Social services probed over death of baby ‘force-fed by parents’

An investigation has been launched into how social services handled the case of a baby who died after allegedly being force-fed by her parents, the Standard can reveal today.

The 10-month-old died from pneumonia caused by inhalation of food into the lungs. Her mother, a 29-year-old nurse, and her 36-year-old father have been charged with causing or allowing her death.

A serious case review is under way after it emerged that social services had previously stepped in when an accusation of force-feeding was made in relation to another child in the family. That youngster had plastic surgery to rectify internal damage, it was claimed.

Baby W, from Walthamstow, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, died in March last year after being taken to Whipps Cross University Hospital suffering from breathing difficulties. A post-mortem examination held at Great Ormond Street Hospital was inconclusive and further tests were conducted which revealed the cause of death.

Her parents appeared at the Old Bailey last month charged with causing or allowing her death.

The couple deny the charge and have been remanded on bail to face trial in September.

A spokesman for Waltham Forest council confirmed the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board has started a serious case review into the death of Baby W.

Such a review is launched when a child dies and abuse or neglect are known or suspected to be a factor. The investigation looks into the involvement of organisations and professionals with the child and the family.

The parents are originally from West Africa where in some communities being large is considered to reflect a family’s wealth. A report by Waltham Forest Trust Board in September revealed that health visitors in the borough reported increased and unsustainable workloads resulting from high numbers of vacant posts, rising birth rates, levels of deprivation contributing to vulnerability and a mobile and ethnically diverse population.

An investigation revealed only a fraction of babies born in the borough received their one-year health check because of staff shortages.

Only three per cent of babies in the borough were examined between August 2009 and January last year. This is the lowest figure of all London boroughs.

The figures show only 75 of the 2,208 babies born in Waltham Forest between August 2008 and January 2009 received the check.

The 12-month checks were set up as part of the previous government’s Healthy Child programme, which monitored the development of babies.