Moira Gibb – her views on physical punishment, response to Kensington and Chelsea abuse, and child deaths in Camden under her watch

Today in The Telegraph it has been reported that Dame Moira Gibb, a newly appointed member of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is close friends with Gerry Malone, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Leon Brittan in 1985, when the latter was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and then a government whip. Malone, who served as MP for Aberdeen South from 1983 to 1987, then for Winchester from 1992 to 1997 (during which time he served as Minister of State for Health under Virginia Bottomley from 1994), was in between his two periods in Parliament editor of the Sunday Times in Scotland; he was a close friend of main editor Andrew Neill. After leaving Parliament for the second time, he became editor of the European and was forced to make a public apology for hitting the paper’s features editor, Nicola Davidson, around the head when she rebuffed a drunken sexual advance.
Here I reproduce some articles which make clear her support for parents being allowed to smack their children, into her responses to children having been kept in slave-like conditions in Kensington and Chelsea Council, and in particular to reports of the deaths of two children under her watch as Chief Executive of Camden Council.

The Guardian
, September 24th, 1998
Clare Dyer and Sarah Hall, ‘Minister pledges to spare the rod but draw a line’
EVEN before the case of A, the nine-year-old beaten by his stepfather with a 3ft garden cane, reached the European Court of Human Rights yesterday, the Government accepted it would have to change the law on a parent’s right to physically punish their child.
But as Paul Boateng, the junior health minister, pledged to tighten legislation, debate raged over the thorny issue of where to draw the line. Should all forms of physical punishment be banned? Was smacking all right?
The ruling does not require all physical punishment to be banned. And the Government, while promising to consult parents as well as lawyers, is keen to strike a balance – outlawing brutal beatings while preserving parents’ rights to smack and administer physical chastisement. “This government believes in parental discipline,” Mr Boateng said within hours of the judgment. “Smacking has a place within that, and our law will not change in order to outlaw (it).”
But child welfare organisations – including the NSPCC, Save the Children, National Children’s Bureau, Barnado’s, and the British Association of Social Workers – together with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, believe the definition should be more stringent. Children should be given the same protection as adults against assault, they argue. All corporal punishment should be outlawed.
At present, British law – dating from 1860 – allows parents and others in loco parentis who are charged with assault to defend themselves by asserting that they practised “reasonable chastisement”. Under this get-out, juries often acquit parents who belt and cane their children, producing bruises, welts and scars. In the case of A, the stepfather was found not guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm.
In the run-up to yesterday’s hearing at the Strasbourg court, the Home Office offered to alter the law to incorporate the European Convention’s wording that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”. It argued that juries should be allowed to interpret this in line with social mores. But A’s lawyers said this offered insufficient protection against parental beatings.
A 140-strong alliance of children’s welfare groups argued yesterday that the only way to avoid parental beatings was to ban corporal punishment outright. But it stressed that the new move – backed by the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse – would not prevent gentle smacking because, as with adult victims, only those committing serious assaults would be prosecuted.
The alliance said: “While technically this would criminalise any assault of a child, trivial assaults, like (those) between adults, would not be prosecuted. It would, on the other hand, ease prosecution in serious cases, and eliminate dangerous confusion.”
Save the Children, went further. “We think all physical punishment should be outlawed,” said spokeswoman Joanne Bailey. “How can you build a non-violent society, and teach children to respect each other’s physical integrity if you hit them?”
She said that in countries which banned all physical punishment against children, levels of violence against them were lower than in the UK, there were fewer prosecutions for violence and fewer children in care.
The British Association of Social Workers also took a rigorous line, insisting that the only occasion when smacking was allowed was when guarding a child from danger. Chris Andrews, of the association’s children and families’ subcommittee, said: “Clearly, a law would have to be very carefully worded and framed so you don’t have parents fearing they can’t restrain their children.”
He added that, with the banning of corporal punishment in schools, children’s homes and foster homes, teachers and child care workers had succeeded in finding alternative forms of discipline.
But Moira Gibb, of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said: “Of course it’s permissable to smack children – the vast majority of parents do – but we have to make a distinction between a quick tap on the bottom and beating.”
She argued that there was a need to strike a balance between protecting children’s rights and ensuring parents adequately disciplined their child. “Personally, I am not in favour of smacking but there are a lot worse things . . . Not being properly disciplined is a lot more damaging for a child in the long run.”
She also warned that legislation should not be rushed through in a frenzied reaction to yesterday’s ruling. “We have to hang on to the generalities rather than the individual cases such as this one, and not have a knee-jerk reaction. What we need is a law which moves forward people’s thinking – and creates a culture in which violence against children isn’t accepted – rather than simply protects the very small number of children that are going to be beaten.
“Most parents smack their children and we will only improve that situation if we spend time re-educating them, giving them other tools to discipline their children, before introducing laws.”
A consultation paper, outlining options, will now be published by the Government. One possibility is to ban punishment causing actual bodily harm.

