Policies - Accountability - Hodging the Issues
Mrs Hodge made her political reputation at Islington,
where she was leader
for 10 years from 1982. A moderniser before New Labour was
created, she was
a close neighbour of Tony Blair. Her second husband, Henry
Hodge, was a
solicitor who gave Cherie Blair her first brief as a barrister.
leader of Islington Council during a period when Islington
schools sank ever
lower - she was much critised when against Labour Party policy
she paid for
her own kids to be educated in private schools outside Islington.
in charge, Islington schools practiced equal opportunity measures
sat in the back of class rooms during math lessons in order
to raise girls'
standards in maths. Today the performance of boys in Islington
Islington Council was in the forefront of radical
transformation of local
government. The red flag was flown over the town hall when
communism was falling apart. Grants were given to purchase
gym mats for
lesbian groups, and the council was ideologically committed
to a pro-gay
employment policy. At the same time the council pushed ahead
scale spending that forced the council to enter into massive
arrangements, making Islington one of the most indebted councils
in the UK.
MARGARET HODGE last night bowed to the demands
of the child abuse victim she
previously described as "disturbed" as she fought
to save her ministerial
In an attempt to retain her job as the Government's
Children's Minister, Mrs
Hodge has agreed to make a full public apology in court to
Panton, who is now a government consultant, to pay his legal
costs and to
make a donation to charity.
After talks lasting several hours between lawyers
representing both sides,
Mrs Hodge delivered a statement that amounted to a capitulation
Panton's wishes. She concluded that, however humiliating the
full response to his demands was the only way of removing
the cloud over her
future and stopping him from asking for more concessions.
She said that a statement would be made in court
reiterating the apology
that she had made to Mr Panton last Friday. She had also agreed
to make a
donation of £10,000 to the National Association for
the Care and
Resettlement of Offenders. Finally she had agreed to meet
Mr Panton's legal
costs. Ministerial sources refused to disclose the size of
the bill, but a
figure of £20,000 would not be surprising.
Although colleagues believe that Mrs Hodge has
made mistakes in her handling
of the matter, there has been growing sympathy over the past
48 hours for
the way that she has been forced to "grovel" to
avoid being plunged into a
legal battle that would undoubtedly have meant the end of
After her original apology, Mr Panton, 35, who
was abused in an Islington
care home as a boy, called on Mrs Hodge to pay £10,000
to a charity or be
Tony Blair has continued to offer his full support
to Mrs Hodge, who is a
strong Blairite. Aides say that he believes she is a good
should not be hounded out.
But he believes that she made a mistake in writing
to Gavyn Davies, the BBC
chairman, to try to discourage the corporation from pursuing
investigation into her role as leader of Islington council
in the aftermath
of a 1970s child abuse scandal.
Last night Mr Panton said: "I am delighted
that Mrs Hodge has met all my
requests. I'm really proud of what I have achieved."
Thousands of parents who had children taken
away from them on the evidence
of the controversial paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow
will not have
Ministers are to review as many as 5,000 civil
cases of families affected
over the past 15 years by Prof Meadow's now-discredited theory
Syndrome By Proxy. This accused mothers of harming their children
attention to themselves.
Many mothers say that they have been vindicated
in their insistence that
they were wrongly accused and now want their children back.
Margaret Hodge, the minister for children, has ruled out any
In an interview with The Telegraph, Mrs Hodge
said that it would be wrong to
raise the hopes of the families torn apart by the doctor's
theory. It was
called into question following three major miscarriages of
and is being investigated by the General Medical Council.
Mrs Hodge said that the exact number of civil
cases where Prof Meadow's
theory had been used to remove children from mothers was unknown,
run into "thousands or even tens of thousands".
She added, however: "If a miscarriage of
justice was made 10 or 15 years
ago, what is in the child's interest now? If the adoption
order was made on
the back of Meadow's evidence and that was 10 years ago, what
is in the real
interest of the child? If they were taken as babies the only
know is the adopted one. It is incredibly difficult. It is
a really tough
call to make.
"The sort of families that are coming forward
are heartbroken families. But
if the child was adopted at birth the sensible thing to do
is to let it
stay. As children's minister my prime interest has to be the
Mrs Hodge made clear that whatever she decided,
those families who thought
they had been wronged could go back to the family court.
"What is clear is that any parent who feels
that a judgment was made on the
back of evidence from Meadow would be entitled to go back
to the courts and
try to have the case reopened and would be eligible for legal
said. "They can come forward and say there is new evidence."
She would not, however, issue guidance that
all children in such
circumstances should be returned.
"This is where we are hitting an increasingly
difficult dilemma," she
admitted. It would not be possible simply to "turn the
Prof Meadow's theory was discredited following
the cases of three mothers
who were wrongly accused of killing their children on his
Clark was cleared on appeal, Trupti Patel was acquitted and
who was jailed in 2002 for murdering her two baby sons, had
quashed last December. On that occasion, three High Court
judges said some
of the professor's evidence was "simply wrong".
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is examining
a further 250 criminal
trials involving Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy, to see whether
imprisoned for murdering their babies might be innocent.
Mrs Hodge is likely to ask local authorities
to search through their records
to find all family law cases involving Meadow. Some campaigners
that 5,000 children were taken into care because of Prof Meadow.
In these civil cases, children were taken from
their mothers on a balance of
probability that they were harming them or might harm them
in the future. In
criminal cases, harm has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Another option being considered by Mrs Hodge
is to appoint a judge to trawl
through the records of each authority to identify possible
justice, but this would prove costly. In addition, the Government
Prof Meadow to surrender all his notes and files.
Mrs Hodge said that the enormity of the problem
and the complexities facing
her could not be underestimated. In many cases it would be
difficult to prove that Prof Meadow had been central to the
decision to take
the children away. Even if some children were shown to have
been taken away
unjustly it would not be a simple matter of returning them.
Addressing the question of the reliability of
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy,
Mrs Hodge said: "The whole issue is a crucial one of
whether this is a
She said she would wait for the verdict of the
General Medical Council and
the Court of Appeal, but one option would be to set up an
panel to review the theory, which is used as a diagnosis throughout
Mrs Hodge said a further problem was the issue
of compensation. As well as
mothers suing their local authorities for taking their children
could be young adults who may sue for the loss of family life.
She said that she hoped that if it was not possible
to reconcile families
formally they would at least be helped to establish contact
with each other
in the way adopted children sometimes seek to do now.
"The Government is not running away from
this issue," Mrs Hodge insisted. "I
hope the families understand that these are really, really
decisions we have to take."
Her decision will be influenced heavily by the
judgment of the Court of
Appeal and by the General Medical Council, where Prof Meadow
of serious professional misconduct. The hearing is likely
to take place in
the autumn and he faces a ban from practising.
Families whose lives have been blighted by his
theory reacted with
disappointment yesterday to Mrs Hodge's view that they were
unlikely to get
their children back.
A mother whose eight-year-old child was taken
from her seven years ago after
social workers suspected that she was suffering from Munchausen
Proxy said: "Something has to be done by the Government.
It is vindictive.
They suspect you of this thing and it gets out of hand and
you can't stop
The woman, who is 50, cannot be named for legal
reasons. She added: "What
gets me is it was enough for them just to suspect me of Munchausen's
my daughter away. If I protest or dispute the evidence they
say I'm lying
and that proves I've got Munchausen's because lying is one
of the symptoms.
That's how it works."
Asked if any 'developments' relating to Margaret Hodge's position
expected today, the PMOS said no. Asked if Mrs Hodge had been
in touch with
the Prime Minister today, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman
said no, although she would be in Downing Street later this
afternoon for a
long-standing meeting with the heads of the five largest children's
charities - Barnado's, National Children's Bureau, National
Homes, Save the Children and the NSPCC. They would be discussing
Children's Green Paper which had been published earlier this
consultation period for which ran until the end of this month.
the meeting was taking place in Downing Street, the PMOS said
it was because
the Prime Minister would be attending. In answer to further
the meeting and Mrs Hodge, the PMOS said he thought what he
answered the question. It was clearly business as usual for
and she was getting on with doing her job.
