Children's services back in spotlight after reviews into deaths of two infants in Northamptonshire

"Recent Ofsted visits found our services are improving but we know that there are still areas to work on," says trust chair

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 1:06 pm

Heads of children's services in Northamptonshire admit there is still work to be done following publication of two independent reviews into deaths of infants in the county.

An inspector confirmed health workers could not have predicted the death of a six-week-old tot who suffocated in bed with her drunk parents in October 2019.

But a separate Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership review into the death of a six-month-old boy in April 2020 highlighted a number of areas where more action could have been taken.

County children's services heads Cathi Hadley and Julian Wooster

Northamptonshire Children’s Trust took charge of child protection last year after the county council was labelled 'inadequate' by inspectors in June 2019.

Its chair, Julian Wooster, admitted: “These are incredibly upsetting cases, and we owe it to these children, to ensure that the learnings from these reports are put into practice.

“Being a trust gives us the opportunity to concentrate solely on delivering services for children, young people and families, to focus on improving our practice and to ensure every child and young person is given the safest possible environment in which they can thrive.

“Recent Ofsted visits have found that our services are improving. But of course there is no room for any complacency.

"We are just at the start. We know that there are still areas to work on and we have an improvement plan in place to address this.

“What I can assure you, is that we will work relentlessly to continue to make improvements to our services so that they are true examples of best practice to ensure we achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people in Northamptonshire.”

Northamptonshire County Council retained overall responsibility for delivering children's services, which past to the two new unitary authorities in April this year.

Cathi Hadley, director of children’s services for West and North Northamptonshire Councils, said: “It is deeply saddening for everyone involved when we see young lives cut short, particularly where it could have been avoided.

“There is still work to be done in terms of making sure we, as a local authority working with partners, pick up on the early warning signs that were present in these cases.

“Since Children’s Social Care was put into the hands of the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, Ofsted findings show a continuing trend of improvement and I am confident we are tightening the net and increasing the chances of those warning signs being picked-up and acted upon.”

Among the reviews' recommendations is a call for the launch of a safer sleeping campaign in the county.

Dr Joanne Watt, GP Chair, NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “We have recently worked with Public Health Northamptonshire to promote safer sleeping advice, and will promote this advice again over the festive period.

"The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket but we understand some families choose to co-sleep and our campaign promoted how to do this more safely.

■ The Lullaby Trust has more information HERE on reducing the risks of co-sleeping.

"There are some circumstances, such as if your baby is premature or alcohol or drugs have been consumed, when it is never safe to co-sleep.”

Two serious case reviews published in 2019 found the council had failed to protect murdered children Dylan Tiffin-Brown and Evelyn-Rose Muggleton.

This summer's latest visit by watchdog Ofsted confirmed there has been 'tangible progress' in Northamptonshire’s children’s services.

A letter from inspectors said: "Throughout the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, senior leaders have continued to focus relentlessly on improving practice."