Social workers disciplined over 13-month-old boy found dead in Wythenshawe home

Disciplinary action has been taken against four social care workers after a baby boy was found dead in front of a gas fire – following a string of missed opportunities to save him from neglect.

Three social workers at Manchester council and a fourth member of the authority’s social care staff have been made the subjects of town hall disciplinary investigations after the death of 13-month-old Alex Sutherland. A report blamed multiple failures by both health and social workers after the youngster was found dead in his buggy at the home of his mother, Tracey Sutherland, in Baguley, Wythenshawe, in November 2009. Two of the social workers connected to the case are now being brought before formal disciplinary hearings by their employers. The other two are having their work monitored. The report, a Serious Case Review published by the Manchester Safeguarding Children’s Board this week, concluded that no single agency was to blame. But the report said Alex was the victim of multiple failures across all agencies involved – with the exception of Greater Manchester Police – and that his neglect at the hands of his mother, a heavy drinker, was both predictable and preventable. NHS Manchester said no disciplinary action had been taken against any of its staff. The tot had been dead for at least three days when he was found with parts of his body charred and his clothes covered with faeces, the report said. Police discovered his mother – who was later jailed for 27 months after admitting neglect – walking the streets in her pyjamas and smelling of alcohol. The Serious Case Review, which highlighted the need for multi-agency training and improvements, revealed that Alex died despite opportunities to spot the extent of his neglect, including 17 expressions of concern that failed to trigger a review of his case. Mike Livingstone, Manchester council’s Deputy Director of Children’s Services, said: “As part of the Serious Case Review process we have scrutinised every aspect of our involvement with Alex and his family. “It is clear from this that there are areas where we could have done better, and as a result four members of staff have been subject to disciplinary investigations. “Two of the staff members are now being brought before formal disciplinary hearings, and the other two staff – whilst not facing formal disciplinary hearings – are now subject to management instruction and oversight of their work.” John Harrop, Director of Manchester Community Health for NHS Manchester, said the issues identified by the review went ‘beyond the practice of individuals’. He added: “As a result of this tragic case, we have carried out a careful review of what happened in relation to our staff and what needs to be done to ensure such an event cannot occur again. “While there have been a number of lessons learned and further training provided to some, disciplinary action against staff members was not indicated.”