Two babies found dead and five abused in one borough in less than two years
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Two babies died and five other young children suffered serious abuse in one borough of Liverpi over just 20 months.
The incidents have raised concerns about the council's social care system and how so many kids were able to slip through the cracks.
In July 2018, Sefton Council revealed three children under the age of six had tested positive for cocaine, heroin and cannabis, the Liverpool Echo reports.
The two-year-old female twins and a five-year-old boy were in the care of their mother and great uncle, who authorities suspect may also be their father.
A Serious Case Review (SCR) revealed how cracks in the children's social services system allowed their neglect to go undetected for the duration of their lives.
When police investigated the pair over a burglary, officers found twins, along with their brother, at the drug-laden home.
All three children later tested positive for cannabis, heroin and cocaine over the previous six-month period. They were removed from their mum's care.
In March 2019 a three-month-old baby was found lying dead in bed with his mum. There were no marks on the baby and there was no evidence he had been accidentally smothered.
When his mum arrived at the hospital, police and medical staff said she smelled of alcohol. She declined to offer a blood sample but his dad did, which showed traces of cocaine.
A report from Sefton's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) found he died tragically and suddenly and the death could not have been prevented by any additional action by safeguarding agencies.
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But the report also showed there had been poor assessments, a lack of pre-birth protocols, and a lack of information sharing between agencies.
Just a month later, in April 2019, another SCR told of a seven-month-old girl who died suddenly at home in south Sefton.
Experts were unable to confirm the cause of death, but a post-mortem found she had suffered a bleed on the brain and fractured ribs.
The report found she had "significant injuries" which experts thought were probably non-accidental. But there was not enough evidence to determine a cause of death, which was recorded as "unascertained".
A fourth SCR, published in October 2019, told of a four-month-old baby hospitalised with head injuries.
Her mum admitted to shaking her as she would "not stop crying", and the baby was put in the care of her grandmother.
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Health professionals dealing with her mother and her pregnancy were unaware she was awaiting trial for an arson charge, and the man they thought to be her dad was a registered sex offender, though a DNA test later proved him not to be the biological father.
In March 2020 a fifth SCR revealed an eight-week-old girl had been found with 13 fractures to her ribs and legs after social services missed a "significant" opportunity to intervene.
Staff at a walk-in-centre noticed bruising on the baby's body while examining a rash and hospital staff found the fractures, which her parents were unable to explain.
The report found despite her parents being known to have had serious mental health problems, council staff handed the pre-birth assessment to an inexperienced student social worker.
The student was hindered by a lack of management oversight and by key information being missed out of the assessment, and decided to close the case.
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Prior to 2018, Sefton Council had not had an SCR for seven years.
At an overview and scrutiny meeting on Tuesday (September 22), Cllr Pat Keith asked why there were then so many, in such a "short space of time".
Cllr Keith said: "Looking at the reports, the same things are recurring, things that have been highlighted. It is a concern."
Sefton's Head of Children's Social Care, Vicky Buchanan said: "Serious Case Reviews are focused on learning, it's about improving practice. Sometimes there's a delay between the incidents taking place and their publication. So these have happened in a similar time frame.
"The Local Safeguarding Children Board has responsibility, and has taken forward all the actions. I can assure you that that does happen, there is significant oversight from the LSCB."
A spokesman for Sefton Council echoed this, saying: "The LSCB has commissioned five Serious Case Reviews.
"The primary aim of these reviews is to improve multi-agency practice, and a key responsibility of the LSCB is to ensure the recommendations identified have been actioned, and that the improvements in practice have been embedded and are making a difference to children and young people.
"The safeguarding partnership remain fully committed to implementing learning across their organisations, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people throughout Sefton."
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