Asked if the Prime Minister was aware of any
advice that had been given to
Mrs Hodge regarding any legal action she might or might not
be facing, the
PMOS said that as far as we were concerned, she was getting
on with carrying
out her role as Children's Minister. She had been in Birmingham
morning and would be in Downing Street this afternoon.
Asked how the Prime Minister rated Mrs Hodge's
performance as Children's
Minister, the PMOS said that she would not be doing the job
unless the Prime
Minister had confidence in her ability to do it. Asked if
Minister had full confidence in Mrs Hodge, the PMOS said yes.
to whether the Prime Minister and Charles had discussed Mrs
their joint visit to Southwark today, the PMOS said he had
no doubt that
they would have discussed a whole range of issues. He had
not had, nor
sought, a readout.
Asked if Mrs Hodge had cleared her letter to
the Chairman of the BBC with
Downing Street, the PMOS said he had been asked that on Tuesday.
As he had
said, not every single piece of paper that emanated from Government
Departments necessarily crossed every desk in Downing Street.
Prime Minister's thoughts on the letter, the PMOS said that
for the Prime Minister was whether he had confidence in a
Minister to carry
out his or her responsibilities. The fact that he would be
meeting with Margaret Hodge this afternoon, showed that that
was indeed the
A government minister has accused BBC Radio
4's Today of "deplorable
sensationalism" in a fresh row that threatens to widen
the rift between
Britain's most popular morning radio programme and the government.
Margaret Hodge, the controversial former head
of Islington council who was
promoted to children's minister in June, wrote to BBC chairman
to condemn an investigation by Today reporter Angus Stickler
child abuse in the London borough.
In her letter she described a child abuse victim
who spoke to Stickler as an
"extremely disturbed person" and accused Today of
being "unfair" in its
handling of the story.
Stickler began investigating Islington council's
failure to tackle
accusations of child abuse in its children's homes after a
Demetrious Panton, came forward to tell of his experiences.
Mr Panton said the council had ignored repeated
claims that he had been
abused as a child by Bernie Bain, who was the head of his
children's home in
1978. Bain has since committed suicide.
Ms Hodge, whose appointment as children's minister
earlier this year was
heavily criticised amid claims she did not do enough to tackle
of abuse in Islington children's homes, wrote to the BBC chairman
September after learning of Stickler's investigations.
She accused Today - still reeling from the public
row over its report on
government scientist David Kelly's claims about the government's
weapons dossier - of displaying "scant balance"
in previous broadcasts.
Ms Hodge asked Mr Davies to investigate her
concerns and referred to high
court proceedings issued in 1996 against Channel 4 News over
an item about
child abuse. Channel 4 apologised for its story.
The minister maintains she was never told of
Mr Panton's complaints - a
claim Today does not dispute.
But Stickler today said her letter to the BBC
chairman contained "a thinly
veiled threat of legal action" and "more seriously,
an unprecedented attack
by this country's children's minister against a former victim
"Margaret Hodge describes our investigation
as 'deplorable sensationalism'.
We, however, believe it to be a matter of public interest.
Whether she was
personally informed about this case is beside the point,"
Ms Hodge declined to be interviewed by the programme
but issued a statement
saying: "Since becoming children's minister in June,
Angus Stickler and the
Today programme have been constantly telephoning [my] friends
to drag up details of events that happened 10 years ago.
"I felt this was a concerted campaign against
me which is why I wrote a
letter I did not publish in September.
"I am taken aback that the Today programme
has chosen to make a letter that
was not for publication public. I have decided not to appear
on the Today
programme today because there is nothing new to say."
There is no evidence to support Ms Hodge's claim
that Mr Panton is
"disturbed" said Detective Superintendent John Sweeney,
who investigated Mr
Panton's original allegations.
He told Today: "I found Demetrious to be
very articulate... He had a very
measured response to what had happened. I have no doubt that
if it had got
to court we would have had a very strong case.
"I wouldn't say he was disturbed at all.
He certainly wanted justice and he
wanted to see Mr Bain in the dock in a British court. That's
Margaret Hodge came under a hail of criticism
in her first big Commons
outing as Children's Minister. A debate on child abuse was
overtaken by a
row over whether she is suitable for the job.
Tory critics seized on her record as leader
of Islington council, where
social workers warned her about abuse but she failed to take
In a series of bitter exchanges, Tory spokeswoman
Eleanor Laing said the
minister had failed to learn from her mistakes. The party's
spokesman, Tim Loughton, said the appointment was "fatally
flawed" and had
undermined government efforts to protect children.
As Ms Hodge accused her attackers of "shoddy
opportunism", Speaker Michael
Martin was forced to step in and appeal for calm.
Education Secretary Charles Clarke weighed in
behind his government
colleague, calling her "an inspired and strong choice"
for the job and
saying: "She has a long and distinguished record in the
The Commons debate last night was called by
the Tories to embarrass the
Government over its delay in publishing its Green Paper on
Downing Street has said the launch was put off
until Mr Blair could attend
it in person, but many at Westminster believe it was postponed
in the hope
that the controversy surrounding Ms Hodge's appointment would
Mr Loughton accused ministers of lacking a sense
of urgency after they
promised reforms in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbi?
He said: "What a terrible start for Ms
Hodge as the first holder of this
important, sensitive and much trumpeted post.
"We fear that the Green Paper will be further
delayed by the new Minister
being sidelined and sidetracked by having to defend herself
now the truth is
coming out about her failure to protect vulnerable children
In a direct attack on Ms Hodge's record at Islington,
Mrs Laing said: "She
says that she has learned from her mistakes. Surely one of
the main lessons
of her past is that words are not the same as actions, that
politically correct speeches does not bring results."
Mrs Laing drew anger from the Labour benches
when she said: "Islington was,
of course, the first London borough to ban fox-hunting - but
it wasn't very
good at paedophilehunting."
Counter-attacking, Ms Hodge said the personalised
attack demonstrated that
"children to the Conservatives are really not more than
political tool to be exploited to narrow political advantage".
She told Ms Laing: "I agree that actions
are more important than words.
Certainly my actions have done and will do more for children
than your words
ever can do."
Tony Blair's decision to appoint Ms Hodge Minister
for Children was
criticised after the Evening Standard produced documents which
show she was
told by social workers about child abuse in Islington two
years before she
previously claimed, but failed to take action.
She rejected pleas from the social workers who
warned her to make extra
resources available for an investigation.
At the end of the Commons debate, a Tory motion
calling for the immediate
publication of the green paper was defeated by 316 votes to
Margaret Hodge, the new minister for children,
was "woefully misguided" not
to immediately investigate a paedophile scandal in the early
London Mayor said today.
Ken Livingstone's comments come amid increasing
pressure for Mrs Hodge to be
sacked over allegations that she ignored warnings about organised
abuse while she was leader of Islington council in north London.
"I think that Margaret Hodge was fundamentally
wrong not to take the warning
that was given and investigate it immediately," he said
at his weekly press
briefing at City Hall.
"The question of whether the prime minister
thinks that is in the past or
that she has learned from it is a matter for the prime minister.
"But I think she was woefully misguided not to immediately
it was brought to her attention."
Last night the Conservatives renewed their attack
on Mrs Hodge over a speech
that she is due to make about the government's child protection
reforms at a
Local Government Association (LGA) conference later today.
In a late night point of order in the Commons,
the shadow minister for
children, Eleanor Laing, said that the speaker Michael Martin
deprecated the making of policy announcements outside parliament.
"I understand from this published agenda
that the minister for children is
due to make a speech tomorrow to the LGA on the specific subject
green paper on children at risk," she added.
Publication of the green paper has been put
back to the autumn following the
furore over Ms Hodge's appointment as children's minister.
Mrs Laing said the green paper proposals should
be brought before the
Commons to be discussed by MPs before being taken to an "outside
The deputy speaker, Sir Alan Haselhurst, added
that Mr Martin would expect
policy announcements to be made by ministers in the Commons.
He said: "Whether a green paper is to be
seen in quite the same way is a
matter of judgment, but generally speaking, Mr Speaker has
made clear that
he does expect, as far as possible, announcements to be made
in this house
rather than elsewhere."
A spokeswoman for the LGA said the conference
would discuss reforms of child
protection and other children's services in the wake of the
inquiry into the
death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbié.
