14 agencies missed chance to save child beaten to death by carers
Fourteen separate child protection agencies and council departments missed opportunities to save the life of a three-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his carers, a report has found.
Council departments, care agencies, probation services, police and NHS Trusts failed to prevent the death of Ryan Lovell-Hancox who was mercilessly tortured and then murdered.
The youngster received 70 separate injuries at the hands of his mother’s cousin, Kayley Boleyn, and her boyfriend, Christopher Taylor.
He collapsed and died on Christmas Eve 2008 after a final blow led to a severe brain injury.
Hours before Ryan died, a care worker visited the flat and even heard him moaning under bedcovers, but presumed he was just waking up when in fact, he was lying in agony.
A report published by Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board yesterday found that several agencies had failed to effectively intervene to help Ryan and that there was “no evidence of effective communication or liaison” between them.
Police had lost records of a previous incident where Boleyn had been accused of assaulting a child, whilst Taylor’s addiction to drink and drugs had not been flagged up by the probation service.
Taylor even visited a probation officer with Ryan, but despite being declared a ‘medium risk’ to children, details had been ‘lost’ in the transfer of data to a new computer system the previous year. If it had been highlighted, it could have resulted in the authorities taking Ryan off them.
Boleyn was paid £40 a week by Ryan’s mother, Amy Hancox, 21, to look after him for a month before Christmas because she was not coping very well.
Boleyn lived in a flat in Bilston, West Mids, and was being monitored by Shaftesbury Young People, a charity contracted by Wolverhampton Council to run care services for people leaving home before they become fully independent.
His life soon became appalling as Boleyn and Taylor tormented and abused him.
Ryan, described as a “bubbly and intelligent boy”, was repeatedly beaten about the face, back and buttocks. His skull received 10 severe blows and he had more than 70 injuries to his body by the time he died.
The report concluded that Miss Hancox, Boleyn, 19, and Taylor, 25, were all “known” to statutory authorities.
The report said the authorities were aware of Taylor and Boleyn’s relationship and concerns were raised about his influence over her.
“If the records had been in place there is a chance that action would have been taken to remove Ryan from Boleyn’s flat, but that is not certain,” it read.
The report concluded that Ms Hancox, Boleyn and Taylor were all “well known to the various agencies involved with child protection”.
It added that Ryan “was not protected and suffered non-accidental injury as a result of which he died.”
Boleyn and Taylor were jailed for life for Ryan’s murder at Wolverhampton Crown Court in July last year.
Ryan’s grandmother, Carole Sadler, 44, said: “The various agencies clearly didn’t do their jobs properly. If the agencies knew Taylor and Boleyn were not allowed kids in the flat, why didn’t they stop them?
“It’s their fault for not bothering to do their jobs properly. They are supposed to be working together but the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing most of the time.”
The report’s author, Martin Burnett, said the police should have recorded child protection concerns in relation to Boleyn in September 2005, and in October 2005 the Probation Service should have recorded the assessed child protection risk posed by Taylor and they should have passed the information to Children’s Services.
Mr Burnett added that those deficiencies were significant in allowing Ryan to remain in his killers’ care.
The failure to keep proper records meant that when Taylor took Ryan with him to meet a probation officer in December 2008 “no alarm bells rang” and an opportunity was missed.
The inquiry also established that a contractor providing Wolverhampton’s leaving care service, which was monitoring Boleyn, failed to visit her often enough and the worker who saw Ryan on the day he collapsed was not trained in social work.
Sarah Norman, Wolverhampton City Council’s strategic director for community, said: “On behalf of the city council, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to his parents and their family for their unimaginable loss. I also want to say sorry to them for the things that we got wrong.”
BASW STATEMENT ON THE REPORT IN TO RYAN LOVELL-HANCOX
The death of Ryan Lovell-Hancox is a horrific tragedy and a desperate waste of a young life. At this early stage, as information about his suffering emerges, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is emphasising the dire state of some areas of child protection work which attract nothing like enough genuine commitment to real investment and reform.
Nushra Mansuri, Professional Officer for BASW said: “It is vital that the highest priority is given to protecting vulnerable young people, not just by social workers and social services, but by all agencies engaged in this work.”
Since the death of Baby Peter referral rates to children’s social care departments have reached unprecedented rates which have not been matched by an increase in qualified and experienced social workers to deal with this complex and demanding work. Other services such as health and police are also under great pressure to address the demands placed on services to protect children and they must also be maintained at appropriate levels.
Nushra added: “An effective child protection system must be truly child centred upholding the right of all children to be safe and secure. The information published at this point about the circumstances surrounding Ryan’s death identifies some of the things that went wrong; we hope that as more things come to light we also learn why things went wrong in this particular case so the appropriate steps can be taken by the local agencies concerned and lessons can be learned more widely.”