The Guardian
, December 17th, 1999
Vikram Dodd, ‘Children used as slave labour at care home, says inquiry’
Claims that children in the care of Kensington and Chelsea council who were sent to a home in the country were physically and sexually abused are almost certainly true, an investigation concluded yesterday.
A report into the privately run Barlavington Manor care home also found that staff used children as virtual slave labour to support their own affluent lifestyles and that girls as young as nine were put on the pill.
The home in West Sussex received children in the care of Kensington and Chelsea council between 1966 and 1984. Allegations from 12 former residents triggered the inquiry, chaired by the former social services chief, Keith Bilton.
He found the claims were ‘in all probability substantially true’ and that Barlavington Manor had been unsuitable to care for children.
The home was run by John and Anna Ellis, both of whom have since died. The report concludes that they and several members of staff were unfit to look after children.
Barlavington Manor was run in a ‘very Upstairs Downstairs’ way, said the report, with the proprietors living in style upstairs and the children living in servants’ quarters.
Complaints by former residents, most of whom had spent their entire childhood there, included being made to watch blue movies by staff during a holiday.
Several also said they were strapped in their beds at night and were sometimes pulled from them in the middle of the night by their hair to scrub floors.
Other allegations include the verbal humiliation of children, low standards of food and clothing, money meant for the children being used for staff to support their own lifestyle, using children as unpaid or low paid labour, and discouraging children from contacts with their families.
A former resident, now aged 33, said he suffered beatings and abuse on a regular basis.
He said of Kensington and Chelsea social services: ‘It is obvious your department has been fooled and deceived into believing that Barlavington was not only an adequate home but some sort of flagship for the social services, when in fact it was a hotbed of abuse, neglect and brutality.’
Allegation of sexual abuse included a male staff member sexually abusing a boy, and four girls being indecently assaulted by a staff member’s husband, who was an approved ‘social uncle’.
Many of those who were subjected to the regime had their lives blighted or ruined, the report concludes.
One former resident said: ‘I just haven’t functioned as an adult at all. I haven’t kept a job for more than six months and I have been in and out of hospital and on medication.’
While the children lived in poor conditions, staff took up to three expensive holidays a year, entertained lavishly and drove luxury cars including a Porsche, a Jensen and a BMW.
Following a police investigation into the claims of abuse, the crown prosecution service decided not to launch any prosecutions.
Richard Walker-Arnott, deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, said: ‘This council accepts this report and its conclusions. I would like to express my profound regret that people suffered as they did at Barlavington Manor.’
Those who suffered abuse are considering suing the council. Barlavington Manor ceased to be a care home in 1984.
Kensington and Chelsea’s director of social services, Moira Gibb, said the events had to be be seen in the context of the attitudes of the time.
The Conservative leader, William Hague, yesterday called for the running of children’s homes to be taken away from local authorities and given to charities, churches and business.
He told a social workers’ conference in London: ‘The body which decides who is put in care and when and how they can leave it should not be the same body which also runs the vast majority of care homes in this country.’