She added that Mrs Hodge was expected to talk
about children's trusts, which
will bring together local education, health and social services
single body, although the minister's spokesman at the Department
Education and Skills would not confirm this.
I am delighted that the first opportunity I
have to address an audience in
my new role as Minister for Children is a local government
audience. You are
our key partners. Working together we will develop and deliver
I am honoured to have been appointed to this
new post. I see it as an
opportunity to build on the progress of recent years; to make
difference to the lives of children and their families.
I stand ready to be judged on what I achieve.
I have spent the last fortnight working with
others and in particular with
Paul Boateng who has been leading on these issues to date,
meeting a wide
range of professionals and organisations, as we come to grips
with some of
the vital challenges we need to tackle.
And if the dreaded pager does go off in the
middle of my speech I can
promise you it won't be a pre-determined way of getting me
out of your
reach. It will be the Whips summoning me to a pretty important
vote in the
House, on Foundation Hospitals which as a member of the Government
I want to
and indeed must participate in.
However if I am called away, I promise you I
will be back, not just today,
but over the coming weeks, months and hopefully years as I
get on with doing
the job the Prime Minister asked me to do.
Originally this Conference was timed to coincide
with the publication of the
Green Paper. I am sorry if there is disappointment at the
delay. I want you
to know four things.
First, the fact that the Prime Minister wants
to be personally involved in
the launch of the document is a very good thing and something
we should all
welcome. It demonstrates his personal commitment and that
of the whole
Government to the well-being, safety, health and opportunities
In my 30 years in public life I think that is an unparalleled
Second, I want to emphasise that I have come
late to the Green Paper. The
driving force in its production has been and remains Paul
Boateng. He has
made an enormous personal commitment to the project which
must not be
Third, the extra time will enable me, having
only just arrived in post, to
talk again to all of you to ensure that I have a clear view
priorities and concerns.
Fourth and most importantly, the delay in publication
of what is indeed a
'Green' paper will not stop us taking any necessary immediate
further the interests of children.
So later this week I shall be announcing, together
with Stephen Ladyman the
first pathfinders who will be exploring ways of developing
through Children's Trusts.
Also in the next few days I will be launching
with Paul Boateng a document
consulting on our ideas on how to spend the £25 million
we have for the
Parenting Fund to support parents in their communities.
And two weeks ago I launched together with Charles
Clarke the first
Children's Centres; these are existing facilities where services
available to children across the professional divide, from
parenting support, from nursery education to community health
demonstrating in practice this Government's vision for children
My post and the new Directorate in the DfES
gives all of us who work with
and have a commitment to children, young people and their
historic opportunity (and just as an aside, I hope that I
shall be able to
use the title of Minister for Children, Young people and Families
so that I can properly reflect my job in my job title.)
I think this is the most exiting job in Government.
It firmly demonstrates
what I passionately believe to be right. That every child
every child must have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
That we can
not allow children's life chances to be blighted by the age
of five because
of where they live or where they come from. That every child
properly protected so that they are safe. And that no child
should be denied
the chance to make the most of their lives. These are the
values which will
underpin our Green Paper on Children.
These are the values that will drive our reforms
and these are the values on
which we will build a coalition of support so that every child's
I want to set out what I believe are the five
central pillars of our reform
agenda and to then touch on some of these issues.
First we shall put children at the heart of
everything we do. All our
services must be planned, developed and delivered around the
needs and wants
of children, young people and their families. We all know
that for too long,
services have been broken up in different places. Children
have not always
been put first. We can now put this right. The new job and
organisation gives us all the opportunity to transform in
a radical and
profound way the services we deliver.
We started to do this when we created Sure Start
and when we brought
together early years education, health, childcare and family
one umbrella with children's needs at the centre of everything.
In 1998 this
was seen as a revolution in children's services. In 2003 it
is a model which
is envied around the world.
Our second pillar of reform is to start early.
In the past Britain lagged
behind other countries in our investment in early years. We
that. With nearly 500 Sure Start centres, with nursery education
for all 4 year olds and most 3 year olds, with the development
funded childcare services up and down the country we are demonstrating
what we have done, the importance of the early years. We know
children's life chances are determined by what happens in
the first years of
their lives. If we are to ensure opportunity for all we must
the very best start at the beginning of their lives.
But our third pillar is to recognise that children,
young people and their
families need support throughout the time in which they grow
up and develop.
Their needs will change as they move through different ages
stages. So we will be building on what we have already done
Children's Fund, the Connexions Service, the introduction
Maintenance Allowances and other programmes. We shall plan
and deliver a
range of services which respond to individual needs and which
different help at different times.
Our fourth pillar is to ensure that running
through all our policies and all
our programmes there is a commitment and determination to
at risk and to support children with particular needs. By
making sure that
keeping children safe is at the heart of all we do we shall
support and greater certainty for those children who are at
risk of harm and
injury. We are dealing with complex issues and there are no
But in the work we do we must strive to minimise risk and
And our final fifth pillar is to strengthen
and develop services which
support parents and families in their most important job of
their children. Parents want the best for their children.
Our job is to
provide the right support at the right time in the right way.
This is in
part about building new services, like Sure Start giving help
to mums and
dads in the very first days of their children's lives. And
bringing services together under one roof in the Sure Start
Children's centre, the Extended School centre. Too many parents
get lost in
the system; there are too many hoops through which they are
forced to climb,
too much bureaucracy which grinds them down. Our job is to
change that and
to create a new settlement for children and their families
transform their lives.
All of you, whether you come from a health,
education, social services or
adult community services background have skills, knowledge
which is both relevant and important.
What we all need to do is to grasp and value that individual
expertise, but break down the traditional professional silos
inhibited professionals from talking to each other and working
That is not just absolutely vital to protect
children at risk as we learn
time and time again from the deaths of children and most recently
Laming's Inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbie.
It is equally important for all our children
if we are to enable them to
develop their full potential and grow up as happy, healthy
individuals with a positive contribution to make to society.
Of course, there is already plenty of good practice
that has developed on
the ground, across the country, much of it the result of imagination
commitment from people in local government.
There is also the experience we are gaining
from some of the national
Let me first focus again on Sure Start which
I know so well because I was
Minister for Early Years when we were developing the programme.
Sure Start is now widely acknowledged as being
an innovative and effective
intervention. By bringing together in one place all the services
impinge on a child's life in their early years, from the family
kicking in before the child is born, to the important contribution
health visitors and organisations like Home Start in the very
first days of
the child's life; from the earlier identification of a child's
in programmes like the neonatal screening programmes for hearing
early education offered by teachers often working on children's
development in integrated settings from a very early age;
childcare to programmes supporting parents; from developing
with other mums and dads to providing opportunities for work,
for lone parents to create a route for them out of poverty,
this together in one programme means that we are able to create
which is much stronger than the sum of its parts. We are able
to make a real
difference on the ground to children's life chances. And for
vulnerable, we are better able to prevent children being at
However the challenges remain huge. First we
have to see how we can
practically mainstream into all our programmes what we have
learnt works in
the targeted programmes. The opportunities we are developing
children must be available for all children. That is partly
but it is also about all of us changing the way we work and
changing the way
we use existing resources.
Secondly we know from research conducted in
America around the Head Start
programme that early interventions only work if they are of
high quality and
if they are sustained throughout a child's life.
And thirdly we know that the cultural changes
demanded of professionals to
work in these new ways is difficult and challenging. So we
proper and continuous support and training to embed the new
ways of working
in the culture of the workplace. We must value the different
different professional backgrounds, but recognise the importance
integrated multi-agency delivery.
The Government has now decided to locate a whole
range of services within
the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). I think bringing
services together in the Education department is of itself
statement. Education is the universal service which touches
every child, so
what we are saying is that we are constructing an entitlement
for all our
children and young people, a universal entitlement, into which
place the essential targeted support that some children will
because they are at risk in their home, because they have
a special need or
a disability, because they are truanting or disengaged from
training or - when they are older - work, because they have
anti-social patterns of behaviour, be it bullying or creating
chaos on the estates or in the communities in which they reside,
they have offended and have broken the law.
