When Child R’s mum was interviewed for the serious case review looking into neglect of her children and the accidental death of her baby boy at their Northampton home, she was forthcoming, happy to engage throughout the inquiry.
But, according to chair of the NSCB Keith Makin, after seeing the report that formally laid out the neglect she had unwittingly allowed, she was“quite shocked at what was being said”. Should she have been?
Mum to four other children, the review paints a picture of a tired parent who made a tragic mistake.
She was “totally against” co-sleeping, (which Mr Makin compared to “rolling a dice”) and deeply regretted her lapse. Child R, it was found, usually slept in a Moses basket.
But the neglect of the other children was pointed out to her (although not flagged up correctly) many times.
Three months before Child R died for example two children were reported to be wearing dirty clothes, smelling of damp and the younger girl’s teacher noted “nits crawling all over her skin”.
The report makes clear concerns were consistently raised with her, so she would not have been surprised at its contents.
And yet there was no evidence of any abuse, indeed Child R was “well cared for”.
Furthermore, Mr Makin said that the safeguarding board now had no concerns about the children’s future prospects.
So perhaps we should not be surprised to hear the family is still together.
Moira Murray, the author of the serious case review, has visited the mother, who said she receives a great deal of support from he family of Child R’s dad, and that they had “adopted” her.
Her relationship with her ex-husband (who had raised many concerns with the school and NSPCC), was now much more positive and the children have regular contact with him.
But the question remains how mum could have been blind to the neglect.
Commenting on her “shock”, Mr Makin, said: “That would indicate to me she hadn’t appreciated the depth and seriousness of what was going on.”
“But” he added, “it does indicate that she does realise that now. It’s been a big wake-up call.”
The family was, the report found, still recovering from Child R’s death.
But it also suggests that the terrible tragedy, and the distressing report it prompted, ultimately improved the lot of his brother and sisters.
They have not forgotten him. Indeed they are encouraged to talk openly about him.
The report describes mum asking her son where his baby brother was: “He replied that ‘he was in their hearts’ and patted his chest.”