Social services slammed over injured baby

SERIOUS failings in the social services department at North Somerset Council led to a newborn baby suffering broken limbs and a bleed on the brain, a judge has ruled.

Although department managers at North Somerset Council were warned by a social worker that the baby’s parents were ‘wholly inadequate’ to care for her, the warning went unheeded.

Only three-and-a-half weeks after she was born and was allowed home to Weston with her parents, the infant was taken to hospital and doctors found a catalogue of injuries, including a broken leg, fractured wrist and a brain injury.

The mother, in her 30s, and the father, in his 20s, pleaded guilty to causing cruelty to the baby by neglect when they appeared at Bristol Crown Court on Monday.

The Mercury cannot name the parents to protect the identity of the child.

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The mother was handed a two-year community order while the father will be sentenced next year.

The court heard the decision not to place them in supervised housing for the safety of the child may have been taken due to a need to cut costs, or through a lack of resources.

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Robert Duval, prosecuting, told the court that both parents had learning difficulties, while Robin Shellard, defending the father, said: “They were emotionally and intellectually children.”

The mother had already seen children from a previous relationship put into care, and when she fell pregnant social services drew up a plan of support.

Her social worker, Sara Matty, recommended the mother and daughter be put into a residential home for supervision following the birth, but the court heard managers in the department ignored this recommendation. The couple were allowed to take the baby home, with support from health care providers and the father’s parents.

But when the baby was subsequently taken to Weston General Hospital 23 days later, doctors diagnosed a broken left leg and fractures to her ribs, wrists, hip and knee. An MRI scan discovered internal bleeding within her skull.

The court heard the wounds would have been consistent with the youngster being shaken or thrown against a surface.

The father said the leg injury had happened when he slipped while changing the baby, but the couple could not explain any of the other injuries.

Mr Duval said it was unclear whether the injuries would have serious repercussions on the child’s future health. She is currently up for adoption.

Judge David Ticehurst said the couple should not have been allowed to care for the child, saying: “That the child was left in the care of these inadequate parents when their inadequacies were known is a grave failure of social services at North Somerset Council.

“For social services to take a decision as to the welfare of a child on the basis of cost or a lack or resources should raise grave questions as to the management procedures of the council.

“The welfare of children is too important to be subject to cost-cutting measures.”

In a statement following the court hearing, a spokesman for the council said: “This is a terrible case where a three-week-old baby suffered significant injuries while in the care of her parents.

“This family received extensive support and guidance from North Somerset Council as we attempted to keep them all together. Unfortunately this high level of support did not prevent these events from happening and we are deeply sorry for that.

“This area of social work is an extremely challenging one, where complicated individual circumstances have to be considered when making any judgement about parenting.

“We have carried out a full review of our procedures in light of this case and will carefully consider the judge’s comments to see if further changes are needed.”

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