Reports linked by familiar failings

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The Independent Online

There have been 70 reports in the past half century into severe cases of child abuse, 35 of them independent public inquiries. Many exposed similar shortcomings: lack of communication, failure to focus on the child and overstretched social workers.

There have been 70 reports in the past half century into severe cases of child abuse, 35 of them independent public inquiries. Many exposed similar shortcomings: lack of communication, failure to focus on the child and overstretched social workers.

1945: Dennis O'Neill, 13, was beaten to death by his foster father, Reginald Gough, at Bank Farm, Shropshire. The inquiry identified confusion over who was responsible for the foster placement and failures of communication between staff and agencies.

1973: Maria Colwell, seven, died after being starved and beaten by her stepfather. There were 50 official visits and 30 calls from neighbours to social services. The inquiry said: "Time and time again we have had to refer to a failure of communication."

1984: Jasmine Beckford, four, was also starved and beaten by her stepfather, Maurice Beckford. Social workers from Brent visited the family 78 times in 10 months but saw Jasmine only once. The inquiry said social workers needed to regard children as clients.

1986: Kimberley Carlile, four, died after being starved and beaten by her stepfather, Nigel Hall. Greenwich social workers were allowed only to peep through a glass panel at the top of a bedroom door. The inquiry recommended that responses be made immediately to any referral suggestive of child abuse.

1987: Doreen Mason, 16 months, died after her mother and boyfriend bruised and burnt her and broke her leg but failed to have her injuries treated. The inquiry said her social worker was inexperienced and unsupervised and that Southwark social services had a "siege mentality".

1992: Leanne White, three, was beaten to death by her stepfather, Colin Sleate. An inquiry said Nottinghamshire social services had not responded properly to warnings from her grandmother and neighbours.

1999: Chelsea Brown, two, was battered to death by her father, Robert Brown. Her Derbyshire social worker visited 27 times in the 10 weeks before her death. A paediatrician said some of her injuries had "no plausible explanation". That should have triggered a case conference and police involvement.

2002: Ainlee Labonte, two, was burnt with cigarettes, scalded with hot water and starved to death by her mother, Leanne Labonte, and stepfather, Dennis Henry, in Plaistow. The inquiry identified a "lack of communication" between agencies.