Sunday Mirror
, February 20th, 2000
Carole Malone, ‘Adoption Idiots and Damn Silly Questions’
CARA is black, single and a successful career woman who, after years of having her life picked over by Social Services idiots who say they’re desperate for black parents, has finally been given the go-ahead to adopt a child.
However, the adoption people say she can’t have a child until she gets a two -bedroomed flat. And the housing people say she can’t have a two-bedroomed flat until she has a child.
So pardon me if I laugh when Tony Blair says he has launched a radical overhaul of the adoption laws in the wake of the Clwyd child abuse scandal which he claims will make it easier for people to adopt.
How can he make it easier for people to adopt when prospective parents are still subjected to the kind of inquisition too ludicrous even for a Brian Rix farce?
One woman who has been trying to adopt for years told me this week she and her husband had been asked by Social Services to write an essay on the wet dreams and sexual fantasies they had as 15-year-olds.
Another couple were told they wouldn’t make good parents because their house was too tidy and they were too ambitious. And one prospective dad was asked if he was promiscuous in the Sixties, and when he said “No” was told “Oh well, you obviously weren’t capable of forming relationships in the context of your own time.”
Is it any wonder there are 54,000 kids in this country trapped in the care system – thousands of whom are being abused as we speak – and only 2,500 are adopted each year?
Of course, it isn’t. Not when the idiots running the adoption show are asking decent people wanting to adopt kids damn silly questions. And when people like Moira Gibb, President of the Association of Directors of Social Services, goes on the BBC to talk about the adoption system and justifies its sorry state by saying: “Well, we are in the business of disappointment.”
All I can say to Ms Gibb is – you damn well shouldn’t be. In fact, you shouldn’t be in the child care business at all if that’s what you believe.
Surely it is part of Moira Gibb’s job to convince those kids in care that she’s in the business of hope, NOT disappointment. Because while they’re being buggered and raped and bashed about by the people whose job it is to protect them they have to cling to the belief that some day, some way, there will be a way out. Because if there isn’t what’s to stop those abused kids in Clwyd or Lambeth or Merseyside – or in any of the cities where investigations are pending – sidling off into a corner and just slitting their wrists?
It’s no big surprise that Social Services only manage to place 2,500 kids a year when gloomy people like Ms Gibb are in positions of power.
In Britain there are more than 100 adoption departments within local authorities and a couple of dozen independent adoption societies, yet between the whole useless lot of them they can’t find homes for more than 2,500 kids a year.
If I had a pound this week for every local authority bozo who has tried to justify the pitiful state of our care system with patronising trash like ” We must not be complacent, but the system is improving ” I could go to Barbados for a month.
The system isn’t bloody improving – not when paedophiles are worming their way into positions of responsibility in care homes and when the latest figures show there could be as many as 11,000 kids in care being abused at this moment.
And there are other statistics just as horrifying – the fact that FOUR IN TEN girls who come out of the care system either have been – or are – pregnant. And boys coming out are 50 TIMES more likely to go to prison than those in stable families.
If Tony Blair is serious about overhauling the adoption system – and I’m not convinced, as the review has been under way for 18 months with nothing to show for it – he has got to act now because as things stand it can take a decent couple up to five years to adopt a child.
And while prospective parents must be properly assessed, let’s not keep them hanging about for years during which we make them regret ever wanting to love or help any child.
The present system of caring for Britain’s disadvantaged kids is nothing short of criminal. And let’s not pretend to be surprised by what’s happened in Clwyd.
For the past 20 years successive Governments have been reigning over a residential care system that damages more children than it helps. There have been too many reports, too many damaged children, too much abuse for Tony Blair to throw his hands up in horror and pretend to be surprised.
If this Government does nothing else, it must protect these children.
If it doesn’t, the next generation is doomed.

