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Council did not do enough to protect toddler from harm: Ombudsman

Child left with life-long injuries after opportunities missed to protect him

A toddler was left with life-long injuries after East Riding of Yorkshire Council missed opportunities to protect him from his mother's violent partner, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.

The case was brought to the Ombudsman by the boy's father and grandmother, after a council investigation, which concluded the council had acted appropriately, took 76 weeks too long to complete.

The Ombudsman's investigation found the council missed opportunities to protect the toddler from harm, and when concerns were raised it did not have a plan to check on the children's welfare or whereabouts. The council also disregarded a court order in respect of the mother and the toddler's older sibling's contact arrangements.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

"This sad case highlights the need for councils to follow the basic principles of child protection when dealing with welfare concerns. While the council did not cause the boy's injuries, his family have been left not knowing whether they could have been prevented had social workers acted appropriately.

"Throughout the process the council has denied any responsibility for checking on the children's whereabouts or welfare, and instead sought to blame others – including the children's grandmother.

"I am pleased the council has now accepted the findings of my report and hope that by referring the case to a Serious Case Review Panel lessons can be learned to prevent an event like this happening again."

The boy had been living with his mother and her partner in November 2013 when his mother was taken to hospital following an altercation with her partner. Social Services were alerted and assigned a social worker to the children's case. The mother told social workers she would end her relationship with her partner and the children would be taken to stay with their paternal grandmother for a time. But social workers did not check to see that these arrangements took place. And the council has no further records of contact with the family until the grandmother called to say the boy had been admitted to hospital.

The mother's partner was subsequently convicted of causing the boy serious injuries by shaking and is serving a lengthy prison sentence. The mother has also been convicted of failing to protect him from harm.

The council has agreed to apologise to the father and grandmother, including for its unfair attempt to blame the grandmother for not alerting them soon enough. It will pay the father £1,000 to acknowledge his distress and a further £1,500 for his son's benefit to acknowledge its failure to protect him from harm. It will pay £500 for his daughter's benefit for disregarding a court order in respect of contact between his daughter and her mother. The council will also pay the grandmother £1,000 to acknowledge her distress.

The council has agreed to refer the case to the East Riding Safeguarding Children Board Serious Case Review Panel.

To download the full report, click here and then on the link at the top right of the page.

17/2/19