Northamptonshire social workers disciplined over murdered children cases

Un-named social workers employed by Northamptonshire County Council have had disciplinary action taken against them and have left the authority as a result of their actions in the professional care of two Northamptonshire children who were murdered.

By Sarah Ward
Thursday, 6th June 2019, 10:30 am
The children's social services department is still short staffed.
The children's social services department is still short staffed.

Director of Northamptonshire children’s services Sally Hodges confirmed today that a number of staff working in the failing department have had action taken against them.

She said: “Disciplinary action has been taken and there have been people who have left the authority.”

She refused to confirm the number of staff involved and whether they had been ordered to leave the authority.

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Two separate serious case reviews was published this morning into the deaths of Northampton two-year-old Dylan Tiffin-Brown and a one-year-old baby from Kettering.Both children were killed by violent drug dealing men they were living with, who were known to police and social services.

Their deaths in December 2017 and April 2018 came at a time when the social services department and the multi safeguarding hub, which is the first port of call for people and agencies to raise alerts about a child’s welfare, was in chaos and severely short staffed.

The review found that while the actions of professionals involved with the children were not attributable to their deaths, there had been mistakes made and opportunities missed to protect the children and identify the risks. The authority has apologised for the mistakes and says it is 'deeply ashamed'.

The chairman of the independent safeguarding children board Keith Makin, whose job has been to bring together the health, local authority and police services to make sure Northants children are protected, today announced he is stepping down.

He said after five years in charge it was time for him to move on.

He said: “I don’t think the partnership has been working well enough. The contributory factors to that are several. High turnover of staff and there have been several changes of managers and in all of the main partner agencies.

“The council’s really poor financial position actually drove in a lack of confidence from everybody who dealt with the council.”

Mr Makin, who is a social worker and former director of children’s services, said he had met senior leaders in health, police and local government and told them the partnership was not working. He said his personal view was that the improvement board set up in 2013 after the children’s social service department was first put into special measures was stepped down too early.

It was disbanded in 2016 and then the children’s services department went rapidly downhill. An Ofsted inspection carried out in summer last year found there were hundreds of children who did not have an allocated social worker and that staff were ‘drowning in work’.

Since the report the multi-agency safeguarding hub – which deals with information and inquiries – has been audited and new processes have been put in place.

But the authority is still short of dozens of social workers, has many agency staff and has £10m to save from its budget this year. It is being overseen by a government appointed Children's Commissioner who has recommended the setting up of an independent children's trust to deliver services.