Providing these targeted services within a universal
context is in my view
the best way of minimizing the need for targeted intervention
support. It is about preventing the need for intervention
ensuring strong and appropriate intervention where necessary.
So in the new directorate in the DfES, we shall
bring together many existing
services; all the early years services which come under the
umbrella, the Sure Start projects, the childcare programme,
education responsibilities and the Children's Centres.
We shall incorporate all the Special Educational
Needs Division, the work on
Extended Schools, all the study support programmes, the Children's
programmes, the Connexions Service and the Youth Service.
We are bringing over into the DfES the unit
in the Home Office that has
responsibility for Family Policy and all the Government programmes
to support families. They will be brought under one roof in
directorate - including the new Parenting Fund - which gave
us new resources
to strengthen the voluntary sector support for families in
the last Spending
All the children's social services programmes
will be incorporated into the
directorate as will the Teenage Pregnancy programme and unit
previously sat in the Department of Health.
And many of the family support functions which
previously resided in the
Lord Chancellor's Department will also be integrated into
directorate. So responsibility for the Children and Family
and Support Service (CAFCASS) and the court welfare services
as well as
policy responsibility for family law will come into the directorate.
This reorganisation is a massive undertaking
and will have huge
implications. Let me say two or three things about that.
First this is NOT a takeover by the DfES. This is a genuine
break down unhelpful professional boundaries to create a better
service which values each and every individual professional
So for instance, one of my early tasks will
be to raise the status of social
work, to see how we can provide better routes and opportunities
profession, to provide an improved professional training and
offer which allows people from different backgrounds to grow
and expertise. And to grow the workforce so that children
are not left at
risk of abuse because we haven't got enough people to protect
But we also want these professionals to work
more closely with other
professionals who touch children and young people's lives.
Only when we get
better at working together across the boundaries can we be
certain that we
are making every effort to prevent tragedies like the death
Climbie occurring again.
Of course we can never say we will always prevent
the death of an innocent
child, but we must act and learn from what so many inquiries
have told us,
that sharing information and working together is critical
to ensuring that
our children are safe.
That is a key objective of the Government's reorganisation
of this will be fleshed out in the Green Paper, but the direction
The reorganisation will have a profound effect
on the DfES itself. The
presence of this new directorate will impact hugely on the
way the DfES
works and I know that Charles Clarke when he argued that we
responsible for these integrated children's services, was
very clear about
the benefit this would bring to all children, young people
I am also very conscious of the fact that the
reorganisation only affects
some services and some people. We will still have boundaries
across which we
will need to work. For instance, the whole range of community
services, from midwives to health visitors to consultant paediatricians
children's mental health services will remain with the Department
Similarly the Youth Justice Boards and the Youth Offending
Teams will remain
with the Home Office.
Ensuring we join these services at national
as well as local level is
essential. And already in my first two weeks in the job Stephen
the Department of Health and I have set up joint working arrangements
that we both own the National Standards that are being developed
children's health services. And I hope that some of the proposals
Green Paper will further support the integrated working we
However the creation of a Minister for Children
opens opportunities beyond
the boundaries of the departmental reorganisation. It enables
me to champion
children's issues across Government in a clear and focussed
way. On a whole
range of public service issues and policies my officials and
I will be able
to bring the children's perspective to bear on the debate
Of course this is not a substitute for a direct
voice for children and we
are considering how to give effect to this voice in the proposals
including in the Green Paper.
But I would find it inconceivable to do my job
without having direct access
to and knowledge of children and young people's views. The
which underpins the Government's approach to public service
predicated on our belief that we must construct services which
needs and priorities of the user, not the producer and where
the emphasis is
on the outcomes achieved, rather than the inputs provided.
services which listen, hear and understand the views of children
people is central to what we are about.
The challenges we will face are huge. Will we
have sufficient resources? How
can we use what we have to best effect? How do we build a
new culture in the
workplace where professional competition and distrust is replaced
professional collaboration and mutual respect? How do we best
new world so that within a universal offer for all children
and young people
we make sure that we provide a safe environment and protect
all the children
And we will always have some difficult judgements
to make. How do we balance
the privacy to which all families are entitled with our over-riding
protect children? How do we ensure we provide good and appropriate
for children and families without being seen as patronising
How do we promote the interests of an individual child whilst
at the same
time protecting and promoting the interests of all children?
The challenges are tough. But the opportunity is unparalleled.
With my new job, our new organisation and our proposals in
Green Paper we have the most wonderful opportunity to make
a real difference
in the lives of children.
Let's seize that opportunity with all the energy
and commitment we have and
use it to transform the future. I know that's what I intend
to do. I hope
you will work with me too in this endeavour.
The appointment of a Minister for Children was
a milestone for the
Government. It was also an acknowledgment, long overdue, of
abysmal record in protecting and enhancing the lives of its
citizens. Tony Blair's choice for this vital role has proved
controversial. The Islington child-abuse scandal, one of the
grimmest episodes, still haunts Margaret Hodge, who was council
the time. The victims, and two social workers, have, understandably,
forgotten nor forgiven.
Mrs Hodge has argued that the lessons she learned
a decade ago make her
uniquely qualified to improve the lives of children today.
are disturbing parallels between the Islington of the early
Britain at the start of the twenty-first century. Cases of
abuse are still
rife. Children's rights, as the UN has pointed out, continue
scandalously neglected by a punitive state. New problems,
such as the plight
of young refugees and an epidemic of bullying, arise while
old ones refuse
to fade away.
Last week, Mrs Hodge was expected to release
a long-delayed Green Paper on
children at risk, offering the Government's response to Lord
inquiry on the murder of Victoria Climbié. To the dismay
charities, that report has been deferred until the autumn,
when Mr Blair
will be free to share a platform with his Minister. But as
Mrs Hodge knows
well, abused youngsters do not always have the luxury of time.
The deferment raises questions far beyond Mrs
Hodge's capacity to do her
job. Putting children second to political convenience is a
dire signal from
a government that preaches reform but has always shied away
an independent Children's Commissioner who would hold it to
children's rights. In the absence of such a figure, a forceful,
strong-minded and uncompromised Minister is imperative.
No doubt Mrs Hodge sees herself as just such
a presence. As the Prime
Minister has said, she was previously an able Minister for
Early Years. We
accept that some opposition to her may be mischievous in nature
and that the
murky events in Islington look clearer through the prism of
of this alters the fact that Ms Hodge's Islington history
renders her unfit
to be in charge of 11 million children.
But this is not only about the past. Today's
children urgently need someone
to speak for them and, in extremis, to work for their survival.
Hodge is, of necessity, fighting her own corner, she is not
The events of the past week are a taste of how a tenure shadowed
controversy would look. Mrs Hodge should now put the interests
of the child
before her own and resign.
06.07.2003: Hodge vows to stay despite abuse scandal
06.07.2003: Investigation: Hodge's history
06.07.2003: Leader: Why Mrs Hodge must resign
06.07.2003: Mary Riddell: Children deserve much better
Have your say
Talk: Should Margaret Hodge resign?
Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
22.06.2003: MPs in plea for smacking ban to save children
04.05.2003: Smacking by childminders to be banned
04.05.2003: Focus: Should it be a crime to hit your child?
04.05.2003: History of punishment
04.05.2003: Leader: End this abuse
Parenting and childcare
13.04.2003: Focus: The parental advice boom
11.05.2003: Yvonne Roberts: Are you tough enough?
For much of the decade that Margaret Hodge led
Islington council in north
London she was known - without much affection - as Enver Hodge,
reference to the former dictator of Stalinist Albania.
More recently, during her two years as minister
for universities, she would
on occasion be greeted by students with cries of "Maggie
Out, Maggie Out",
the chant invented for Margaret Thatcher.
The insults have been hurled by different generations
but taken together
they reveal a perception - from her opponents - of Mrs Hodge
which sees her
as single-minded, dictatorial, and ruthless in her determination
herself on events.
That was the view of some who observed her at
Islington town hall. Clive
Blackwood, who ploughed a lonely furrow as the only Conservative
towards the end of her reign, said: "She was the original
firebrand. What she said was law on that council. She was
more a dictator
than a leader."
Mrs Hodge brought her firm brand of leadership
to the authority in 1982 when
Labour recovered from the convulsions caused by the short-lived
the SDP and took all but one of the seats.
