Two Northamptonshire children murdered by violent drug dealers within six months of each other were ‘let down’ by Northamptonshire children’s services.
Two separate serious case reviews were published today about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of a one-year-old Kettering baby girl who died in April last year and a two-year-old Northampton boy in December 2017, who were both known to social services before they were murdered.
Northamptonshire County Council’s children’s services, which is currently being overseen by a government-appointed children’s commissioner after a damning Ofsted report last autumn, has apologised for ‘letting down’ the children and says it is ‘deeply ashamed’.
The two reviews both found instances where the understaffed and failing social services department was found wanting in its protection of the children.
Ryan Coleman, himself in care when he was younger, was given a life sentence in February for the brutal murder of the daughter of his partner in February this year.
The court found he had brutally attacked the child and had inflicted 31 injuries.
In a second case, Raphael Kennedy was jailed in October last year for 24 years for the murder of his son Dylan Tiffin-Brown.
Both men were known to police and social services.
In a press conference this morning the chairman of the Northamptonshire Children Safeguarding Board Keith Makin said: “We as a board can’t make a direct link between actions taken or not taken and these children’s murders but there were serious errors of judgement made and there was poor practice.”
He added: “In both these situations a dangerous man entered the lives of these children. And not enough attention was paid to that.”
The report found social care and health agencies who had been involved with the family of the Kettering baby girl not recognised neglect that was taking place.
Doctors’ appointment, health checks and immunisations had also been missed.
And there was no focus by agencies on the parenting skills of the child’s mother, who had allowed Coleman to move into her home just weeks after meeting him on social media.
Northamptonshire Police missed an opportunity to escalate information after learning that the convicted violent criminal was living with the family.
There were fears of more violence in the household if their father, who was in prison at the time, was released.
The director of children’s services Sally Hodges said: “No-one joins the profession to make children less safe.
“Quite the reverse. The profession is full of dedicated people who have given their career over to improving the life chances of children. It is the role of organisations such as Northamptonshire County Council to make sure they are able to do just that. Unfortunately at the time of this tragedy this was not the case and for that as an organisation we are truly sorry.”
Recommendations from the Serious Case Review are that organisations need to share information and put the children first. There will also be a local and national campaign to raise awareness of the risks of allowing an unknown person into the lives of children.
It also said professionals needed to be ‘much more curious’ about a children’s circumstances.
Police say since the deaths more training for officers has been carried out.
Northamptonshire children’s social services will be put into a independent trust after a decision by the government based on the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner who had found chaos in the multi safeguarding hub when he arrived last November. This was after the deaths of both children.