Graphs in a crisis
Sharon Shoesmith, the former director of Haringey council executive who was sacked over the Baby P case, spoke to Jenni Murray on Radio 4's Woman's Hour this weekend. During the interview, she denied "handing out" or "waving" any graphs showing how well her department was doing at the press briefing following the tragedy on 11 November last year.
I was there (see above) and I was struck by the refusal of Haringey social services to apologise and by the fact that I and other journalists were given graphs and information with the following bullet points:
• Haringey Children's Social Care achieves high performance
• Significant improvement over 5 years
• Graphs below illustrate this
Whoever did hand them out, the graphs were not a media invention; nor was the "Background Information" paper [83Kb PDF] which begins with the claim that Ofsted had "judged that a good service was being delivered to children and young people".
When Ms Shoesmith says that "the press briefing was an absolute disaster", she is quite right. The impression left on the journalists present that grim afternoon was of a council that was there to defend its record, rather than to make a public apology for its failings.
This is a stark warning to all officials: that you may receive training and rehearsals in a crisis, but end up creating a far worse impression if you are seen to have lost sight of your humanity.