Social Workers ‘intimidated’ by mother convicted of manslaughter

A serious case review into the death of a 12-year-old autistic boy who died after his mother made him drink bleach has found social workers were intimidated by her and felt unconfident dealing with her because she was from an ethnic minority.

The review, published by Barking and Dagenham safeguarding children board, concluded professionals could not have predicted Satpal Kaur-Singh would kill her son Ajit.

The boy, who had severe learning disabilities, died in February 2010, within 12 hours of Ms Kaur-Singh being told at a meeting that Barking and Dagenham Council planned to take him into care because she refused to comply with his child protection plan.

She was sentenced to seven years for his manslaughter at the Old Bailey in April.

The review says: “Overall professionals attributed too much weight to the mother’s ethnicity and religion in explaining her behaviour and insufficient attention to her individual psychology and personal history. They lacked confidence in dealing with a service user from a minority ethnic group.”

It adds that she complained that services were being “insensitive‟ or that white workers did not “understand her culture‟ and then withdrew from the service or demanded to have the worker changed. But her complaints and comments were not valid or justified but professionals and agencies frequently failed to question or challenge these views.

Ms Satpal Kaur-Singh also intimidated professionals, including social workers, with her aggression, which resulted in a ban from her child’s school after reduced staff to tears. She also received a conviction for common assault and a restraining order, following a dispute with her neighbour.

“Her aggressive and difficult behaviour led professionals in a number of different agencies to avoid challenging her, which had a profound bearing on the assessment of risk to the children, the services that the children received and the overall management of the case,” says the review.

It concludes that professionals working with children should become more familiar with concept of personality disorder, to understand how it may impact on the care of children and to understand its association with other conditions such as substance misuse, other forms of mental illness and domestic violence.