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Learning from Baby P

Learning from Baby P

The politics of blame, fear and denial

Sharon Shoesmith

Quick Overview

Sharon Shoesmith examines what can be learnt from the tragic death of Peter Connelly, also known as Baby P. She gives a detailed account of events as they took place, reflects on the psychological, political and social dynamics involved, and considers the implications for child protection professionals, policymakers, politicians and the media.
Details Price Qty
Paperback / softback
2016, 9.02in x 6.22in / 229mm x 158mm, 272pp
ISBN: 9781785920035


Sharon Shoesmith was Director of Children's Services for Haringey in 2007 at the time of the death of Peter Connelly, also known as 'Baby P'.

In Learning from Baby P, she carries out a dispassionate analysis of the events which followed Peter Connelly's death, documenting the responses of the media, politicians and the public. She explores the psychological and emotional responses we share when faced with such horrifying cases of familial child homicide, and how a climate of fear and blame which follows such tragedies can lead to negative consequences for other children at risk of harm, and for the social workers striving to protect them.

Learning from Baby P is a thought-provoking book which aims to deepen understanding and shed light on the difficult relationship between politics, the media and child protection.


'This is a book which is informed by the head and the heart. It explores what underlay and drove the media and political frenzy of the 'Baby P story', which unjustly and wrongly blamed and vilified Shoesmith and her colleagues and undermined and distorted child protection and social work. Of great relevance to all who work with children and families, hopefully it will be read widely and lessons will be learned by the press and politicians who wielded power without wisdom or integrity.'
- Ray Jones, Professor of Social Work, Kingston University and St George's, University of London

'A detailed and thoroughly engrossing read which succeeds in extending our understanding of the case of Peter Connelly and, more particularly, the socio-emotional, political and media responses to his tragic death and the 'scandal' which was to unfold. Should be read by everyone with an interest in child abuse and how we can begin to seriously address the challenges involved in improving child protection policy and practice.'
- Nigel Parton, Professor in Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield, England

'A cogent, compelling analysis of the blame culture in social work. Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand, reflect and learn from the responses to the high profile familial homicide of Peter Connelly.'
- Ruth Smith, Publisher, Community Care

'This is a very serious and important work of professional and academic scholarship. Sharon Shoesmith is in no way pursuing a personal agenda. Rather, through rigorous and evidence based analysis she discloses the cultural and social conditions that allowed, and still allow, social workers to shoulder the blame for events that actually require sophisticated and thoughtful understanding if we are to learn from the tragedy of Peter Connelly's death. An essential resource for our profession in the struggle to promote and defend the role of social work in modern child welfare and protection.'
- Andrew Cooper, Professor of Social Work, The Tavistock Centre and University of East London

'At the heart of this formidable, authoritative book is a forensic account of a modern day political witch hunt.'
- Patrick Butler, Social Policy Editor, The Guardian

'The emotional, financial and reputational impact on Sharon Shoesmith and on the other workers who lost their jobs as a result of Baby Peter's death is graphically described, but so too is the careful examination of society's wish in effect to sanitise familial child homicide. It is easier to publicly blame and humiliate workers (who were working to protect children) than it is to accept that a mother has either caused or allowed her child to die.'
- Andrea Morris, Locality Director, Children’s Services, Devon County Council


By (author): Sharon Shoesmith