Earlier inquiry found serious failings

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The Independent Online
Preliminary findings of an independent inquiry into the death of Rikki Neave highlighted serious failings in Cambridgeshire social services management and practice.

A report from the Bridge Child Care Development Service shows files went missing at a "critical time", there was confusion over whether Rikki was at risk, and child protection procedures were not followed in his early years.

Based on an examination of events from 1986 to November 1994 when Rikki was killed, it adds the social work team responsible for Rikki's care in the last 12 months was overworked and underresourced.

Police were called in to investigate missing social services files relating to the Neaves. A council spokesman confirmed the files should have been transferred from March to social workers in Peterborough when the family moved house. However, they only turned up after Rikki was murdered.

Ted Unsworth, director designate of the social services department, revealed that a member of the management team and a social worker were suspended on two days ago.

No disciplinary action will be taken until the Bridge publishes its full inquiry report at the end of next month.

Mr Unsworth said there had been a review of procedures and practice. He admitted that the practice and management of the team fell below accepted standards. But he said Ruth Neave had been adept at hiding the true horror of her circumstances from social workers.

"It was to find out what was actually going on. There was a high level of concealment."

Much of the evidence was "new" to the department. But he said people on the ground, at the time, "did their best".

On Mrs Neave's appeal for respite care the night before Rikki died, Mr Unsworth said people dealing with the case believed it was Rikki's best interests to keep him at home.

Such requests for respite from Mrs Neave were made "not infrequently". But with hindsight perhaps we should have had a different outcome".