Improvements made after death of baby

The hustings at Portsmouth College - from left:  David Carpenter (college governor), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dems), Ian McCulloch (Green), Steve Fitzgerald (college teacher and chair), Stephen Morgan (Labour), Kevan Chippindall-Higgin (Ukip) and Penny Mordaunt (Cons)   Picture: Heather Eggelton

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ORGANISATIONS criticised over the death of a three-week-old baby insist steps are in place to improve care.

It comes after a Serious Case Review into the death of the girl in Portsmouth found agencies including the city council failed to work together to support her family.

As reported, an inquest found she died of natural causes due to an infection in December 2011.

But the review highlighted weaknesses in the handling of her case.

This included poor legal advice and appointing inexperienced social workers to the case despite the family having ‘substantial contact’ with its children’s services department.

A lack of assessment, planning and review in agencies’ work was also highlighted in the report, commissioned by Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board (PSCB).

The baby, who can only be identified as Child D, was subject to a child protection plan and living with extended family prior to her death.

On the night she died she had been sleeping in ‘unsafe circumstances’ in the care of a ‘vulnerable’ young woman.

Some of her half-siblings had suffered ‘very serious, inflicted injuries’ as young children but it was decided there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to support any prosecution.

The council has apologised to the family.

Jimmy Doyle, the independent chairman of PCSB, said of the probe into the circumstances surrounding Child D’s death: ‘[It] is about helping organisations working in Portsmouth to keep children safe, continually improve and learn.’

The council has increased the number of solicitors doing child protection work, and replaced temporary lawyers with permanent staff in response to the review. Cases where assessments are needed pre-birth are more closely tracked and a training session is being provided for relevant agencies next month.

Meetings chaired by a senior children’s social care manager and attended by a senior lawyer are now held weekly to track cases that involve care proceedings.

There is also closer scrutiny of arrangements made before a child is placed with a family member.

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