She had a background in CND, of Aldermaston
marches and protests over the
war in Vietnam, and brought a spirit of uncompromising activism
to her work
as council leader.
She had also lived in the same Islington street
as Tony Blair, a stroke of
fortune which would serve her well later.
During her tenure there was a bust of Lenin in the town hall
and a red flag
fluttered on the roof, leading critics to rename the borough
Republic of Islington.
Stories of initiatives apparently undertaken
by the council became standard
fare for tabloids obsessed with the "loony left".
Critics seized on claims
that grants were directed towards lesbian self-defence classes
The council was said to have funded Islington
Action Group for the
Unemployed, which started an appeal for "money, food,
booze, fags, cans,
bricks" to send to striking miners. Fox hunting was banned
and the borough
passed a motion criticising Irish jokes.
But it was Islington's very public fight against
the poll tax which thrust
Mrs Hodge into the public eye. She refused to countenance
rate capping or to
cut jobs. In 1990 it emerged that only £4m from £20m
due in council tax had
David Hyams was the sole SDP councillor on the
council between 1982 and
1990. "The first time we clashed was when she tried to
ban all dealings with
the local paper, the Islington Gazette," he said. "I
said it was unlawful
and was proved right by the ombudsman.
"She also left the chairman of social services
to negotiate with the unions
despite the fact that the unions were led by his brother.
"She had her own solution to childcare
problems, of course. As services were
being cut, she was advertising in The Lady magazine for a
Mr Hyams said her leadership was a financial
disaster. "She divided the
council up into a series of 24 neighbourhood offices and that
fortune. She also cut a deal to borrow from the City to fund
are still paying for that."
Mrs Hodge was in her final year at Islington
when, on October 6 1992, under
the headline The Scandal at the Heart of Child Care, London's
Standard newspaper alleged that young people in Islington
care homes had
"descended into a life of degradation and exploitation".
It said suspected
pimps were having sex with children and that youngsters in
care were being
seduced into drugs, homosexuality and prostitution.
The Standard claimed that a 15-year-old girl
entertained men in her room for
cash. A 17-year-old girl was alleged to have brought a violent
prostitute and drug dealer into an Islington unit for teenagers,
gave her cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.
The paper described one care home where "pregnancies
and miscarriages were
routine, and police often arrested men, unofficially living
there, on drugs
and burglary offences".
Faced with blazing headlines and an outraged
public Mrs Hodge's loathing of
the press - first directed at the Islington Gazette - led
her to a fatal
mistake. She accused the Standard of publishing a "sensationalist
But it was far from that. By the time the police
and experts commissioned by
the government had investigated the affair, it was clear that
the paper was
right and she was wrong. Terrible abuses had occurred on her
She has prospered since leaving Islington in
1992 to become a private
consultant. In 1994 she became MP for Barking and has since
A good few miles separate her east London constituency
from her former
council fiefdom, but not enough to distance her from the scandal
returned to blight her ministerial career.
MARGARET HODGE is not fit for office. Not just
for her role as the
Children's Minister, but for any job in public life. Not only
Blair not have offered her this ultrasensitive new post, but
- had she any
self-respect - she should not have accepted it. This is a
defiantly ignored written warnings from her own social services
harrowing sex abuse against children in her council's care.
'This was no temporary lapse of judgment but
a calculated refusal to put the
interests of those children ahead of her political interests.'
It was not a fleeting period during which she
was distracted by other
matters but a systematic refusal to listen. Mrs Hodge was
determined not to
give an inch to critics who denounced her ramshackle council
left". The price for her defiance was the rape of ten-year-old
boys and an
introduction to prostitution for pre-teen girls who looked
to her for
protection. Other victims were used for child porn movies.
accounts of their torment would make any decent parent's blood
run cold -
let alone a mother of four like Mrs Hodge.
The psychological impact on those vulnerable
'youngsters is impossible to
imagine. All of council, to act on the advice them will be
scarred for life.
of her own whistleblowers, she Many are haunted by constant
flasbacks to the
nighmare events of their adolescent years. Mrs Hodge was not
involved in any
of these hideous events . But by refusing , as a leader of
the council, to
act on the advice of her whisleblowers, she prolonger their
of calling in the Police, she used her energies to denounce
about the scandal as "gutter jounalism". And while
she turned a blind eye,
paedophiles in positions of responsibility quietly left Islington
Child welfare experts believe many found jobs with other local
working with children.
It is astonishing that Mrs Hodge, who never
apologised directly, got away
scot free. At the very least she should have been censured
But far from being shamed, this vain and silly woman decided
something more to offer the world and stood as an MP. Indeed
she now has the
unbelievable nerve to claim her shabby experience actually
qualifies her for
her new job. But what is utterly bewildering is why her old
neighbour, Tony Blair, would give her house room.
The PM would have known the full story of the
Islington sex ring scandal.
Yet Downing Street yesterday went so far as to suggest Mrs
deserved praise for admitting - ten years late - that she
got it wrong.
"Given what she has said about the lessons she has learned,
Minister thinks she is the minister who is equipped to do
the job," said his
spokesman yesterday. With those words, Mr Blair thumbed his
nose at those
countless children who sufered so hideously under her administration.
What the public has been saying about this incompetent
'Political Correctness'. to find out click HERE
Minister for Children admits a 'lack of understanding'
when she was a
council leader but denies ignoring pleas for help.
The Tories called for the resignation of Margaret
Hodge, the minister for
Children, last night after social workers accused her of failing
one of Britain's worst child abuse scandals when she was leader
Two former officials at the London borough have
claimed publicly for the
first time that Mrs Hodge failed to back them over allegations
youngsters in care had been subjected to sex abuse. The scandal
exposed by the London Evening Standard.
Mrs Hodge admitted yesterday that she had shown
a "deep lack of
understanding" of what was happening in children's homes
run by Islington.
But she insisted she had never ignored a single allegation
of abuse against
a child and her experience in Islington made her "well
equipped" to learn
the lessons of past mistakes and apply them to her new post.
Yesterday, the Evening Standard printed a memo
from Mrs Hodge rejecting a
request for extra staff from the local office running an investigation
abuse. She also criticised social workers for alerting parents
allegations at a public meeting.
The fresh allegations prompted Eleanor Laing,
the new shadow minister for
Children, to attack Tony Blair for appointing one of his close
such a sensitive post.
"I don't see how anyone can have faith
in Margaret Hodge to do this vitally
important job properly. The allegations made today by the
Islington social workers are shocking. Islington council failed
children in its care from paedophiles, Margaret Hodge was
leader of that
council," Ms Laing said.
"She herself has accepted some responsibility
for the dreadful things that
happened. She let down those vulnerable, innocent children.
Why has Tony
Blair chosen her to speak for children now? There are hundreds
Labour MPs; couldn't he have given this responsibility to
someone who has
shown themselves worthy of it?"
One paedophile, Roy Caterer, a sports instructor
at a boarding school used
by Islington, was sent to prison for seven and a half years
seven boys and two girls. In 1995, an independent investigation
criticised the "chaotic" organisation of the council
and its "conditions for
dangerous and negligent professional practices in relation
to child care".
When the Evening Standard first exposed the
scandal, Mrs Hodge, who led
Islington from 1982 to 1992, originally attacked it for "gutter
But by 1995, she said: "I accept responsibility. I was
leader of the council
at the time."
Yesterday the newspaper identified the two whistleblowers
who revealed the
failures at Islington, as well as one of the victims of sex
Michael Fitch, who was subjected to abuse by
Caterer while in Islington's
care, also called on Mrs Hodge to quit. "That woman.
Get her out of there.
She shouldn't be minister for Children. I'd like to tell her
to her face,"
Mrs Hodge, whose new ministerial role gives
her sweeping powers over child
policy, including abuse cases, yesterday said that she "deeply
the abuse of children by her staff. "I've had 12 years
to think about those
issues, to read about them, to talk to people about them,
to learn about
them," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"I think that equips me better than most,
having been through that
experience, in thinking about how we now create a safe environment
children at risk, and really put the children at the heart
of all the
policies and the structures that we develop.
