Birmingham Child Services Probed After 10 Suspicious Deaths
The Government is poised to launch a probe into Birmingham’s children’s services department, a month after it was labelled inadequate by Ofsted inspectors.
The intervention comes as it emerged there have been 10 suspicious child deaths in Birmingham since April 2006, with eight of those children known to city social workers.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families has already taking direct intervention in Haringey, following the Baby P case, Surrey and Milton Keynes and is considering what action to take over Birmingham as well as councils in Doncaster, Reading, Wokingham, Essex, and West Sussex.
City Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming said targeting local authorities over the deaths and abuse of children would not solve what is a national problem as he called for a national overhaul of child protection systems.
Doncaster, which is about a quarter the size of Birmingham, hit the headlines this week after it emerged seven children known to social services had died since 2004.
Mr Hemming (Yardley) said: “Going around kicking local councils will not solve the problem when the regulation and decisions are taken at a national level.
“There is a problem with child protection in England and Wales, it is not specific to Birmingham or any other local authority.
“I have looked at child protection systems in other countries, including Ireland and Sweden, and think there is a lot we could learn from them. We need to change the system rather than blame councils.”
He said that the eight deaths in three years may not be the full picture and that he is trying to get accurate figures from the council.
“When you consider that there are 150 to 200 deaths of children through abuse each year in England and Wales and that Birmingham has a population of one million, eight deaths in three years is below average.”
He added that was eight too many, but will only improve if there is a complete overhaul of the system.
The Government and Birmingham City Council’s Children’s Services department confirmed they are working closely on improvement, but the level of intervention remains unclear.
Minister for Children Beverley Hughes said of the six local authorities: “We have either already intervened or are now sending in our intervention experts. Following initial discussions we will then decide what further action or support is required.”
But Tony Howell, Chairman of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Ministers have not sent a ‘government hit squad’ or ‘intervention team’ to Birmingham City Council.
“Whilst the death of every child is a tragedy, the number of deaths in Birmingham has not increased annually. We have been working closely with the DCSF, the government office of the West Midlands and Ofsted to improve our services.”
Among children known to have died in Birmingham are four-month-old Aalihya Jordan-Fellows of West Heath who died from brain damage two weeks ago, five-month-old Kasey Hand, who was found dead at an address in Quinton in March 2008 and Rashid Rullah, an 18-month-old who died after allegedly being accidentally shot by his five year-old sister in Washwood Heath in September 2008.