Teachers, care workers and police are all criticised in the latest report out today into the failure to protect young children from abusive adults.
Police received 26 reports of domestic abuse at the home of Daniel Pelka during his short lifetime – but a lack of rigorous questioning and bad record-keeping meant officials never got to the bottom of what was going on.
After months of abuse, four-year-old Daniel, from Coventry, was beaten and left fatally wounded in an unheated box room for 33 hours to die, while the extent of the abuse remained undiscovered, according to the report.
At times the boy appeared “invisible” to the authorities and the report paints a picture of inaction and professional timidity, with no one stepping forward to take decisive action despite numerous warning signs. Officials “demonstrated a failure of the most basic aspect of child protection work”, according to the serious case review.
The report blamed contributory factors including the deceptions of his mother Magdelena Luczak, 27, and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek, 34, who were jailed for life earlier this year for murder.
The report criticises a lack of professional curiosity by a range of agencies that could have stepped in, but failed to share key information. In one case, a midwife with serious concerns about the safety of Daniel and his siblings was persuaded by a social worker not to refer the case to the children’s services at Coventry City Council.
The report identified three main failures when the abuse could have been stopped:
* Professionals believed his parents’ story too readily that he broke his arm in 2011 when he fell off a sofa.
* Little Heath primary school failed to act on a pattern of injuries spotted during the four months before his death in 2012. Teachers watched him fish half-eaten food from bins because he was so hungry.
* A paediatrician just a month before he died failed to spot child abuse as the key reason for Daniel’s dramatic weight loss: he weighed less than 11kg when he died.
“It could be argued that had a much more inquiring mind been employed by professionals about Daniel’s care, and they were more focused and determined in their intentions to address those concerns, this would have offered greater protection for Daniel,” the report said.
Child care experts said the review was just the latest that highlighted similar problems following other deaths of children that could have been prevented by agencies.
Baby P – Peter Connelly – died aged 17 months in 2007 from dozens of injuries despite numerous visits by health and social services to his home. Seven years earlier, eight-year-old Victoria Climbié was tied up, burnt with cigarettes and beaten with bicycle chains by her guardians.
Martin Reeves, chief executive of Coventry City Council, said: “Daniel was murdered by the two people who should have loved and protected him most, but all organisations in Coventry involved in Daniel’s short life now have to face up to their responsibilities and the part they played in the missed opportunities that could have protected Daniel. We are sorry we did not do enough to protect Daniel.”