"There were terrible things happening in
children's homes, and I deeply,
deeply, deeply regret it. Never a month goes by when I don't
But she added: "Of course it was happening
in Islington, but there were 500
investigations going on into children's homes across the country.
there was a deep lack of understanding, by myself, by the
by policy makers, by all of us as to actually the state of
happening in children's homes."
Mrs Hodge stressed that whenever an allegation
was brought to her attention,
the council investigated it and in some cases called in the
can't find an easy quick fix to these issues. But have I learnt?
Of course I
have. And I'll bring that experience to bear in how we now
those services for children," she said.
Mr Fitch, who was identified as "Dean"
in the original Standard stories, was
in care from the age of nine to 19, the latter half during
reign. He twice tried to tell Islington social services that
he was being
abused by Caterer at Shepall Manor Special School in Stevenage.
took me to the woods at the back of the school one lunchtime
and had sex
with me," Mr Fitch said. "Afterwards, he showed
me a nine-foot pit he had
dug and told me, 'If you tell anybody I'll bury you alive'.
terrified." Despite the threats, he went to the headteacher
but was ignored.
When back in Islington in the school holidays, he "begged"
not to send him back. "But nothing was done."
Even after he left the school and went to a
care home in Islington, Caterer
continued to visit him. Again, he told social workers he was
and again they "did nothing".
"Nothing I told them seemed to make an
impression. I realised that to them I
was meaningless. That's when I started to cut my arm with
a knife," Mr Fitch
said. Mr Fitch's eight-year-old brother, Doug, was subsequently
Caterer. Mr Fitch now takes antidepressants, is plagued by
panic attacks and insomnia. He has tried to commit suicide
more than a dozen
1982 Margaret Hodge becomes Islington council leader. Forms
Tony Blair, at one stage living a few doors away.
February 1990 Liz Davies and David Cofie, senior
social workers, discover
evidence of sex abuse of children and report it to a residents'
attended by Mrs Hodge.
May 1990 Mr Cofie and Ms Davies are told by
Lyn Cusack, assistant director
of social services, to stop interviewing children about the
1991 Roy Caterer, a sports instructor at a boarding
school used by
Islington, arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing seven
boys and two
October 1992 Mrs Hodge steps down as council leader.
February 1994 Mrs Hodge accepts there was abuse,
blaming her initial
response on officials' "misleading information".
May 1995 Report says Islington's ideological
policies stopped complaints
being investigated. Mrs Hodge says: "Of course I accept
was leader of the council at the time."
1 May 1997 Tony Blair moves from Islington to
June 2003 Mrs Hodge made minister for Children.
Tony Blair was under pressure last night to
sack Margaret Hodge as minister
for children after less than three weeks in the job amid new
claims that she
failed to confront a child abuse scandal in the early 1990s.
The Conservatives said Mr Blair should remove
Mrs Hodge without delay after
two social workers claimed that she had refused to take their
seriously when she was leader of Islington council in 1990.
Mrs Hodge, a former Islington neighbour of Mr
Blair, denied that she ignored
signs of abuse, insisting she had treated all the reports
The row blew up after two social workers who
led investigations into abuse
in Islington 13 years ago, Liz Davies and David Cofie, said
Mrs Hodge knew
of their "serious concerns" two and a half years
before the scandal was made
They told the London Evening Standard that Mrs
Hodge rejected a request for
extra staff by the office, saying the social services budget
Mrs Hodge's time as leader of Islington council
in the 1980s and early 1990s
was dogged by claims of systematic abuse of children in care
After the death of one child the council was
severely criticised for failing
to heed warnings of social workers.
Mrs Hodge said she "deeply regretted"
the abuse of children by her staff at
Islington and admitted that errors had been made. But she
claimed that her
experience of the issue made her more qualified for her new
"I've had 12 years to think about those
issues, to talk to people about
them, to learn about them. I think that equips me better than
thinking about how we now create a safe environment for those
Eleanor Laing, shadow minister for children,
said Mr Blair had blundered in
"Tony Blair was clearly not concentrating
when he was reshuffling his
Government. Perhaps he forgot about Islington. Now that he
has been reminded
he should take appropriate action."
As Mr Blair's first minister for children, Mrs
Hodge, a mother of four
grown-up children, was made responsible for all matters relating
outside school, including child abuse and children in care.
Downing Street last night stood by her. Mr Blair's
official spokesman said:
"The Prime Minister has put Margaret Hodge in charge
of this particular
portfolio because she is a capable minister who he believes
will do a good
Mrs Hodge told Radio's 4 Today programme: "I
think there was a deep lack of
understanding, by myself, by the social services, by policymakers,
by all of
us, as to what was happening in children's homes. We've moved
on from that.
Of course we've learned the lessons."
14 June 2003: Hodge to be children minister[PARA]Margaret
Minister of State for Children [13 Jun '03] - 10 Downing
There are two politicians drowning and you are
allowed to save only one.
What do you? Read a newspaper or eat your lunch?
So asked that marvellous American comic Mort
Sahl. A nice line certainly but
also a bit of a cheap shot? Of course it was. The saloon bar
notion that all
politicians are just in it for themselves, hypocritical and
doesn't bear a moment's scrutiny. Many decent and honourable
attracted to the political life and for the most part discharge
as one might expect of them, decently and honourably.
But from time to time even those of us who have
spent a lifetime in and
around politics, befriending politicians and speaking up for
they represent, come across an event so shocking, and so cynical,
our faith is badly dented.
Such an occasion came at the tail-end of last
week when Tony Blair announced
that Mrs Margaret Hodge, the MP for Barking, was to become
the new Minister
for Children. The blood runs cold.
A few years ago, after one of the most intensive
investigations ever mounted
by this newspaper, the Evening Standard reported that children
in the care
of Islington Council were being exploited by pimps and paedophiles
pushers and were corrupted and seduced, in some cases led
or groomed for the sexual gratification of men, often council
swarmed around them.
There were "long periods", said one
of the many official reports which
followed our investigation, when they (the children) were
inadequate care and protection and experiencing distress and
Islington, it was said, provided a classic study
in how paedophiles target
"the children world". Mrs Margaret Hodge, our new
Minister for Children, was
then head of Islington Council. So how did she respond to
what was obvious
to everyone was a serious and detailed piece of reporting
affecting some of
the most tragic and defenceless people in her charge?
Our report, she said, was "a sensationalist
piece of gutter journalism". She
authorised a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.
There were five
official investigations into the Standard's report. All completely
vindicated the newspaper and the reporters on the story went
on to win
prestigious press awards. What Mrs Hodge described as "gutter"
came to be widely celebrated as an example of newspaper reporting
very best - fighting on behalf of the weak and defenceless,
and heartless authority.
It can certainly be argued that Mrs Hodge could
hardly have known about what
was going on and so it would be unfair to hang the responsibility
appalling events around her neck. I would not do so. Neither
do I think that
her extreme, archetypal loony Left views, which had the Red
daily above the offices of Islington Council, should count
against her now.
Politicians are entitled to and do change their opinions.
But this is not about politics - it is about
attitude and heart and
understanding and, yes, let's return to those old-fashioned
again, honour and decency. Those things don't change. People
them or they do not.
A real human being could not have reacted to
the charges that her members of
her staff were sexually abusing children in their care by
doing other than
calling immediately for a full and open inquiry. A political
the kind we see wherever a culture of either financial or
exists could not have reacted differently to the path she
Her first duty, the paramount duty of all political
leaders nationally or
locally, is to represent the people who elected her. Her choice,
unvarying choice of the political apparatchik was to support
bureaucracy. We cannot know how many children she condemned
to a period of
further abuse by not acting immediately. We do know that a
number of officials guilty of the most terrible of malpractices
before the enquiries could report and, armed with references,
found employment in similar situations elsewhere. Nobody knows
who or where
they are. We can only hope that the systems which were put
everywhere following the Islington inquiries will protect
in their charge. But hope is a flimsy vessel upon which to
rely when one is
dealing with determined paedophiles.
Mrs Hodge has four children of her own. When
she ran Islington Council, she
presided over what was universally acknowledged to be one
of the very worst
state education systems in the country. Her children crossed
the boundary to
neighbouring Camden where the schools' standards were considerably
When Minister for Higher Education, she pushed through "top-up
telling middle-class parents that "there was no such
thing as a free lunch",
neglecting to mention that this was exactly what her children
they were doing their further education.
