Standing ovation for disgraced boss

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DELEGATES gave a standing ovation to disgraced former children's boss Sharon Shoesmith as she made her first public appearance in Blackpool.

Ms Shoesmith was sacked from her 130,000 a year post at Haringey Council following the high profile death of Peter Connelly – known as Baby P – in 2008.

But the controversial figure – who has received death threats – addressed hundreds of delegates at the Hilton Hotel on Friday as part of the North of England Education Conference.

Despite concerns from some Blackpool residents about her appearance, she was given 40 seconds of thunderous applause and even a small standing ovation.

Opening her speech, she said she is still coming to terms with the death of Baby P.

She said: "The murder of Peter Connelly is something I struggle to live with every day, as do the social workers who knew him.

"There was never any doubt about how sorry and distressed we were by his brutal murder."

In her 40-minute speech, she voiced concerns about the impact of Government spending cuts on Children's Services and warned more vulnerable youngsters will die at the hands of their "desperate" parents as a result.

She added: "I think everyone now expects these cuts are going to hit hard on vulnerable children.

"Yes, child poverty will rise but if we stop measuring it how will we know?

"It translates into higher risk for children, the risk of more children dying at the hands of their desperate parents."

She also warned delegates they could face a similar situation to hers and urged them to raise the matter of responsibility with bosses and central Government.

David Lund director of children's services at Blackpool Council said: "Sharon has very recent experience of what happens when things go wrong and I think it was very valuable to listen to her.

"Often we learn more from when things go wrong than when things go right."

John Topping, deputy head of Bispham High, added: "Sharon Shoesmith raised valuable points, particularly about the concerns people who work with children face.

"She said a lot of things many of us may think but don't dare say."

Ms Shoesmith described the serious case review into the death of Baby Peter as "the most emotionally challenging thing I have ever sat through."

She added: "The threats made against me and my family and the daily vilification of me obscured the issues we should have been debating.

"Instead of focusing on the situation and on the things which went wrong, the whole issue was "politicised and personalised"

Peter Connelly, was 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother Tracey Connelly, her lover Steven Barker his brother Jason Owen.

The boy had suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.