Social Workers Alter Methods After Child Death

Social workers in a city where a baby boy was battered to death despite concerns being raised beforehand are making significant changes to the way they work. Staff are to become less desk-bound, and a policy of offering “office appointments” to parents who are the subject of concern will be scrapped.

A report earlier this year into the death of 13-month-old Aaron Gilbert in Townhill, Swansea, found that social workers failed properly to follow up child abuse allegations. Eight days before Aaron Gilbert was killed by his mother’s partner Andrew Lloyd in May 2005, an anonymous caller complained about the way the child was being treated.

But instead of an investigation being started, the details of the call were passed on to a social worker, who wrote a letter to Lewis inviting her to an office meeting. However, it was sent to the wrong address and Lewis did not turn up. Lewis was later convicted of familial homicide for failing to protect Aaron, the first British mother to be convicted of the crime.

Aaron had 50 injuries when he died of brain damage in May 2005, the trial at Swansea Crown Court was told. Lloyd, a heavy drinker and drug addict, used to pick the baby up by his ears, blew cannabis smoke into his mouth and finally smashed him against a wall. Lloyd admitted the murder and was jailed for a minimum of 24 years. Aaron’s mother is serving six years.

A report by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) earlier this year into the involvement of all local services leading up to the murder was critical of communication between the police, social services and the prison service which meant Lloyd was not identified as a “significant risk” to Aaron.

The report also concluded that the social worker who sent the letter (instead of instigating a full investigation) was not properly supervised because key staff had left and had not been replaced immediately.

Members of Swansea Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board were told yesterday the policy of offering office appointments had been stopped. Staff training now includes “when not to put a caller on hold” when taking referral about harm to a child.

In a separate report this year the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) found “serious concerns” with core areas of child and family services in Swansea. Concerns included the timeliness of the completion of assessments, inconsistency in the quality of care planning, reports that staff were not getting regular formal supervision and difficulties in allocating work. A final report is expected to be published next month and reported to the council.

Earlier this month Wendy Fitzgerald, the council’s cabinet member for social services, refused a call by opposition members for her to resign. She said, “My responsibility is to stay and oversee any changes we have to make. We will come out of this with a much more solid base for children’s services.”