The Mirror
, February 12th, 2009
Andrew Gregory, ‘Baby P Task Force Chief in Tot Death Blunder; Exclusive Child Tragedy’
THE leader of the Baby P taskforce has been linked to an infant death tragedy.
Moira Gibb was appointed by the Government to lead a social services probe following the death of 17-month-old Baby P.
Yesterday it emerged she was in charge of a council when a two-month-old died in similar circumstances a year earlier.
Rhys Biggs suffered broken ribs at the hands of his crackaddict mum Claire Biggs, 27. Incredibly, she had been known to social services for five years. It also emerged her other child had been taken into care when she was 19 and homeless.
But Rhys was never put on the at-risk register. Social workers arranged to visit him but Biggs dodged appointments.
Ms Gibb was chief executive of Camden council in London, responsible for Rhys’s welfare, when he died in May 2006.
Yesterday the council said it was “sorry” for what happened.
A serious case review into his death is to be published after Biggs, of Newham, East London, is sentenced next month.
Baby P died after months of abuse by his mum, her lover and their lodger, despite being seen 60 times by social workers.
The taskforce chaired by Ms Gibb is to report to Children’s Secretary Ed Balls this summer.

The Evening Standard
, February 13th, 2009
Tim Ross, ‘Abuse Death Questions for Head of Baby P Taskforce
THE woman leading the Baby P taskforce faces questions after two children died from abuse on her watch, the Evening Standard can reveal.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls appointed Moira Gibb from Camden council to review social services across England in the wake of the Baby P scandal. But a series of failings by Ms Gibb’s social workers in two separate cases raised concerns over her suitability for the role.
An Evening Standard investigation found that four inquiries have been held into the death or serious harm of a child from suspected abuse or neglect in Camden in the past five years.
Among the victims was a six-year-old girl, Ukleigha Batten-Froggatt, who was murdered in 2005 by her mother’s boyfriend, despite being placed on Camden’s child protection register. Her mother was also killed in the attack.
Shortly after the case, Ms Gibb announced a re-structuring of children’s services in Camden “to improve the welfare of all children”.
But the following year, two-month-old Rhys Biggs died after suffering “horrific” abuse, including numerous fractured ribs, a broken arm and shoulder. Social workers failed to check the police records of his mother’s boyfriend, who was revealed as a convicted child sex attacker with a “troubled” past.
The death of Rhys provoked a fresh outcry over the failure of social workers and health staff to protect vulnerable children from abuse.
It followed the case of 17-month-old Baby P in Haringey, who suffered months of abuse and neglect, with at least 50 injuries including a broken back. Despite being seen 60 times by health and social workers, Baby P was found dead in his cot in 2007. In the row that followed, Mr Balls appointed Ms Gibb to lead the taskforce to investigate the problems social workers face and propose reforms.
But Haringey’s MP, Lynne Featherstone, questioned the appointment of Ms Gibb in light of the other cases in Camden. “This is concerning information,” she said.
“It must, unfortunately, put a question mark over Ed Balls’s choice. He should look into the background here so we are reassured over his choice to lead the taskforce.” Ms Gibb, who has been chief executive of Camden since 2003, said she did not “seek” the role but was asked to take it on. “I did so with a view to improving services to families and vulnerable individuals,” she said.
“I am working with colleagues nationally across a range of specialisms and expertise to make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of social work.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Balls’s department said of Ms Gibb: “Her previous work as a social worker means she is ideally placed to understand the difficult job that social workers do.”
UKLEIGHA BATTEN-FROGGATT was found smothered to death aged six on 3 March 2005 with her mother, Nicole Batten, who was stabbed. Ms Batten’s boyfriend, Mark Nicholas, a convicted robber, was jailed for the killings.
Ukleigha was on Camden’s child protection register because of fears over her mother’s drinking and drug abuse.
The serious case review into her death found there had been “clear cause for concern” about the family.
As family history of domestic violence and drugs were a key concern. The review did not find that individual members of staff had been “negligent”.
But “all agencies should have adopted a more challenging approach”. Social services should have been quicker to respond to concerns raised by Ukleigha’s school, it said.
RHYS BIGGS died on 8 May 2006, aged eight weeks.
His mother Claire Biggs and her boyfriend Paul Husband were convicted of child cruelty charges this week.
But Camden social workers failed to check Husband’s police record, which includes a conviction in Scotland for a serious sex assault on a child. Various agencies knew Biggs had started a relationship with Husband but failed to tell social workers.
A review into Rhys’s death found his safety should have been considered before he was even born because of his mother’s record as a former crack cocaine addict and rough sleeper. Social workers took an “over optimistic” view of her parenting abilities and should have been challenged.

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