Baby P – any lessons for social housing?

Back in October all the serious case reviews for the Baby P case were published – you can get copies of everything from the article here.

Somewhat belatedly, I thought I’d blog a few thoughts.

Firstly, the initial serious case review didn’t mention housing or Supporting People funded support at all. To my mind that’s one of it’s most serious gaps. The second serious case review only mentions housing and the SP funded support in passing and does not give it much weight at all.

It’s not entirely clear in the second serious case review but I think the family lived in four seperate homes in a few years, probably all with social landlords, all but the last temporary accommodation arranged by Haringey. The family must have had substantial and regular contact with Haringey’s housing options team over a long period.

It’s not clear if the accommodation was with one or many social landlords. Only one is named – Pathmeads HA – because they started eviction proceedings. My feeling is a range of landlords were involved. I don’t know of any dedicated social housing temporary accommodation which doesn’t have some support arrangements but these are not mentioned.

There are consistent housing issues mentioned in the second serious case review, particularly the state of the family home. There are two mentions of problems of dog urine in the home. At one point a social worker banned the dogs from the home and there is discussion of this. At no point is there any discussion within the second review of whether or not these housing related concerns were passed to the landlord. For example, a landlord would be likely to have a view on their property being neglected and a tenant having pets without permission.

The key issue that led to Baby P’s death was the presence in the home of a violent man. Again, who lives in social housing is a housing issue. There is nothing to indicate the review board even thought to ask the housing options team or any social landlords what they knew of the composition of the household.

I’m genuinely shocked at how little housing gets a look in in either case review. In particular the second review is very clear in calling for people to be more authoritiative and demanding with clients in similar situations. A housing provider is very much in a position to make and enforce decisions, and in particular offer the carrot and stick of a permanent housing allocation to those in temporary accommodation. Something the review board chose to ignore or simply didn’t think of.

Secondly it’s striking how many different organisations were involved:

  • London Ambulance Service
  • Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust
  • North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
  • The Whittington Hospital HNS Trust
  • The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust
  • Haringey Children and Young People’s Services
  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • The EPIC Trust and Family Welfare Association (housing and family support service HARTS)
  • Two schools
  • Haringey Legal Services
  • Haringey’s Strategic and Community Housing (the Housing Options team?)
  • Pathmeads Housing Association
  • other landlords?
  • Family friend paid by Social Services to look after Baby P for a short period

Every one of these organisations was paid for by and carrying out work on behalf of the state. And yet clearly it is going to be impossible, simply impossible, for all of them to say in contact and share complete and accurate information about a particular client. But that’s what the second serious case review board seems to expect.

The review documents some good information sharing, but also lots of misunderstandings, non-attendence at meetings, flawed paperwork, different meanings in language, failure to communicate and so on. All the stuff that’s inevitable when staff working for about fifteen different organisations try to co-ordinate.

The elephant in the room that both serious case reviews ignore is the impossibility of accurate and complete joint working when so many clients are having contact with so many different organisations.


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