‘We are sorry’: Northamptonshire safeguarding officials admit they failed severely neglected baby

A disturbing report revealed how a baby’s arms were tied up with electrical wire and she was taken into hospital with an unexplained broken arm

By Megan Hillery
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 4:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 4:44 pm

Northamptonshire child safeguarding officials apologised in a press conference on Tuesday (April 26) after admitting they failed a severely neglected young baby.

This follows after a disturbing report was published revealing how care professionals in Northamptonshire missed opportunities to stop a catalogue of neglect suffered by a young baby, known only as Child Au.

Child Au was taken to Northampton General Hospital with an unexplained broken arm in addition to five historic fractures suspected to have been inflicted over a period of weeks according to the hospital’s medical director, Matt Metcalfe.

Matt Metcalfe, Joanne Watt, Jean Knight, Joe Banfield, Fiona Baker, Julian Wooster at the press conference in Franklin's Gardens, Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

Cabinet member for children, families and education at West Northamptonshire Council, councillor Fiona Baker, said: “We are exceedingly sorry this child was let down by us in the way she was. Although all of the right things were put in place, we accept that the action was not taken quick enough.

“This little girl is now thriving and getting back up to the level she would have been at, which is really a good story for her and we will be championing that for her and giving her all the support she needs.”

The report on Child Au described how she was left to sleep on a bare mattress with dirty nappies and mouldy jars of empty baby food lying around the home. It also details how a builder carrying out work on the home saw the baby’s arms tied up with electrical wire and she suffered with the pain of a broken arm for three days before she was taken to hospital.

This is the third independent review into incidents concerning infants in the county published in six months. This includes the death of a six-week-old baby, who suffocated in bed whilst the parents were “heavily intoxicated” in October 2019 as well as the review into the death of a six-month-old boy in April 2020, which the report ruled warning signs were missed by children’s services.

Councillor Fiona Baker at the Child Au press conference in Franklin's Gardens. Photo by David Jackson.

Chairman of the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, Julian Wooster, was asked by this newspaper what message he would give to Child Au now.

Mr Wooster responded: “We really want to apologise for the lack of support we provided to you and to your parents in your early years both in Northamptonshire and also your previous county.

“It is clear that your parents did not receive the support they needed and we know that parents can do some really serious and bad things without the support to become good parents.

“We hope and pray that you are getting the right support in our care and look forward to you becoming an adult who can meet all their needs and expectations.”

Chairman of the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, Julian Wooster. Photo by David Jackson.

Independent reviewer Moira Murray’s 15,000-word report highlights significant failings by professionals involved in Child Au’s care, including a consultant community paediatrician, team manager, four health visitors workers and three social workers in the county who failed to act over warning signs.

A social worker, who visited the home, found the mother to be “hostile and unaccommodating” and the issue of the baby’s arms being taped up was “seemingly not discussed at all”, according to the report.

Mr Wooster said this was a “clear failure of communication” on the part of the designated social worker, their supervisor and the agencies involved under the child safeguarding partnership, which he said was down to the “poor support” that workers received at the time.

It was not specified if the employees concerned faced disciplinary action.

Child Au was taken into police protection following her hospital admission and both parents were arrested. They have since been convicted of child neglect and imprisoned.

A ‘strategy discussion’ was held after the parents’ arrest and two doctors as well as a safeguarding nurse tried to call into the meeting but were never let in despite waiting for 40 minutes to connect. The meeting went ahead anyway and an emergency protection order was applied for.

This newspaper asked Northamptonshire Police if they had any knowledge of the case prior to Child Au’s hospital admission.

Head of public protection at Northants Police deputy superintendent Joe Banfield said: “At the point the hospital raised concerns, all the appropriate safeguarding was put in place.

“We understood very quickly there were serious concerns about the child’s wellbeing and they were taken into police protection, the carers were arrested and a conviction was achieved.”

In a message addressed to Child Au, the medical director at Northampton General Hospital, Matt Metcalfe, said: “We are truly sorry, deeply sorry for everything that happened to you and in particular for the opportunities that we missed to spot it earlier and to make you safe earlier.

“We are so pleased that you are now with people who love you with the opportunity for a full and happy life and we wish you all the very best for your future.”

Children’s services in Northamptonshire are still currently rated as inadequate by Ofsted since their last full inspection in June 2019.

Councillor Baker told the press that they are expecting their next Ofsted inspection in September. She added that, during regular inspections prior to Covid-19, Ofsted inspectors said on “every” occasion that they were “seeing improvement” within the service.

The full report on in the independent review into the case of Child Au can be found on the NSCP website at http://www.northamptonshirescb.org.uk/.