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Up to 100 children are dying a year because social workers & health professionals are too busy argui

3rd Feb 2008 | in Social Care

Telegraph news

Up to 100 children are dying every year from abuse and neglect in England because social workers and health professionals are too busy arguing over who is responsible for them, according to a report commissioned by the Government.

Half of the children never reach their first birthday because they are killed by adults expected to care for them and failed by the agencies charged with protecting them.

The report by East Anglia University, and published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, comes eight years after the case of Victoria Climbie, who was tortured to death by Marie Therese Kouao, her great aunt, and Carl Manning, the woman’s boyfriend. The inquiry into her death was the most extensive investigation into child protection in British history and cost £3.8 million, but the latest report casts serious doubt on its impact.

The findings paint a picture of a system in administrative chaos, with bureaucratic rows getting in the way of help for those in danger. In particular, it says teachers, police, midwives, nurses, doctors and social workers involved in more than 100 child abuse and neglect cases it analysed were "preoccupied with eligibility for their services rather than concern for the child".

Researchers focused on reviews of 161 serious cases between 2003 and 2005. Of those, 106 of the children died; suicide was the known or probable cause of death for 14.

The authors said many more children die without their deaths being investigated and the true toll could be as high as two a week. Almost half were under 12 months old. More than half the children, 55 per cent, were known to social workers at the time of the incident.

"Our report makes powerful reading," said Marian Brandon, a child care specialist at the university. "There are lessons to be learnt about how different agencies - midwives, health visitors, paediatricians, speech and language therapists, the police and psychiatrists as well as education personnel and nursery nurses who work with children - liaise with one another."

Home Office figures show the rate of child homicide in England and Wales has not dropped over the past 25 years.

Kevin Brennan, the Children’s Minister, said he would send the report to every director of children’s services and every Local Safeguarding Children Board.

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