A serious case review into the murder of two-year-old Keanu Williams has found a collective failure by child protection agencies in Birmingham.
And the boss of children's services in the city has claimed: "We don't have enough great social workers in Birmingham."
Following the report into Keanu's murder, Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board revealed that a "significant number" of social work and health service staff had been disciplined or sacked following the Ward End boy's death.
The report found that social workers, nursery staff and health service staff missed several opportunities to intervene and prevent the abuse, despite evidence that he had suffered bumps, bruises and even burns.
His mother, 25-year-old Rebecca Shuttleworth, herself a product of the care system, was jailed for 18 years for the murder.
Shuttleworth’s partner at the time, Luke Southerton received a suspended sentence and 200 hours community service for child cruelty.
Keanu was pronounced dead on January 9, 2011, after paramedics arrived at Southerton’s flat in Old Moat Way, Ward End. A post mortem found 37 separate injuries on his body.
The serious case review, published on Thursday morning, revealed that 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 note of a number of marks and bruises on his body, but accepted the mother’s explanation that they were accidental and took no action to protect him.
Four days later he died.
The review has also revealed that there were concerns surrounding Keanu’s two older half-siblings, but concludes that the authorities were too focused on the welfare of Shuttleworth as she herself was a care leaver.
Failings highlighted in the report included "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, and shortcomings in recording systems and practice."
It also claimed that staff chose to be "professionally over-optimistic" rather than respectfully disbelieve explanations, and too often considered events to be one-off episodes.
It is the latest in a long line of damning reviews of child deaths, including those into Khyra Ishaq, the seven-year-old who was starved to death by her mother and stepfather in Handsworth in 2008.
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 overworked, poor quality reporting and a high numbers of vacancies
Jane Held, of the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, said a "significant number" of social work staff and health service staff had been sacked or disciplined following Keanu's death.
She added: "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."
Peter Hay was appointed Birmingham's strategic director of children’s services in September, replacing Peter Duxbury, who left by mutual consent during the summer.
Mr Hay said that he realised any words of apology and lessons learned would 'ring hollow'.
He added that the department was focused on improvement.
But he warned: "We still haven't got enough great social workers doing great social work in Birmingham.
“We therefore want the report, into a death two years ago, to be the point of real change in children’s services.”
He said that a key mistake was made during a child protection conference in 2009 when risks to Keanu were considered but eventually it was decided that his mother needed support.
“Since June we have tried to take a new approach to building great social work practice from the child upwards,’’ Mr Hay said.
‘‘We have a lot to do to build confidence in our staff and create stable relationships with partner agencies. It is still very early in that journey and the position in children’s services remains frail.”
- Anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare can contact the NSPCC for confidential advice and guidance on 0808 800 5000, text: 88858 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.