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'Collective failure' on two-year-old Keanu Williams death

Serious case review claims social workers, nursery staff and health service staff all missed chances to intervene in abuse which resulted in boy's death

Keanu Williams died in 2011

A serious case review into the death by abuse of two-year-old Keanu Williams has found a collective failure by child protection agencies in Birmingham.

A report into Keanu’s murder found social workers, nursery staff and health service staff missed several opportunities to intervene and prevent the abuse, despite evidence he had suffered bumps, bruises and even burns.            

Keanu was pronounced dead on January 9, 2011, after paramedics arrived at Southerton’s flat in Birmingham. A post mortem found 37 separate injuries on his body.        

His mother, 25-year-old Rebecca Shuttleworth, herself a product of the care system, was jailed 18 years for the murder while her partner at the time, Luke Southerton, received a suspended sentence and 200 hours community service for child cruelty.

The serious case review also revealed Keanu was presented to hospital and his GP with injuries on a number of occasions in the months leading up to his death.            

In December 2010, an assessment was made after he suffered what his mother described as an accidental burn to his foot from a radiator.            

Early in January nursery staff also made a note of a number of marks and bruises on his body, but accepted the mother’s explanation they were accidental and took no action to protect him.            

Four days later he died.            

The review has also highlighted concerns surrounding Keanu’s two older half-siblings, but concluded the authorities were too focused on the welfare of Shuttleworth as a former care leaver.            

The report found: “Poor communications within agencies, a lack of analysis of information as well as a lack of professional curiosity in questioning the information, a lack of confidence among professionals in challenging parents and other professionals, short comings in recording systems and practice.

"Professional over-optimism rather than to respectfully disbelieve and dealing with events as one off episodes.”            

It is the latest in a long line of damning reviews of child deaths, including those into Khyra Ishaq who was starved to death by her parents.

"In most cases the causes have been eerily similar with a failure of various agencies coming into contact with vulnerable children to share information and a failure to challenge parents’ accounts of injuries.            

Birmingham’s Children’s Services has been rated as inadequate since 2009 and despite three reorganisations, and four changes in senior management, the service remains in trouble and under performing with staff over worked, poor quality reporting and high numbers of vacancies.

Jane Held, of the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, said: "A little boy died unnecessarily.            

"On behalf of all agencies involved we express our very deep regret and distress about his death.                        

"There we unacceptable and unnecessary failings, collectively across the whole system and individually as agencies.                        

"Keanu died due to a failure to support him."                        

She confirmed that a significant number of social work staff and health service staff had been sacked or disciplined in the aftermath of Keanu's death.           

Rebecca Shuttleworth and Luke Southerton
Rebecca Shuttleworth and Luke Southerton
                                           

 

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