Aaron Gilbert death case social worker offered job back

A SOCIAL worker sacked following the death of a baby in Swansea has been offered her job back. Eleni Cordingley was struck off after admitting misconduct in the case of 13-month-old Aaron Gilbert, the Townhill tot killed in 2005.

She received a formal warning after a disciplinary hearing by Swansea Council in 2007. But in January this year, the Care Council for Wales (CCW) struck her off the Register of Social Workers.

That meant she could not practise as a social worker in the UK. Swansea Council then terminated her employment.

Mrs Cordingley appealed against the CCW decision at a tribunal hearing in August.

The tribunal upheld her appeal, and said she had been punished enough for an “error of professional judgement”.

A spokesman for Swansea Council said the authority would now offer her a job as a social worker again.

She was judged to have shown “extremely poor judgement” by the Care Council for Wales.

But earlier this year she launched an appeal against the decision, and yesterday the Tribunals Service announced it had found in her favour, concluding it had “no hesitation” in upholding the appeal.

“Whilst Mrs Cordingley has to take individual responsibility for the decision, which she does, there are also organisational failures in play,” the judgement reads.

“It is a huge leap to make to suggest that if Mrs Cordingley had referred as she should that it is likely or even possible that Aaron would have been saved.

“There is no doubt that she suffers huge remorse. She blames herself for Aaron’s death.”

However, Gareth Gilbert, the father of baby Aaron, criticised the decision. He said: “Reinstating her means she has just received a slap on the wrist. She has just been told don’t do it again.”

Aaron was murdered at the Gwylfa Road home his mother Rebecca Lewis shared with killer Andrew Lloyd. Lloyd had inflicted more than 50 injuries on the child before he died. In 2006, Lloyd was jailed for a minimum of 24 years for Aaron’s murder, while Lewis was given a six-year prison sentence for failing to prevent the killing, in one of the first rulings of its kind.

The Swansea Local Safeguarding Children Board carried out a serious case review into Aaron’s death, which led to the council launching disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Cordingley in September 2007.

Their internal hearing in October that year concluded that she was guilty of misconduct and she received a second-level warning, leading to a period when she was closely supervised and received further training.

But in January this year she faced a Care Council for Wales hearing, which heard how the social services team had received two anonymous calls expressing concern about baby Aaron’s family just days before his murder, but that Mrs Cordingley had failed to respond to the case, making her guilty of misconduct so serious the hearing ruled “that removal from the register is the only appropriate sanction”.

The Care Council of Wales struck her off the Register of Social Workers, which made her unable to practice as a social worker anywhere in the UK, leading Swansea Council to terminate her employment.

But Mrs Cordingley, appealed the decision, and a tribunal hearing in Cardiff in August heard her make her case.

It concluded that the decision for her to be struck off was taken in the context of “prejudicial publicity” against her.

Its judgement published yesterday

It concluded by saying Mrs Cordingley “has been punished enough. She has suffered vilification and her health has been adversely affected.

“To suspend her now for events four years ago would be inappropriate.”

A spokesman for her solicitors Thompson’s said: “”In the judgment, they specifically considered whether Aaron’s murder would have been prevented if Eleni Cordingley had referred his case to the Child Assessment Team. The Tribunal had no doubt whatsoever that it would not.

The spokesman said that Mrs Cordingley accepts that it was an error of judgement on her part not to immediately refer Aaron’s case to the Child Assessment Team and she continues to suffer huge remorse as a result.

He added: “The tribunal was clear that there was no evidence that this misjudgement on her part led to Aaron’s death.”

A spokesman for Swansea Council said lessons had been learned.

He said: “Since that time policies, practices and procedures within Child and Family Services have changed immensely.

“We recognise there is a lot more to do. Under the scrutiny of the Intervention Board and working alongside the CSSIW, the Council is determined to continue to strengthen and improve its services to the vulnerable children who are our primary concern.”

Care Council Chief Executive Rhian Huws Williams said: “We obviously accept and respect the Tribunal’s decision and Mrs Cordingley’s name will be restored to the Register of Social Care Workers.

“The Care Council takes its regulatory role very seriously and is scrupulous and fair in the way it investigates every case of alleged misconduct involving social workers or social care workers. The Care Council will examine the decision of the tribunal and assess whether there are any implications for similar cases in the future.”