Derby house fire: There are no immediate lessons to be learnt from Philpott tragedy, say social services


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The Independent Online

A preliminary inquiry by social services into the fire deliberately started by the parents of six children at their home found that no immediate lessons could be learnt from the tragedy.

Derby Safeguarding Children Board said it would continue a serious case review into the fatalities which is expected to report back in the summer.

Among the questions due to be considered was the level of information sharing between police, doctors, teachers and social workers who had contact with the family.

Both Mairead and Mick Philpott attempted suicide in the wake of Mr Philpott’s lover Lisa Willis’s decision to leave the house three months before the blaze.

It also emerged that Mr Philpott had a history of violence dating back to a 1978 attempted murder conviction and that his relations with women – some of them underage – were uniformly characterised by violence. At the time of the fire he was on bail after admitting a road rage attack.

In a statement Andrew Bunyan, strategic director of children and young people for Derby City Council said none of the children were subject to child protection plans or legal orders.

“Whenever a serious case review is initiated, questions are asked about whether there are immediate changes that need to be made to the way local services operate to safeguard children.  There have been no urgent recommendations emerging from this review,” he added.

In 2010 a serious case review carried out into 11 men convicted of sexually exploiting teenage girls – two of whom were in local authority care in Derby - found that opportunities had been missed.

The summary of the report said: "Had there been earlier, concerted intervention in their lives to address their unmet needs it is likely that they would have been less vulnerable as adolescents and therefore less likely to be abused.”

Former Tory minister Anne Widdecombe, who appeared in a television reality programme alongside the Philpotts, said suggestions social services should have done more were unfair.

"Yes, they were living a most irregular lifestyle, yes he was lazy and workshy but I didn't see any indication, admittedly I was only there briefly, but I didn't see any indication that the children were in any sort of danger," she said.

The charity Action for Children said it was time for the laws governing criminal child neglect to be updated. At present police can only intervene when there is evidence of physical rather than emotional harm to young people.