Baby deaths uncover Calderdale care failings

Inquiries into the deaths of two vulnerable babies have uncovered “systematic failings” in care services at a West Yorkshire council.

Both children died of natural causes but their families were known to Calderdale Council before their deaths.

The reports have prompted a review of children’s services and made a number of recommendations.

Calderdale Council said services should have been better and that actions had been taken to address the concerns.

The serious case reviews found the youngsters, known as Child A and B, were known to social services after being born into families where drink, drugs, neglect and domestic abuse were problems.

Although there was no definite evidence that abuse or neglect were contributory factors in the deaths, the inquiries found a series of failings in how the cases were handled.

The report revealed Child A’s parents had both been subjects of probation orders in the period leading up to her death from sudden infant death syndrome in October 2007.

‘Poor management’

The authorities had been involved with the family since 2002, when their eldest child was born and there was “serious incidents” of domestic violence in the home.

Child B, who was severely disabled, was left for 17 hours prior to her death in December 2007.

The review noted that her mother had alcohol and drug problems.

Calderdale Council, which covers Halifax and surrounding boroughs, received a referral from hospital staff but the review found basic procedures were not followed.

In conclusion, the report stated: “There were inadequate response times, poor management oversight.. It would appear that there were no meaningful thresholds for intervention in respect of children at risk of neglect.”

Paul Brennan, acting group director for children and young people’s services at Calderdale Council, said: “There is no suggestion in these reports that these deaths would have been prevented by better social work help.

“However, we were working with these families and our work was found wanting, it should have been better.

“We have taken immediate actions to address the worries that were pointed out to us in the serious case reviews so that our help for all children and families improve.”