Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Salford children's director fired after toddler death

Demi Leigh Mahon
Demi Leigh Mahon died from head injuries

The director of a children's services department which admitted failings in the protection of a murdered toddler has been sacked.

Jill Baker was in charge in Salford at the time two-year-old Demi Leigh Mahon was beaten to death by her babysitter.

An independent review found concerns raised about her welfare were not followed up properly by social workers.

Mrs Baker was suspended in September after a critical Ofsted report and has now been sacked for gross misconduct.

The unanimous decision to dismiss the director followed a four-day disciplinary hearing at Salford City Council.

Panel chair, councillor Bill Hinds, said her dismissal would take place with immediate effect.

Mrs Baker has the right to appeal against the decision
Bill Hinds, disciplinary panel chair

"The panel was told there had been a loss of trust and confidence by the chief executive Barbara Spicer, council leader councillor John Merry, and lead member councillor John Warmisham, in Mrs Baker's ability to lead and manage the Children's Services directorate," he said.

"This meant she was unable to honour the terms of her contract, which is a fundamental breach of contract and therefore gross misconduct.

"The decision to summarily dismiss was not made lightly but was done so based on the evidence and representations from both the employer and employee.

"Mrs Baker has the right to appeal against the decision."

Jill Baker spoke to the BBC earlier in the year after a critical report

The panel also considered a grievance by Mrs Baker, but her allegation of bullying was rejected unanimously by the panel as "unfounded", Mr Hinds added.

But the panel did find that some HR processes were not adequately followed with regard to Mrs Baker.

"The council has apologised to Mrs Baker for these failings. These findings had no bearing on the decision to dismiss," he added.

Demi Leigh died in July 2008 after being subjected to a sustained attack by babysitter Karl McCluney, then aged 15, in Liverpool Road, Eccles.

She had been left with McCluney, who was convicted of murder in July, by her mother Ann Marie McDonald while she went to cash her child benefit.

Ofsted criticism

Although a serious case review found her death was "unavoidable" it contained a number of criticisms of Salford Children's Services.

Among them was the fact social workers knew about the family but had failed to instigate a protection plan.

Ofsted inspectors carried out an unannounced inspection of the department in August - a month after the serious case review was published.

In its report, the agency revealed that officers were unable to confirm from records that the children on the workers' caseload concerned were actually safe.

"The cases of five children were raised with the council as inspectors were unable to establish from records that action had been taken to ensure that they were not at risk of harm," the report said.

It found that some assessments of some children were of "poor quality and did not sufficiently consider risk".

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