The chairman of a county organisation aimed at protecting children from harm has admitted there were ‘failures’ in the case of a four-week-old baby girl who died in May last year.
The baby girl, who has been given the pseudonym Maisie Harrison, died of natural causes with co-sleeping being a factor.
Her parents were both drug and alcohol users and had been placed at high-risk of experiencing difficulty in parenting.
Despite that, and despite Maisie being made the subject of a child protection order, the Safeguarding Children Board report found that the agencies involved had not fully appreciated the risks to the youngster.
The Safeguarding Children Board has prepared the report by speaking to the various partner agencies including the NHS, social services and the police.
One key line in the report says: “There is clear evidence that the risky behaviours and lifestyle of both her parents were under-estimated and that a thorough parenting assessment of each of them was not undertaken.
“Professionals were insufficiently curious and tended to adopt an over optimistic analysis of events.”
Kevin Crompton, chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire, said that drugs paraphernalia was found throughout her father’s flat, where she had died, and that both parents had been using drugs before her death.
Maisie’s father also had a previous conviction for attacking and causing internal injuries to a six-year-old while her mother had a troubled history of drug taking and poor education.
A social worker had also been unable to see Maisie for ten days before her death.
Mr Crompton added: “While we can take some optimism from certain aspects of the case and the work of some professionals the overall position is that we failed to protect this child by allowing her to remain in conditions that represented a risk to her safety.
“There were serious failures in practice which should not happen.
“I urge every professional in the county involved with safeguarding to read this report and reflect on whether it would have happened on their shift.”
Mr Crompton said one of the key aspects to emerge from the report was communication between various bodies, such as the police and social services.
For example, police officers had raised concerns about a dog which Maisie’s parents owned, which was thought to be dangerous and on another occasion a police officer saw Maisie on a cold day and thought she had not been warmly enough dressed.
Both of those concerns were only pieced together after Maisie’s death.
Mr Crompton said: “On September 1 we opened our Multi Agency Hub, called MASH, which puts some of these agencies in the same building. It allows them to work better together and piece together concerns in a better manner.”
Among the lessons Mr Crompton said the board had learned were that better parenting assessments needed to be carried out and that more critical and questioning practices needed to be adopted.
He added: “We need to get better and smarter when it comes to parents with these sorts of risks in their profile.
“We need to properly risk assess and we need to seriously ask ourselves whether we should allow children to live in the conditions described in this report.”