The baby, named only as ‘Matt’ died just 24 days after he had been taken home from hospital by his troubled young parents.
His parents were then arrested on suspicion of neglect, although no further action was then taken by police, who were not able to establish the exact cause the infant’s death. A new report has now criticised the council’s Children’s Social Care department and Coventry Safeguarding Childrens’ Partnership for missing a number of opportunities to keep the infant safe.
A serious case review, carried out by a retired senior police officer, says the family were well known to social services, health workers and police for a number of years before the baby’s death. His mother, named only as ‘Kate’, had been through the care system herself as a child and gave birth to both her children when she was just a teenager herself.
There were also signs of domestic abuse in her relationship with her sons’ young father, named only as ‘Jake’, their eldest son ‘Luke’ was hospitalised from an abscess, believed to be caused by nappy rash and a number of other concerns were raised at various points about the tidiness of the couples’ home.
Health visitor appointments were not kept, Luke was seen to be handled roughly by his mother, there were times when he had been left in his cot for extended periods of time and was fed with dirty bottles.
No pre-birth assessment for Matt was considered despite the existing risk factors and the living conditions of the family home were described as “poor” after he was released from hospital with his brother still on a dirty and smelly mattress. An ambulance was called the family home to reports Matt had suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite attempts to revive him, he was later pronounced dead at hospital in 2019.
The retired police officer who wrote the serious case review said the authorities had missed a number of opportunities to intervene. The report makes seven recommendations to the Coventry Safeguarding Children’s Partnership, which is made up of the city council’s Childrens’ Social Care team, the NHS clinical commissioning group and police.
These include a review of its neglect strategy, the support it gives to young people leaving care who become parents, better training and support for staff, to make sure cases are escalated properly and that all the agencies involved are working together as well as they can.
A spokesperson for the CSCP said: “This is a difficult and complex case raising a number of important issues, and the council has worked with police and other partners. A wide-ranging review has taken place into our contact with the family, and we will look at all our working practices to see if any improvements can be made.
“The safeguarding of children is our absolute priority. We strive to continually learn and improve to get the very best outcomes for young people and we will work with partners to embed recommendations into our practice.”
But Deputy Leader of the Opposition at Coventry City Council, Councillor Peter Male, said it highlighted “serious failings” in the services and expressed concern about how these reports are handled. He added: “The Conservative Group have been concerned for some time about the process for scrutinising serious case reviews and safeguarding practice reviews in Coventry.
“There is a lack of political scrutiny in the existing process and it is unclear how the findings and recommendations of a serious case review are being followed through. We have raised our concerns at Full Council and with senior Council officers. Frankly, we have been given the brush off.
“The most recent [report] (Baby Matt) again highlights serious failings within Children’s Services. This follows the SCR last year, where serious failings in frontline service and at management level were highlighted.”
He added: “As a group we have given cross-party support for the best part of a decade in an effort to support genuine improvement in Children’s Services. Cross party support requires that we are included in the scrutiny process and that we are able to ask challenging questions without fear or favour. Serious Case Reviews must be subject to full political scrutiny however difficult the subject matter.”
Source: Coventry Telegraph