BUT this is the kind of woman she is. Shortly
after she became an MP, she
admitted that she had made a mistake about the Standard's
never apologised. Subsequently she told someone that she had
offered to do
so but the Evening Standard had refused to accept it.
That is not what happened. She telephoned me
and offered to "put the past
behind us" by taking me out to lunch. I would gladly
break bread with her, I
told her, but first she had to apologise to the children of
she had betrayed. The Evening Standard, I said, could take
care of itself.
She regarded this as "unfriendly"
and that was the last contact we had.
Now she is Minister for Children. Those of us
who are not contemptuous of
political life must find it just that little bit more difficult
to remain so
Mrs Hodge's appointment disgraces this Government.
It doesn't disgrace Mrs
Hodge. She cannot, in my judgment, fall any lower.
A CHILD abuse scandal surrounding former Islington
Council leader Margaret
Hodge could spell disaster for the borough's social services
according to the council.
Council leader Steve Hitchins fears that the
storm surrounding Mrs Hodge's
appointment as minister for children will wreck a recruitment
drive for the
borough's chronically understaffed services for children at
He said: "I'm anxious that we don't put
any more barriers in the way of
recruitment. The last thing I want is for people to be reminded
of what the
council was like years ago. I think dredging all this up again
He added: "A great deal has changed since
then and like everyone else we are
delivering services in very different circumstances."
Mrs Hodge has been slammed for the way she handled
allegations of abuse and
paedophile activity in children's homes when she was leader
of the council
13 years ago.
An Evening Standard report in October 1992,
which Mrs Hodge dismissed at the
time, prompted an independent investigation which found evidence
widespread child abuse in Islington's care homes.
Senior social worker, Liz Davies, who headed
an investigation into the abuse
at the time, said the council tried to sweep the allegations
carpet - something Mrs Hodge denies.
Ms Davies, who now teaches police and social
workers how to interview abused
children at London Metropolitan University, told the High&I:
"Recruitment is a huge issue across social work. It is
not my intention to
discredit Islington today and make this problem worse. But
there are people
still suffering today who need to tell what happened. We can't
say they have
to keep quiet."
Mrs Hodge said: "To the best of my knowledge,
at no time during my period as
council leader was any accusation of sexual abuse ignored.
" Whenever accusations were made, child protection procedures
followed. Again to the best of my knowledge, no evidence emerged
investigations which enabled the authority to take appropriate
The borough's Child Care Service now has 45
social worker posts, only 17.5
of which are filled with permanent staff. The council has
put £160,000 into
making sure the vacancies are filled by agency staff and earmarked
£300,000 so that by next March at least 90 per cent
of the vacancies are
filled with permanent staff.
Social services spokeswoman, Cllr Meral Ece
" The child abuse is part of Islington's unfortunate
history. It's 13 years
ago. We're very short staffed. We are right in the middle
of a challenging
recruitment drive and we don't want this to put people off.
We've put a lot
of money into the recruitment plan and this kind of thing
But the Lib Dems have come under fire over the number of children
not been allocated a permanent social worker. In March this
year there were
55 children in care and 34 children on the child protection
an allocated social worker. This number has gone down but
there are still 21
in care and 31 on the register without an allocated worker.
Labour's health spokeswoman, Cllr Catherine West, said it
was not good
" Ensuring that child protection cases are allocated
and pursued is one of
the most important recommendations in the Laming Report. Unless
there is a
named person looking after the child, no-one is taking responsibility
them - that's what happened with Victoria Climbie."
Madness! I was political from an early age. I was a refugee
so saw things as
an outsider, then I was sent as a difficult teenager to boarding
Oxford and became very aware of the class divide and this
Then I went to the London School of Economics. I became an
by accident. I had my first child in 1971, and had to give
full-time as an international researcher ( I have 3 languages).
somebody said there is a seat in the local Council, go for
it, it will keep
you sane. I was an active member of the Labour Party at the
Politically, Rosa Luxemburg, and Nelson Mandela. I had a local
guru who was
very important to me as a mentor in practical politics. Simone
Doris Lessing and of course, Germaine Greer, were significant
me. My earliest political activity was with CND (Campaign
No. Except that I am the middle child of 5 children, and three
of us are
involved in public policy areas.
I started in CND and then I was active in housing issues,
fighting to retain
mixed communities at grassroots level. I persuaded the local
change the planning policy regulations to prevent abuses by
landlords. When I was on Islington Council, I fought for the
meetings to be changed so that women and others with children,
I ensured that people were housed according to need, rather
than length of
residence, which of course would have discriminated against
communities. I developed participatory decision-making through
offices, and equal opportunity processes for the staff as
well as very
advanced maternity packages. Some of these policies are the
basis for the
Childcare strategies we are implementing now.
My feminism dates from the days when I went to consciousness
groups in the late 60s and I built strong friendships with
a group of
I asked the Council leader for 6 months maternity leave when
I was having my
3rd child, in 1978 and was Chair of the Housing Committee.
This was granted,
but one month after I returned, I was sacked.
I had chosen not to become an MP because of my 4 children.
In 1992, I was
asked to put my name forward for seats as an MP but I resisted,
as one of my
daughters was doing A levels and wanted me not to be an MP.
I gave up
politics for a bit in 1992, as Labour had lost another an
election and I
went to work for a management consultancy.
Have your objectives changed during your political career?
Children but I would never have made different choices to
those I did make,
to enable me to balance my life between work and caring for
I never thought to become an MP. Lots of the reasons why I
didn't want to
still hold good!
The way of life is awful, but politics is a drug, and I need
to work for a
value-driven purpose and politics is that.
To change the world.
The Labour Party in 1962.
I was just a member. I became a Branch secretary after I was
helped at the 1964 election.
I had local mentors especially when I was Leader of the Council,
developed a lunch group of confidantes.
I have a strong business sense and did a degree in politics
in multi-country studies and market research.
I have a degree in Politics.
I taught, I was a public sector consultant, a member of the
Visitors of a prison, a member of health authorities, and
All my previous experience informs my political career.
In the breadth of my experience, and my solid experience of
through. I do deliver, and I am imaginative and innovative.
Disability; equality including the Equal Opportunities Commission;
Balance; Millennium Volunteers; Race for Employment; New Deal
parents and New Deal for Disabled people; Childcare strategy
implementation; early years provision.
I am incredibly privileged to be where I am. If I can get
Childcare strategy, the New Deal for the Disabled, and the
Rights Commission on track, I shall be pleased.
My objectives have not changed, but I have learned that you
must start from
where people are at if you want to pursue change and that
you must focus on
clear and time limited objectives.
Yes, not enough, but yes.
No, as we were the ones who created them. I think one of the
changed women's lives was the pill.
Yes. What keeps women from committing themselves to politics
is that it is
loud, competitive and confrontational. Why would they want
to do it? Very
little co-operative activity takes place.
The culture and the hours.
I have been very lucky, but I have seized the moment. There
is still quite a
lot of resentment of women, especially the London feminists.
The Government moved to prevent a repeat of
the Victoria Climbie tragedy
yesterday as it appointed Margaret Hodge, the former higher
minister, to be the first Minister of State for Children.
The job will place Mrs Hodge, who has four grown-up
children, in charge of
children's services, child care, provision for the under-fives
Downing Street said last night that a report
into the Climbie case by Lord
Laming had highlighted the need for better co-ordination of
children. Eight-year-old Victoria died in February 2000 after
repeatedly tortured and beaten by her guardians. She had 128
injuries when she died of hypothermia after months of abuse.
In the early Nineties, when Mrs Hodge was leader
of Islington Council, she
was at the centre of accusations that children in care were
abused by council staff.
She insisted she was not to blame personally
and blamed council officers.
The Tories expressed concern about her appointment yesterday.
shadow education secretary, said: "I hope she does not
make the same
mistakes she allowed to happen then."
