Baby P social services boss Sharon Shoesmith enrols on PhD course... to learn how to cope with 'unpalatable truths'
Back to college: Sharon Shoesmith says she is trying to move on
The disgraced ex-head of children’s social services at the heart of the
Baby P scandal is to study for a PhD in which she will examine ‘how society copes with unpalatable truths’.
Sharon Shoesmith, who was sacked from Haringey Council after then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls demanded her removal live on television, has said she is turning to academic research because the aftermath of the horrific case has left her unemployable.
In a self-pitying interview, she continues to deny responsibility and claims she needs to find ‘some way of living my life knowing I wasn’t blamed for the brutal murder of a child’.
But the area she has chosen to research will inevitably fuel accusations she considers herself a victim of the scandal.
Ms Shoesmith, 58, has been highly critical of the public’s response to the tragic death of Peter Connelly – known as Baby P – and has described the outcry as ‘absurd’.
She has maintained her innocence after the social work department she led was found to have missed dozens of opportunities to intervene in Peter’s care before he died, despite evidence he was being mistreated.
Ms Shoesmith will begin studying for her £5,000-a-year doctorate at the University of London after completing a postgraduate certificate in psychotherapy later this month.
If she completes the course, which can take up to five years, she will be entitled to call herself Dr Shoesmith.
Ms Shoesmith said: ‘I can’t get a job. I’m unemployed and unemployable. But you can’t stop me using my brain. I’m still living in a time warp because I haven’t been able to move on at all. ‘I can’t get any work, so the actions of the Secretary of State that day wiped out 35 years of a career and my future.’
The news of her academic ambitions has caused dismay among child safety campaigners.
Claude Knights, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: ‘This could be interpreted as a cathartic exercise in relation to her ongoing fight to clear her name regarding
the horrific events leading to Peter Connelly’s murder.
Scandal: Tragic toddler Peter Connelly
‘We have to ask if someone who was at the forefront of discovering how society copes with unpalatable truths could obtain closure from the studies that she is planning.
There will certainly be no closure for baby Peter.’ Ms Shoesmith was sacked from her £130,000-a-year post in December 2008 after a damning report found her team repeatedly failed to take Baby P into care despite evidence of abuse.
Mr Balls invoked rarely used powers to order her removal.
The toddler died in 2007 after suffering horrendous injuries inflicted by his mother, her lover and their lodger.
But Ms Shoesmith tries to divert attention away from her own role in the scandal in the interview by claiming that Mr Balls put children at risk by placing the blame for the
Baby P case with social workers.
Many staff left Haringey Council as a result of the case and she says: ‘It was absolutely clear to me the devastation that was going to cause [to the social work profession].
‘Children were never so at risk in Haringey as they were from that day because of the exodus of staff.’
She reveals her fellow directors at Haringey Council signed and sent her a ‘Thinking of you’ card – five days after she was sacked and two days before her dismissal hearing. She says this was ‘confusing to say the least’.
In the interview, published in this week’s edition of magazine Children & Young People Now, she complains that being blamed for the scandal put her own life at risk.
Ms Shoesmith, who is taking her legal fight over the decision to sack her without compensation to the Court of Appeal, said: ‘Public accountability for me was police officers in my bedroom screwing down the windows.
‘It was me being advised about my safety on the streets of London.
‘Public accountability was, I think, putting our lives at risk.’
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