Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

'Chaotic' council team failed boy

Doncaster Council
The council says its social services team has been improved

An investigation into the death of a 10-month-old boy has found a "chaotic and dangerous" situation within the local social services team.

A serious case review found social workers with "unmanageable workloads" when the boy, Child A, died of natural causes in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

It said 10 referrals were made to social services relating to fears for the safety of the boy and his sibling.

It said: "Overall the response to these referrals was grossly inadequate."

The report published on Doncaster Council's website said: "It has been observed that these events were set against the backdrop of unmanageable workloads exacerbated by staff abstraction and shortages, both leading to and resulting from a 'chaotic and dangerous' situation within the team concerned."

Child A was born in February 2007 to his mother, referred to as X, and his father, Y.

As a result of the systems... now in place I can say Doncaster is now safer than it has been historically
Dr Paul Gray, interim director of children's services

His older sibling, Child B, was born in August 2005 when X was 18 and Y was 16 years old, although Y, a criminal and drug user, was not the sibling's father.

After Child A was born there were a number of referrals to social services relating to a range of issues including inadequate parenting, failure to keep health appointments, domestic violence and "indications that the children were at risk of harm from both X and Y".

In December 2007 the children's mother found Child A was not breathing in his pram and all attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

The report highlighted a number of occasions "where opportunities for professionals to recognise and respond to issues which might impact upon the safety and welfare of the children were missed".

'Significant change'

The review said the service provided "fell well short of acceptable standards and there was no meaningful engagement with the needs of the children or their family".

The council's interim director of children service's said significant improvements had been made in response to a critical report this summer.

Dr Paul Gray, who started work in April, said: "Since my appointment to the authority earlier this year, I have driven forward a plan of introducing significant change and improvement to strengthen the complex safeguarding work that is carried out by our dedicated and professional staff on a daily basis to protect vulnerable children across the borough.

"As a result of the systems and support now in place, I can say Doncaster is now safer than it has been historically, and rest assured, we will continue to drive improvements even further forward into the future."

Murder cases

Child protection in Doncaster was already in the spotlight following two recent child murder cases.

In October James Howson, 25, was told he must spend a minimum of 22 years in prison after he was found guilty of murdering his 16-month-old daughter Amy in the town.

Amy Howson's spine was snapped in two by Howson, a jury heard.

The baby's mother, Tina Hunt, 25, was given a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting cruelty.

Leeds Crown Court heard how health visitors went to the house but were shunned by Howson, who went to extreme measures to make sure all visitors were vetted.

A serious case review into this case is expected to be published next year.

Earlier this month, Craig Goddard, from Toll Bar, Doncaster, pleaded guilty to murdering his three-month-old son Alfie who died from a head injury.

The youngster's mother, Lindsay Harris, later admitted perverting the course of justice.

Both are still to be sentenced and the full details of the case have not been disclosed to a court.

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