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Child Deaths Probe in Birmingham

Inadequacies found in safeguard measures for children


A government intervention team is to work with Birmingham social services after eight children known to the department died within three years. A recent report by children's services watchdog Ofsted detected "inadequacies" in the council's ability to safeguard vulnerable children. Last week, an inquiry was launched after seven children died in Doncaster.

Intervention teams have also been sent to Reading, Wokingham, Essex, and West Sussex, the government has confirmed. The intervention team consists of experts from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) who liaise with Birmingham social services.

In its report into Birmingham's services, Ofsted raised concerns about long delays in completing "serious case reviews". These are carried out when a child dies or sustains serious injuries. Birmingham City Council said it remained committed to caring for children and promised to learn lessons from these cases.

Child protection standards in England and Wales have come under scrutiny since the conviction of three adults for causing the death of a child known as Baby P, in Haringey, north London. The 17-month-old boy died after sustaining horrific injuries, despite having been seen by child support professionals 60 times.

Jonathan Peacock, a partner within Irwin Mitchell, deals with cases where social workers have been professionally negligent. He said:  The decision to send a government intervention team to work with Birmingham social services is a step in the right direction though long overdue.

"Whilst cases of children's deaths are extreme examples, it is certainly the case that we see many examples of situations which highlight inadequacies of the social services teams in Birmingham - including cases where children who are clearly in vulnerable, abusive and neglectful situations are left for too long before action is taken.

"Over the last few years, regrettably, we have had a number of referrals where social workers have failed to take appropriate action to protect children.  We have seen evidence of systematic and operational failures leading to terrible injuries and abuse.

"With both Haringey and Doncaster Social Services making the headlines recently, these failures are not just confined to the Birmingham area but indicate a far more worrying and widespread pattern of failures.

"Now that the intervention team has been appointed to work with Birmingham and nationally this issue is being highlighted more, I hope we will begin to see some lessons being learnt and improvements made."

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