Ulster born sacked Baby P head pleads victimisation

Newtownabbey- raised Sharon Shoesmith, the head of social services in Haringey, sacked over the shocking death of Baby P, has lashed out at the media and Children’s Secretary Ed Balls. She left without compensation and is now dependent on relatives.

In a Guardian interview, Shoesmith rejects suggestions, made by Ofsted chief Christine Gilbert in a Guardian interview in December, that Haringey had given inspectors false data to achieve a “good” annual assessment in November 2007. “I deeply objected to being called deceitful in the press … [when] I was completely unable to defend myself.”

Was part of her problem that her background was education rather than child care?

A clip of a radio interview with Shoesmith was used on the Today programme at 07.31. In the package, the chair of the Commons Children and Schools select committee Barry Sheerman says she has a grievance case but is attacking the wrong target.

The full version is carried on Radio 4 FM’s Weekend Woman’s Hour at 4 pm.

Shoesmith, who is from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, began working with children when she was 15, helping in a residential home for special needs children. She left Northern Ireland when she was 20, after she was caught in a bombing of the Europa hotel, and worked as a special needs teacher, then as a director of special needs support services, and then as an Ofsted inspector, all over England. She was hired to run Haringey’s educational service, a job at which, according to an open letter later signed by 61 headteachers, she was “outstanding”.

  • Seymour Major

    Firstly, It is quite clear that Ms. Shoesmith’s legal options have not yet been exhausted. Before March 8th, she must file a claim for unfair dismissal, if she goes by that route. She can also make a claim in the civil courts for wrongful dismissal.

    I have no idea of the merits of her case. If I was her lawyer, I would have advised her not to talk to the press until the case had concluded.

    As to her role in the Baby P affair, I dont know whether she was involved in the decision-making when the Borough had to decide whether to take the child into care. Social workers work in teams. It may be that Shoesmith would have been required to endorse a decision to take care proceedings but this would usually be on the advice of senior social workers. If she was sacked for acting on bad advice, then she would have a grievance there.

    She was involved in the internal enquiry following the death of Baby P. The social workers involved were disciplined but not sacked. This seems to be the reason why much of the flack was directed at her. The case is as stark as you can get but unless you know the facts, it is hard to make a judgment. The only comment I would make on that is that if social workers were disciplined, they have obviously done something wrong professionally and almost certainly caused this child’s death. It is hard to think of circumstances which mitigated from these social workers losing their jobs.

    There has been criticism from people who have left Haringey regarding the regime. It may be that there is a particular problem at Haringey. If there is, more news will follow about it. Have no doubt.

    Haringey is an inner-city London Borough. Having worked in London myself, it is territory that I am familiar with. The area has more than its fair share of social problems. Resources would have been a weighing factor when deciding on whether to take a child into care. In other words, they might 10 cases where they see significant harm occuring and only have one slot for care proceedings followed by an intensive care plan. Money, I am afraid, is also behind this problem.

    To answer your question, it depends on her job description. Much of her job as director would have been management. I dont think working as a field social worker is strictly necessary and you will find there are other directors of social services who were not field workers. When it came to disciplining social workers, she would have been guided on technical professional aspects.

    Just to digress a little bit. I have worked as a Children Order Panel solicitor in Northern Ireland. Comparing my experience in the legal profession in England, as against Northern Ireland, it is easy to see that there is a lower threshold of legal intervention for taking care proceedings in relation to a child in Northern Ireland. That suggests that social services here dont have anything like the problems they have across the water – yet.

  • Up Tyrone!

    I’ll wait until 4pm to hear what Ms. Shoesmith has to say for herself and I urge you, gentle reader, to do likewise. To paraphrase Ms Austin -it is a truth, universally acknowledged by journos, that a bland quotation is much in need of improvement. Check out the misrepresentation of President McAleese’s words on a reent thread. Our reported version was so heavily ‘improved upon’ that it came to resemble the ransom note of a Hollywood thriller. The ‘quote’ was indeed much improved (by our Brian) but, sadly, it no longer resembled the original or the truth.
    So please, don’t take the introduction to this thread too sriously, no matter how strongly you feel about the topic..

  • dear o dear

    She deserved all the criticism she got.

  • missfitz

    The interview in the Guardian is wide ranging and very informative. I think it is important to keep in mind that the social service system that we have in Northern Ireland is integrated with the Health Services, as opposed to local authority. This gives us a slightly different understanding as to the lines of authority in the case, and the kind of background in which social services operate.

