dr Hamish Cameron, a consultant child psychiatrist, when the boy was taken to hospital. “The question is, once the local authority is in charge of the welfare of a child, who monitors the local authority?” he told the newspaper. “The answer is no one. There’s no way of alerting anyone to the welfare of such a child until they are dead.”

A spokesman for Haringey council said: “We can confirm that we have asked the police and the NSPCC to investigate an allegation of abuse. Because of that we cannot comment further.”

The police probe could prove highly damaging for Haringey, which was condemned last week for its “inadequate” child protection measures in a report commissioned after the death of Baby P. The 18-month-old baby died in August last year, despite 60 visits from the authorities. He was found to have suffered more than 50 injuries.

Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, described the Ofsted report as devastating. He ordered that Ms Shoesmith be removed from her £100,000-a-year post because he “judged she was not fit to hold an office”.

George Meehan, the leader of Haringey council, and its head of children’s services, Liz Santry, resigned in the wake of the report. Other senior officials have also been suspended.

Ofsted’s head, Christine Gilbert, admitted at the weekend that Haringey had misled its inspectors by providing inaccurate data on its child protection services.

She said that officials in Haringey were able to “hide behind” misleading data last year to earn a good rating from inspectors only weeks after Baby P’s death.

She also acknowledged that other councils could have misled inspectors. She said: “I am concerned that we look at the way this is happening . . . we’re looking at the review of Haringey we undertook to see if there are any lessons we can learn. I would say that I am concerned. I think that if the grades that we gave \ last December gave a false assurance we have to take some responsibility for that. That’s one of the reasons that I’m saying we’re looking again at our proposals \. We need to do all we can so I’m absolutely not washing my hands of it.”

Last night Haringey was also condemned by MPs after it was revealed that the council had spent £19,000 on external media advisers after Baby P’s death to help Ms Shoesmith cope with the expected public interest. This included role-plays on how to handle hostile journalists.

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, which is part of the Haringey borough, said: “It is absolutely outrageous that this money has been wasted on spin doctors. Every penny of this cash would have been better spent on improving our children’s services.”

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