Mother left 10 children starving and lice-ridden in same borough where Baby P and Victoria died

That’s the Evening Standard headline about the latest tragedy in the London Borough of Haringey, home already to two of the most shocking and notorious failures in child protection in recent years:

A mother has been jailed for the abuse of 10 children in her care in Haringey, the borough at the centre of the Baby P scandal.

She left the children starving, smelly, crawling with head lice and covered in ingrained dirt.

One child was so hungry that when a foster carer fed her she pressed the milk bottle hard against her mouth, leaving a red mark. The skin beneath her nappy was red-raw.

Police, who were alerted by a member of the public concerned about the children’s condition and the “inappropriate” adult nature of their conversations, discovered rotten food in the home and cockroach infestation.

The abuse happened over four years, from 2005 to 2009. It will prompt renewed concerns about child protection standards in Haringey, where 17-month-old Peter Connelly – Baby P – died at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and her lodger in 2007, despite 60 visits by social services, police and health professionals…

[A Haringey spokesman said:] ”The Local Safeguarding Children Board is content that our decision to pull together lessons for future best practice is right and that no other process is needed.”

As the paper’s leader puts it,

The case was not brought to trial as a result of the concerns of social workers. It took a civic-spirited neighbour to report the children’s situation to the police before action was taken.

Haringey Social Services is being notably reticent about the case but reticence will not do for a council notorious for its mishandling of the cases of Victoria Climbié and Baby P. Were social services involved in these cases of neglect, going back four years? And if so, why did they not deal forcefully with the abuse? We need answers and explanations.

Absolutely. Perhaps this time the council is right, but after the deaths of Victoria Climbié and Baby P Haringey’s initial response on both occasions fell woefully short of tackling the numerous failings that subsequent investigations uncovered. It’s too big a risk simply to trust that third time round its judgement is right.

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