A damning report has revealed how care professionals in Northamptonshire missed opportunities to stop a catalogue of neglect suffered by a young baby.
Investigations were launched into how the tot, named only as Child Au, was taken to Northampton General Hospital with a broken arm which later required surgery to repair. The revealed:
■ The tot’s parents left her in pain from her injury for three days before taking her to hospital
■ Doctors discovered five old fractures to the baby’s bones
■ Two broken legs may have prevented the tot learning to walk
■ Concerns of a heating engineer who saw her arms tied up with electrical wire went largely unheeded
■ She was left to sleep on a bare mattress with no blankets
■ Dirty nappies and mouldy jars of empty baby food lying around the home
■ No warm clothes in the middle of winter despite the baby being seen “cold and shivering”
■ Care professionals continued to leave Child Au “at risk of serious neglect and significant harm”
The report says: “Although Child Au’s parents were told by a GP to take their daughter to hospital immediately, they delayed doing so for several hours.
“The parents had noticed Child Au’s arm was swollen three days prior to taking her to the GP. Child Au must have been in pain before she received any form of medical treatment, given the severity of this injury, in addition to the extensive injuries she had previously endured.”
Independent reviewer Moira Murray’s 15,000-word report highlights significant failings by professionals involved in her care, including a consultant community paediatrician, team manager, four health visitors workers and three social workers in the county who failed to act over warning signs.
Health professionals had concerns about the child‘s weight loss, developmental delay, failure to thrive, not being brought to health appointments and a lack of attachment by the mother soon after she was born.
Efforts to pass the family on to support services were either ignored or refused by the baby’s mother, who also missed medical appointments. Yet it took until a year later for the case to be referred to a multi-agency safeguarding hub.
Even then, it was the intervention of a heating contractor who visited the family home to carry out work two months later that resulted in concerns being heightened four days before Christmas.
They reported: “Child Au had been seen in her cot, with her arms taped up with electrical wire. There were dirty nappies and mouldy jars of baby food lying round.”
That led to a housing officer also visiting and seeing Child Au wearing a baby romper suit with the arms “taped up”. When asked why this was, the baby’s father stated that Child Au “scratches herself”.
A social worker who saw the family the following day found no food in the cupboards for Child Au, no toys visible and no bedding on her cot — which her mother said was in the wash.
The report adds: “At this time, Child Au had not been seen by a social worker for almost two months. When a social worker visited the home, the mother was described as hostile and unaccommodating.
“Child Au was seen wearing a baby grow, no socks, her skin was mottled, and she was shivering. The issue of her arms being ‘taped up’ was seemingly not discussed.
“Following the visit, the first response team manager decided the case was one of Child in Need, with the parents needing parenting support.
“The housing provider was informed of the decision, which resulted in a team leader contacting a social worker to express her concerns that Child Au would be left with her parents over the Christmas period.
“The social worker stated that the parents had been given clear instructions on what was needed to change immediately to ensure Child Au’s safety.”
Police stepped in after the tot was taken to hospital with a “non-accidental injury” a few days later.
Ms Murray’s report makes a string of recommendations, adding: “Child Au continued to be left at risk of serious neglect and significant harm... a referral to the safeguarding hub should have been made much earlier.
“In light of the stark evidence of neglect, the lack of immediate action by Children’s Social Care raises serious questions of professional judgement.
“This report should be required reading for all professionals working with children in Northamptonshire to remind them that it is not enough to observe and record indications of neglect and abuse.
“Action is required if children are to be protected from significant harm.”
Children’s services at the now defunct Northamptonshire County Council were graded inadequate by Ofsted inspectors in June 2019.
A spokesperson for Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership said: “This was a desperately sad case involving a vulnerable child who was subjected to extreme neglect at the hands of her parents.
“A number of agencies failed to take action in a timely manner. A lack of sharing information between them led to the child experiencing severe neglect.
“Significant learning has been addressed by professionals in the three years which have passed since this review commenced and we hope the recommendations made in this report will help improve practice in very challenging cases such as these.”