Social workers suspended over father's attack on baby

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Three social workers have been suspended after making a "serious error of professional judgment" in allowing a father to return home and batter his baby daughter, a council said today.

Despite warnings from a trainee probation officer that Zak Whitlock posed a risk to his child, social workers ruled he should be allowed to return to the family home.

The 21-year-old battered the girl, just weeks old, around the head, fracturing her skull and leaving her with permanent brain damage.

Today, a serious case review found paperwork about the risks posed by Whitlock had been lost.

Three social workers, including one manager, also knew of the threat he posed following a case conference, but still decided he could live with the child in Wigston, Leicestershire.

Today, it was revealed all three have been suspended on full pay pending disciplinary hearings.

Whitlock is serving a minimum prison sentence of four-and-a-half years after he was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to the child.

The inquiry, published today in Braunstone, Leicestershire, found the baby, known as Child B, was admitted to hospital four times during her short life.

On one of the visits she had unexplained marks to her legs, while on another her ear and cheek were bruised.

The investigation also found social workers were too ready to listen to the problems of Whitlock and the child's mother, ignoring the needs of the baby girl.

Both abused drugs and were known to police, while Whitlock had a history of mental illness.

Gareth Williams, director of children and young people's services at Leicestershire County Council, said: "I would like to say straight away how sorry I am that this child suffered such tragic injuries.

"At the heart of this case was a serious error of professional judgment made by social care professionals, which was made whilst working with very difficult adults.

"This is a very serious case and in the light of that we have suspended three members of staff and rigorous disciplinary procedures are ongoing."

Mr Williams said his department, which includes 86 social workers dealing with 350 children, had now been restructured.

Cases involving babies are now dealt with by the most experienced staff while random "spot checks" are being used to ensure cases are managed properly.

Trained social workers will also be manning a dedicated phone line where concerned members of the public can report suspected cases of child abuse.

There are six other serious case reviews pending in Leicestershire which are due to be published in the near future.