    I think it is very unfortunate that Ms Shoesmith has been made the fall guy for this situation. While the death of baby P was deeply regrettable and unfortunate, we must remember that he was murdered at home, by his family and not by social care. The ultimate responsibilty must remain with those people who killed him and beat him to death.

    I also think it is deeply regrettable that we only highlight these cases when we see fit, and tend to ignore the dozens if not more children who die every year at the hands of adults, usually in their own homes.

    Social services have a role in the prevention of such deaths, but again and again we must remember who strikes the blow and try not to take out our anger and frustration on those who did not

  • The Raven

    Two hearteningly sensible posts and then….that.

    This isn’t over by a country mile, and I think, as others say, there is more to come. This was classic “parting of the Red Sea” stuff, as all and sundry scrambled in opposite directions to escape the aftermath.

    Seymour, having had some tiny dealings with this sector across the water, you are absolutely correct, and if anything, this case and many others just highlights that no social system is ever perfect. It is certainly never improved by the crowd baying for blood.

  • Rory Carr

    Having myself worked for a national childcare charity fot nigh on a decade in London and being a resident of Haringey I can only but echo the remarks of Seymour Major, Miss Fitz and The Raven above.

    There is a strong feeling here at local level among those with any insight into the difficulties that Ms Shoesmith was unjustly railroaded to spare the blushes of those within the state sector who share the greater responsibility for overall child welfare and criminally shirk it – step forward H.M. Treasury and those who determine its spending priorities.

  • missfitz

    We probably differ on this, but you really have to ask yourself how effective can the state be as guardian to all the children? Indeed, how much interference do we allow the state to have in any of our affairs and dealings?

    You can throw as much money as you like at a problem, but the answers lie much deeper and with the family concerned.

    It’s a little like the crime and disorder argument, which I know a little more about. The 2 essential arguments were those advocating a more stringent penal process and the new labour insistence on the social roots to the problem.

    What worked, or at least worked a little in terms of crime and disorder, were the partnership arrangements at a local level. Perhaps with family disorder we need to step back and lose the emotive content of the debate. If the family is broken and needs to be fixed, then a partnership of agencies will need to be involved.

  • Guppy

    I suspect she was over-promoted and is now paying the price.

  • OC

    ‘[Sharon Shoesmith] left Northern Ireland when she was 20, after she was caught in a bombing of the Europa hotel…’

    Maybe this is why she was really sacked?

    How much sympathy from laid-off workers who DIDN’T bomb the Europa Hotel, or anything else for that matter, can be expected?

  • Rory Carr

    “How much sympathy from laid-off workers who DIDN’T bomb the Europa Hotel, or anything else for that matter, can be expected?” – OC

    Not much from you apparently, OC, if your lack of sympathy for Ms Shoesmith, who did not either bomb the Europa Hotel, is to be any guide.

    I should be careful that she does not read your remarks and decide to sue.

  • OC

    Rory Carr – If the OP didn’t say Shoemaker was involved, perhaps I misunderstood what the phrase was referring to. Am I confusing her with another high-placed woman in England that hid her IRA past? If so, all apologies to Shoemaker.

    As for her suing me, I understood that the Slugger servers are in the USA, and have a different standard for public figures, which Shoemaker certainly is.

  • Rory Carr

    To be caught in a bombing, OC, does not imply that one was a cause of the bombing any more than being caught in a traffic jam implies that one was the cause of the traffic jam.

    To be caught in a whoopsie however does tend to imply that one was the author of the whoopsie. Ain’t language funny?

    Still it must be disappointing when one’s prejudicial suppositions are so laid bare.

  • OC

    I confused her with Maria McGuire Gatland, who was caught neck deep in IRA terrorism. And I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.

    No dissappointment whatsoever, either.

  • Good, OC, that you finally distinguished Ms. Shoesmith from Maria McGuire Gatland, though you failed to mention that double agent Ms. McGuire never had to pay for her terrorism for the IRA, especially those murders of the three Scottish Fusiliers, since it was intended to stoke up the war for Britain’s ‘counterterrorists’ who believed they could beat the IRA at its own game.

  • Rory Carr

    You do have it a wee bit wrong there, Trowbridge. Maria McGuire was never a double agent – merely a disaffected volunteer who left and did and ‘kiss and tell’ in The Observer (the kissing was with Dave O’Connell then IRA Adjutant-General, the telling to Colin Smith, Observer hack and suspected MI6 asset), and while a volunteer would have no connection whatsoever with the killing of three Scottish Fusiliers for which she would have been required to account.

