Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 09:46 UK

Climbie lessons 'not yet learned'

Victoria Climbie

The mother of Victoria Climbie, who was tortured and murdered in 2000, says she is "shocked" that lessons from the case have still not been learned.

The eight-year-old, who lived with her great-aunt in Haringey, north London, died after various agencies failed to act on signs she was being abused.

Her mother, Berthe, says the deaths of other children in similar circumstances since then show nothing has changed.

She is demanding a government review of why professionals are failing children.

Lord Laming, who headed the inquiry into Victoria's death, told the BBC he shared many of Mrs Climbie's "frustrations".

Neglect charges

Speaking through a translator in a BBC interview, Mrs Climbie said she felt shocked and betrayed by the fact that the same sorts of mistakes which led to her daughter's death were still being made by the people who were supposed to protect vulnerable children.

"I am still learning that other children are still dying," she said. "We see the same sort of tragedies here as the things that happened to the little one."

Berthe Climbie
They [local authorities] gave their word, but they did not live up to their responsibilities
Berthe Climbie

She said she had "forgiven" those whose mistakes had led to her daughter's plight going unnoticed.

"When you lose a child it's never easy. At first it makes your heart bleed and gradually you have to try to forget what has happened and pray for the person's soul."

She also thanked the government who launched the inquiry into Victoria's death.

"At the end of six months there were many things that were learned from the green paper - a framework for children. How to stop this happening again."

But she said she was shocked institutions had not followed the findings.

She criticised local authorities for failing to fully implement recommendations made by Lord Laming, who led the inquiry into Victoria's case, despite changes in the law.

"They gave their word, but they did not live up to their responsibilities," she said. This she found "heartbreaking" she said, because children were "still dying".

We ought to be intolerant of bad practice
Lord Laming

Victoria died in February 2000, from abuse and neglect while living with her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning. They were jailed for life in January 2001 for her murder.

The young girl - whose body was riddled with 128 injuries when she died - had been seen by professionals 12 times, but each time they failed to pick up the abuse.

The case caused an outcry and led to a series of recommendations which were supposed to change the child protection system for good.

Mrs Climbie, who lives in Ivory Coast, is in the UK for the first time since the publication of Lord Laming's report five years ago.

She is to attend a conference organised by the Victoria Climbie foundation.

Responding to Mrs Climbie's comments, Lord Laming, said he agreed with her.

"I still don't have full confidence in the abilities of social services to protect children who are known to them," he said.

He said the picture country-wide was "patchy".

"There are some parts of the country where there is a clear commitment... by all the key services to work together."

But, he said, there were other parts that were failing to implement the report's findings.

Some services were "still reactive", he said.

"We ought to be intolerant of bad practice," he added.

'Definitely changed'

Dr Maggie Atkinson, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said local authorities that were not following best practice were in the "absolute minority".

She said things had "very definitely" changed.

But Dr Atkinson admitted the recent case of Khyra Ishaq, a seven-year-old who apparently starved to death in Birmingham, showed there was still some way to go.

She said: "There are 11 million children in this country and any death is an absolute tragedy.

"We had another absolutely awful story from Birmingham last week - the details of which are still not known so let's not speculate - but it's clear that the system still has some development to do and still has a lot of lessons to learn."


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