Sunderland baby in care of drug-addict mum died after series of failings by social services

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A NEWBORN baby died after being left in the care of her drug addict mother following a host of failures by social services.

The infant, known only as Baby A, died in April last year after she suffered a heart attack just weeks after she was born.

A serious case review (SCR) into what happened to her and one of her siblings, Child C, discovered social workers knew the mother had been taking heroin while pregnant and had used the drug, along with cannabis and cocaine, since she was 16 following the birth of the first of her four children.

The report states the family were known to the authorities, with visits from police and raids a regular occurrence.

The family’s first point of contact with Sunderland social services was an American social worker who did not have an “appropriate level of understanding about key procedures,” and told investigators she was used to a more hands-on approach in the USA, rather than assessment and analysis of facts. The social worker no longer works for the council.

The report also highlights a lack of oversight by managers, which led to delays and a failure to take action despite warning signs over six years she was not capable of changing her behaviour to look after the baby and one of her other children, Child C.

The woman’s two other children had been taken away from her, with the eldest with her parents and the second with his father.

Child C, her third born, had been made the subject of a Child Protection Plan and was living with her parents.

The review states while the mother was given medical help and community treatment, she did not stay free of drugs and in summer 2012, began a relationship with a man after he was released from prison for selling class A drugs.

Baby A was born in late March 2013, with the youngster made the subject of a Child Protection Plan, again because of fears over her drug use.

The tot was discharged from hospital into the care of her maternal grandparents.

At one week old, she was admitted to A&E in a critical condition when she stopped breathing after the mum had fed her while her parents were home, but not in the same room.

She was only supposed to have unsupervised contact with the baby if she passed drugs test, but none were performed.

She was put on a respirator and the baby died early the next month following the withdrawal of life support.

Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board has said the overview report suggests it is not possible to conclude that different actions on the part of the professionals involved would have led to a different outcome for Baby A.

But it is critical of the absence of ‘robust multi-agency collaboration’, identifies a number of things the agencies involved could have done better and recommends a series of improvements.

Colin Morris, the Board’s independent chairman, said: “We recognise that some practices identified in this case are below the standard we would expect and we fully endorse the recommendations made by the report’s independent author.”