    I don’t doubt however that, by an extension of Kitson’s strategy, there was a game afoot by the Brits to stoke up ‘terrorism’ in the early days in order to provide some nice training in its subsequent supression, but Maria McGuire’s role in IRA history is totally incidental to all that.

  • Ingrid


  • What a bunch of baloney, Rory Carr.

    To act as if Maria McGuire’s role is totally incidental to what the Provs were doing then buggers belief. When she was calling for killing British soldiers – the more the better – five volunteers, two of them women, lured the three Fusiliers to their murders. While most accounts leave out their role – e. g. Ed Moloney in A Secret History of the IRA – they participated in it.

    Maria Maguire was almost undoubtedly one of them, given her known subsequent role with the leadership. She may well have been doing a bit of free work in the killings, but that doesn’t change anything as far as she is concerned.

    The fact that when she finally fled to Britain, neither the police nor MI5 did anything about her continuing residence – what they had to know about – shows that she was in cahoots with its covert operators.

    Get real.

  • Rory Carr

    A bunch of baloney certainly, Trowbridge. But you are the one pedlling the baloney here I’m afraid.

    There could not possibly have been any evidence, indeed any suspicion, that Maria McGuire had any hand, act or part whatsoever in the killing of the Scottish Fusiliers, whatever her feelings on the matter at that time and therefore no reason to even question her about, never mind charge her with, anything in regard to those killings.

    I cheered mightily when Franco’s successor, Admiral Carrero-Blanco, was blown over the spire of a Madrid cathedral and the thought still warms my heart but, honest guvna’, it weren’t me. I ‘ad nufink to do wiv’ it. Asm me mates – I was in the boozer in Tottenham at the time. On me life, guv.

    Somehow the Spanish authorites are content to accept my plea and a booze-up in Barcelona presents no problems for me.

  • The is just a mindless apology for the Brits never having done anything to catch the killers of the poor Fusiliers, though they have a good idea who did it.

    Peter Taylor, in The Brits, has written that the three men who killed them were led by a former soldier from Ardoyne. While both the Official and Provisional IRA denied that any of their units were involved, “the Provisionals’ statement was carefully worded since, although the killings were carried out by members of the IRA, it seems that those responsible were not authorized to do so.” (p. 59)

    About the total group involved in the ambush, Peter Harclerode wrote in Secret Soldiers: “The three soldiers had been lured from a bar in the Cornmarket area of the city after being invited by the three men and two women, all of whom were Provisionals: the mem were member of the 3rd Battalion PIRA while the women belonged to Cumann na mBann, the female branch of the Provisional IRA.”(p. 317)

    With the authorities knowing this much about the soldiers’ killers, why wasn’t Maria McGuire qestioned about it after she fled to Britain, and why isn’t she being questioned right now about it?

    The only way I can explain this totally hands-off approach to this most crucial tragedy of the whole Troubles is that it was a ‘false-flag’ operation by McGuire, the former solder et al. to stoke up them behind belief, and it did.

    Consequently, she and the others involved or informed are completely offlimits.

    You should work for the British authorities if you are not already doing so.

  • Rory Carr

    It is indeed well known who it was that were involved in this particular killing and that knowledge precludes any possible involvement by Maria McGuire who, to my knowledge, has never been in Belfast.

    I might add that while I knew and was quite closely involved with Maria McGuire at that time I was also unaware, as was she, of any plot to kill these particular soldiers and only learnt about the incident firstly from the news media.

  • But the whole poínt is that the murders were never properly investigated because to do so would have required a determination of who was really behind them – what the Brits blamed most unconvincingly on SDPL Senator Paddy Wilson who was conveniently assassinated by John White’s people sometime later.

    An investigation would have opened the whole scandal about ‘Steak knife’ – who he is, why he became the Brits leading tout, and what his role was must be kept secret at all costs.

    Maria MaGuire must known alot about it all, even if she didn’t participate in the actual murder of the Fusiliers – what you originally denied as even being possible.

  • Brian Walker

    Get back to the thread please or wrap up, please. The last string of comment is a niggle match based on a case mistaken identity.

  • Rory Carr

    No, Brian, this particular contretempts arose from OC‘s misreading of your direct (but unattributed) lift from another source which, confusingly but perhaps understandibly, fuelled OC‘s prejudices which then led on to Trowbridge’s mistaken understanding of Maria McGuire’s role in a particular incident which I thought it best to correct.

    And so I did.

    I will now leave all the difficulties with you as the author of the thread – unless I have mistakenly so identified you.

    Good bloody luck.

  • OC

    “…fuelled OC‘s prejudices…”

    And what “prejudices” might that be?