In the Media

Social workers in Baby P borough failed to save children from 'chronic neglect', report finds

PUBLISHED April 27, 2012

The children, aged eight months to 16 years, were found to be "inappropriately dressed" with poor hygiene and ravaging headlice as teachers reported concerns for their welfare.

But despite referrals from schools, carers and concerned members of the public over seven years, they remained in their filthy home until 2009.

A report into the case, by Haringey Safeguarding Children's Board, has now raised serious concerns over how the case was dealt with, after condemning the investigation into the children's welfare as "unprobing".

The case was first brought to the attention of the authorities in 2002, when an anonymous person reported they were "inappropriately dressed, smelt and were dirty."

In the following four years, a primary school, secondary school a "play setting" and members of the public reported them as showing symptoms of neglect including poor hygiene, persistent headlice and poor attendance.

One child was said to be so hungry that when a foster carer fed her she gripped the milk bottle with such force it left a mark.

Their filthy home was found to be so dirty it had to be professionally cleaned before an infestation of vermin could be cleared, it has been claimed.

In 2009, an email to their social work team asked: ""How can we rule out neglect if no-one has seen the children?"

A member of staff replied the case "does not meet the threshold for any kind of strategy meeting".

The report into the children, known as "Family Z" for legal reasons, suggested the abuse was allowed to continue because it involved persistent neglect which was apparently less serious than one major incident.

The report states: "The appropriate action of the police came too late for these children and…is likely to have profound and long-lasting consequences for them.

"This was not a family unknown to professionals. The nature of the vulnerabilities and challenges…were not hidden, nor were they of an unusual kind."

The parents, who separated after an incident of domestic violence and were described as "hostile" to the involvement of social workers, have since been convicted of child cruelty charges and have served custodial sentences.

The children have been taken into care.

Cllr Lorna Reith from Haringey Council said: "This review covers a period when there were serious shortcomings in our children's safeguarding services, and we apologise unreservedly for the past failures identified in this case.

"The key lessons for learning raised by the report have already been addressed by our children's services and the report makes specific reference to the transformation of the culture of the service, which we welcome."

Child protection authorities in Haringey have previously been criticised for the way they handled the case of Peter Connelly, who died in 2007 aged 17 months, and Victoria Climbie, who was murdered in 2000 aged eight.