29 January 2003: Victoria's care condemned as
a lottery [PARA]21 November
2000: Aunt 'let girl die bound and naked in the bath'
Related reports[PARA]Morris given another chance
External links[PARA]Reform of children's services: Margaret
Minister of State for Children [13 Jun '03] - 10 Downing Street[PARA]Final
report - Victoria Climbie Inquiry[PARA]Media Centre - NSPCC
Margaret Hodge takes an overview of all children's, young
peoples' and under
fives' policy. She works closely with colleagues across Government
that all those issues are taken forward in a co-ordinated
and joined up way.
Within those responsibilities she takes a lead on:
Children and family policy
Children's Social services; Child protection; Children in
Policy Unit Family and Parenting Law; Parental responsibly
and the role of
parents in supporting schools and family learning; extended
Connexions service/Connexions card; Careers service; Youth
Neighbourhood support fund; Children and Young People's Unit
Fund; Young people at risk; Homelessness policy; social inclusion;
Department for Education and Skills Ministerial Team
[NL]RT HON Charles Clarke MP[NL]Secretary of State for Education
[NL]David Miliband MP[NL]Minister of State for
[NL]School Standards [NL]RT
HON [NL]Margaret Hodge MBE MP[NL]Minister of State for Children
Johnson MP[NL]Minister of State for [NL]Lifelong Learning,
[NL]Baroness [NL]Catherine Ashton MP[NL]Parliamentary
Under Secretary of
State for Extended and Inclusive Schools and DWP Minister
responsibility for Sure Start. [NL]Ivan Lewis MP[NL]Parliamentary
Secretary of State for Skills and Vocational Education [NL]Stephen
MP[NL]Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools
To provide integrated leadership and responsibility
for children's services
and family policy across Whitehall, the Prime Minister has
Margaret Hodge as the first Minister of State for Children
in the Department
for Education and Skills.
Under the direction of Charles Clarke as Secretary
of State, she will take
responsibility for children's services, childcare and provision
under-fives, family policy (including parenting support and
family law), and
for the reform agenda to be set out in the forthcoming Green
children 'at risk'.
Responsibility for children's social services
and the Teenage Pregnancy Unit
will be transferred from the Department of Health to the Department
Education and Skills. The Family Policy Unit will be transferred
Home Office to the DfES, and family law policy from the Lord
Specific responsibilities of the new minister
will include oversight of:
1. Sure Start, Early Years, Childcare, Connexions, LEA Special
Needs, and the Youth Service;
2. The Children and Young People's Unit;
3. Children's Social Services and the Teenage Pregnancy Unit,
transfer from Department of Health;
4. Responsibilities for family and parenting law and support
from the Lord Chancellor's Department);
5. The Family Policy Unit (transferred from Home Office)
The integration of children's policy into DfES
will create a single
departmental focus for children, including disadvantaged children,
co-ordination within children's services (including family
support), and between these services and mainstream schools
Lord Laming's inquiry into the Victoria Climbie
tragedy highlighted the need
for better co-ordination. The changes foreshadow further reforms
announced in the forthcoming Children's Green Paper, which
a full response to the Laming report. The Green Paper will
before the summer recess.
Margaret Hodge has been appointed Minister of
State for lifelong learning
and higher education at the new Department for Education and
The MP for Barking since 1994 was previously the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities
Department for Education and Employment, a post she took up
in July 1999.
During her time at the DfEE, Mrs Hodge steered
through a huge expansion in
childcare places and nursery education - helping deliver 200,000
nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds. She extended and protected
of the disabled by helping set up the Disability Rights Commission,
launched a campaign to make businesses more family friendly.
oversaw the introduction of Sure Start, which is providing
children and their parents in England's poorest areas with
extra health and
Mrs Hodge was educated at Bromley High School
and Oxford High School before
obtaining a BSc at London School of Economics.
Mrs Hodge entered politics in 1973 as a councillor
for the London Borough of
Islington where she was Chair of the Housing Committee from
1975 to 1979 and
Deputy Leader from 1981 to 1982 before becoming Leader from
1982 to 1992.
She spent two years as a consultant for Price Waterhouse from
1992 to 1994.
Prior to her appointment to the DfEE she was Joint Chairman
of the House of
Commons Education and Employment Select Committee. Mrs Hodge,
56, is married
with four children and one grandchild.
Comment: Listen to
the children, Mrs Hodge
Young lives will suffer from Britain's scandalous refusal
to force mediation
The Observer, Sunday May 30, 2004, Yvonne Roberts
A girl of 10, severely depressed, has become
mute - her only defence against
parents who have fought over her for the past four years,
ever since their
marriage failed. She sits in a room with a mediator, aware
that her mother
and father are watching behind a one-way mirror. For the first
time she is
given the opportunity to say how she would like her parents
She breaks her silence to say she would like
her father to stop hurting her
and her mum, and that he should talk to someone about his
anger. She also
says her mother should stop calling her dad an evil pig and
talk to someone
about her sadness. The mediator tells the parents they can
take heed of
their daughter or continue in the destruction of her life.
Over several sessions their behaviour changes
and they seek counselling to
deal with what their daughter has laid bare. A year later
the child, who has
found her voice again, writes a letter saying that her parents
well, and thanking the mediator for listening to her point
In the war between mothers and fathers, the
figure often erased from the
picture is that of the child. Many adults are too shackled
to their own hurt
to place the needs of their offspring first. Professionals
overlook the young. In recent research, children repeatedly
said they had
not been heard either by the family justice system or their
In Australia in 2000 the attorney general's
department investigated its
mediation and counselling services. It, too, discovered that
views had been disregarded and professionals were resistant
to change. A
six-month pilot project radically overhauled the system. Children,
the 10-year-old, were invited to testify to the impact of
hostility. Parenting programmes to make adults more aware
of the child's
perspective were established and there was improved contact
parents. The pilot proved a spectacular success and is being
across Australia. In the UK, Vicky Leach, from the children's
NCH, has tried for many months to raise government funding
for a similar
pilot here - to no avail.
Research underscores common sense. Children
do better when a couple handle a
separation as harmoniously as possible. In practice, a high
children cease to see their fathers within two years. Some
dads may be
irresponsible and a danger. A high proportion, however, are
mothers. In the 1980s, in Florida, a system of 'therapeutic
established based on the twin premise that the children's
genuinely come first and the law should do no harm.
As a result, a parent knows that, unless there
is abuse, the courts will
grant a non-resident parent access at least every other weekend
evening a week. In addition, adults have to attend mediation
classes. As with the Australian model, these remind them that
matrimonial demons in their offsprings' presence and inventing
daddy (or mummy) can't be seen this Sunday is wounding the
who refuse to comply with a contact order are jailed. Penalties
imposed rarely. The point of the Florida endeavour is that,
no matter who
has done what to whom, the weapon of using the children is
available. Hence, in a changed climate, more parents try to
problems. In this country, last year, the organisation New
Contact - composed of fathers, academics and lawyers, and
with the backing
of Mrs Justice Bracewell, an esteemed senior family court
judge - drew up a
pilot 'Early Inter ventions' project, which adopted much of
template, including the compulsory compliance of parents.
'It would be
incomprehensible if the pilot project did not receive official
Mrs Justice Bracewell wrote. 'It should produce much better
parents and children.'
Now the inconceivable has occurred. Last week
the project was officially
dumped. Instead, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES),
children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, has its own - very different
in which the involvement of parents will be voluntary - a
fatal flaw. The
team designing the detail of the DfES pilot, to be launched
has next to no voices representing children's interests. Althea
chair of the DfES design team. She writes: 'It is a key aim
... to encourage
parents to step back from the adult conflict and focus exclusively
needs of their children. Both parents will be expected to
work together draw
up their own plan for co-operative parenting.'
If it is that easy for a divorced couple to
'work together', why the need
for the pilot? Hostile parents won't co-operate simply because
she and Ms
Hodge have invited them to. Nor will this scheme achieve the
vital cultural shift. In short, it's a waste of time.
It's not too late. The Early Interventions
pilot should be tried out - even
if it requires a change in the law to permit the compulsion
of parents. A
pilot based on the Australian findings also deserves to be
funded, to gauge
if we truly operate in the best interests of the child. 'It
is time to go
back to basics,' Vicky Leach says. 'The child's experience
of events must be
at the centre of any process, while adults have to be stopped
down an increasingly conflicted road.'