Care staff admit to Climbie errors

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The Independent Online

The consultant paediatrician who diagnosed Victoria Climbie's injuries as a medical condition admitted to the inquiry into her death on Friday that she had made mistakes.

The senior social worker who was dealing with the case at the time also conceded "shortcomings" in her actions.

Yet both appeared in evidence to the inquiry yesterday to blame each other for allowing the eight-year-old to slip through the net after she was brought to the attention of the authorities seven months before her death.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Laming, is looking into the circumstances of Victoria's death at the hands of her father's aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, 45, and her partner, Carl Manning, 28, at a flat in Tottenham, north London. They were jailed for life for murder in January.

In July 1999 Victoria was taken to hospital by her childminder, Priscilla Cameron, after waking up groaning in pain. Pus was seeping from her fingers and her face was swollen. She had cuts, bruises and bloodshot eyes.

Initially she was placed under police protection after concerns that her injuries were "non-accidental". But that was withdrawn the following morning when the paediatrician, Dr Ruby Schwarz, diagnosed scabies, a skin condition. She was returned to the care of Kouao.

Dr Schwartz, of the Central Middlesex Hospital, admitted she had made errors in not talking to Victoria alone about her injuries, and said it was a "disaster" she had not made contemporaneous notes. She said she was "stunned and puzzled" by the action to drop a child protection inquiry and lift police protection the next day. "Even though there was no evidence of physical abuse, I was expecting an investigation to follow."

Michelle Hines, a senior social worker at Brent council, said that police protection was withdrawn the next day on the strength of this diagnosis without Victoria, Kouao or Mrs Cameron being interviewed or any assessment of Victoria's needs. "I was told that the child was seen by Dr Schwartz, a respected child physician in Brent. I felt that if Dr Schwartz had seen the child her diagnosis would have been correct and I could not argue with that," she said. She admitted no link was made with an earlier tip-off, made by a relative, Esther Ackah, which was on the protection team's database.

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