Children’s services head urged to quit over failure to stop abuse and murder of Daniel Pelka, as mother and partner await sentence
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday, covering Sarah Cassidy’s maternity leave. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Friday 02 August 2013
The head of the children’s services department accused of failing to prevent the death of the four-year-old schoolboy Daniel Pelka was still in his job last night despite growing calls for him to stand down.
Daniel died following a sustained campaign of violence at the hands of his mother, Magdelena Luczak, 27, and her partner Mariusz Krezolek, 34, in which he was starved, beaten and poisoned with salt. The pair will be sentenced for his murder in Birmingham Crown Court today, but the focus is now shifting on to how the authorities missed at least seven opportunities to intervene and stop the abuse.
Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP in whose Coventry North West constituency Daniel lived, said the city’s director of children’s services, Colin Green, carried the “indelible stain of Daniel’s cruel death” and should leave his post immediately. Mr Green was reportedly planning to retire in September, but Mr Robinson said he should be denied a comfortable exit from his post.
“I call for him to go now; and to consider his position where he is walking away with all the rights and entitlements of a normal retirement when in fact he takes with him the indelible stain of Daniel’s cruel death which his department had failed to prevent,” the MP said. “[Mr Green] was the most senior person charged with the care of the children in Coventry. The whole protracted failure in meeting responsibilities happened on his watch; his responsibility cannot end in his comfortable retirement.”
Mr Green is one of several senior figures in Coventry whose conduct will be investigated in a Serious Case Review over the next six weeks. The review began in the weeks after Daniel’s death last year but is now not expected to conclude until the middle of next month, as the council claims it needs to consider fresh evidence presented in court.
Police, school staff, social services and health workers were among those who failed to act despite Daniel having a broken arm and two black eyes, and – in the final weeks of his life – being so hungry that he was seen scavenging in bins for food.
Despite the guilty verdict against Magdelena Luczak, her mother, Jolanta, defended her in an interview with Sky News and insisted instead that the authorities were “very much at fault” for the death of her grandson. “Social services should work properly there, but they have failed, they have done nothing,” she said.
A child welfare expert warned last night that children’s services around the country were failing to learn from child abuse tragedies such as the deaths of Daniel and Baby P – the 17-month-old Peter Connelly, who was killed by his mother, her partner and her partner’s brother in Haringey, north London.
Chris Cloke, the head of child protection awareness at the NSPCC, told The Independent: “What needs to happen is that we learn from cases like Baby Peter, not only in the locality where they happen, but also outside of it. I don’t think that happens sufficiently often at the moment. The same issues keep coming up time and time again in serious case reviews about the importance of effective communication between agencies and the importance of training.”
The shadow children’s minister, Lisa Nandy, said schools should be compelled by law to report child welfare concerns. “We’ve seen a number of cases recently where it’s clear that schools aren’t passing on information that they have, where they suspect abuse,” she said. “We think they ought to be under a legal obligation to do that.”
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said that Daniel’s “vile, evil murder” should be “on all of our consciences”. He told LBC radio: “What we have done already is get rid of a lot of the complexity and bureaucracy that we worry might have meant that cases were not picked up earlier. We’ve simplified the way in which child protection is organised.”
But Andrew Webb, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said child abuse guidelines had not been changed at all. “Technically, the Government has issued a shorter document … but the basic elements of how to respond to child abuse are no different.”
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