Social services shake up after deaths of four youngsters in Southampton

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First published in News
Last updated

WE will not let children fall through gaps in the system again.

That was the message from social services bosses as they unveiled a raft of improvements to the way the city looks after its most vulnerable children.

Three years ago saw the deaths of four young children in Southampton.

As their inquests heard, Blake Fowler, Nico Maynard and brothers Jayden and Bradley Adams were the victims of a lack of decent parenting in the first instance.

Due to those failures social services were involved in the care of Blake and the Adams brothers, and came in for criticism during the inquests held last year.

Daily Echo:

Pictured: Southampton Social Services bosses chief executive Dawn Baxendale, Cllr Mark Chaloner, Theresa leavy and Alison Elliot

Despite their involvement those children lost their lives in circumstances which remain unclear after the open verdicts were recorded into their deaths, but no one has ever been charged in connection with them.

An inspection of how Southampton City Council cared for vulnerable youngsters, carried out in 2011 – the year the children died – branded the service “inadequate”.

It was from that starting point that the “radical shake-up” of children’s services in Southampton began.

Daily Echo: Bradley and Jayden Adams

Jayden and Bradley Adams, above

Yesterday saw that work unveiled for the first time, with the team now charged with turning around what was a failing service into one they want to become one of the best in the country.

Those measures have included:

  • More than 50 social workers involved in the most serious cases of child protection and court services are now employed by the city council on a permanent basis, replacing the heavy reliance on agency staff which led to high turnover of staff and inconsistency of care.
  •  A dedicated “nerve centre” where agencies from key services including police, probation, education, health and social care are literally in the same room to discuss the most troubled family cases.
  •  An overhaul of social services by bringing together educational welfare, children’s centres and social services care under one team so that families can be offered a package of support rather than being signposted to different departments.
  • Adopting an “early intervention” policy so that families are identified quicker and offered more help before the problems reach crisis point.

They are what the woman in charge of children’s services transformation says will become the building blocks for improvement.

Theresa Leavy told the Daily Echo that while she was unable to comment on the cases of 2011 – which are currently subject to serious case reviews, she knewwould be lessons to be learned.

“We know that there will be, but we also know we have done a great deal of work already.

“There was a substantial improvement journey we needed to go on. I am sure that there were improvements that were already under way but I effectively did a diagnostic check on the whole service. We needed to do more than improve, we needed to transform, we needed to be brave and bold to move towards being an early intervention city.”

Part of that, she said, was looking at historical cases and learning what lessons they could.

A big part of the charge was moving all the early intervention services together.

“Historically we know that children had fallen between the gaps because of the lack of integration between services. We are doing everything we can to stop that happening. While we can never say tragic cases will never happen again, I am confident that we have made some of the biggest differences to we do everything we can to prevent it happening.”

She pointed to a workforce of over 50 social workers who deal with the most serious child protection cases, and the setting up later this month of a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – an office where key agencies would meet to discuss particular cases and share information.

“There has been a substantial change (since 2011) within the social work teams using agency staff and staff turnover. Clearly that did have an impact, not only on the kind of quality of service you can provide but also on developing your own staff.

“We now have a much more stable workforce. We now have a more experienced staff who are staying and working with us.”

The improvements already been made have won recognition from a Government child welfare advisor, with Southampton’s work with troubled families being recognised as one of the most improved services the country.

Councillor Mark Chalenor, who took over the Cabinet post of children safeguarding in December, added: “We will never be able to stop cruel people doing horrible things but I do believe that we have better systems in place now to detect it happening.”

The cases that sparked the shake -up:

THE Local Children’s Safeguarding Board commissioned a serious case review into the deaths of three-month-old Nico Maynard, seven-year-old Blake Fowler, four-year- old Jayden Adams and his brother Bradley, aged two.

The report into Nico’s case concluded that crucial information surrounding the previous convictions of his father in relation to child cruelty should have been, but was not, passed on to health and social workers in Southampton when Nico and his twin sister were born.

Daily Echo: Blake Fowler

Blake Fowler, above.

The findings of the remaining reviews are due out later in the spring.

Inquests into their deaths heard how Shelly Adams, mum of Jayden and Bradley, twice asked for her children to be taken away from her at a time when the children were both on the at-risk register – but they never were.

Ms Adams was arrested on suspicion of murdering her children by smothering them after Jayden died in January and Bradley in April 2011.

However, a decision was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service that there was not enough evidence to charge her with any offence.

The inquest into Blake Fowler’s death heard how there was a history of domestic abuse at the family home.

His stepfather Peter Meek was on bail at the time, having been arrested for assaulting Blake’s mother Sarah Spacagna, but despite that the couple were living together unknown to the authorities.

A letter was also written to social services by Sarah’s mother, outlining her fears over Blake’s welfare weeks before he died in December 2011.

Comments (12)

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8:55am Thu 6 Mar 14

hulla baloo says...

Expensive lessons and the innocent suffer. I hope we do not read about situations like this again.
Expensive lessons and the innocent suffer. I hope we do not read about situations like this again. hulla baloo
  • Score: 8

9:02am Thu 6 Mar 14

mickey01 says...

this is always the same quote from these people it seems that they are too afraid to act until it is too late
this is always the same quote from these people it seems that they are too afraid to act until it is too late mickey01
  • Score: -1

1:02pm Thu 6 Mar 14

orderoutofchaos says...

Interesting that the Daily Echo have failed to report what OFSTEAD highlighted as a primary reason- that Southampton lost so many social workers during the Tory implimented pay cuts.

Cllr Moluton was warned that this would happen.
Interesting that the Daily Echo have failed to report what OFSTEAD highlighted as a primary reason- that Southampton lost so many social workers during the Tory implimented pay cuts. Cllr Moluton was warned that this would happen. orderoutofchaos
  • Score: 7

2:29pm Thu 6 Mar 14

car driver says...

I hope the social workers and unqualified managers have been brought to task but no as usual hide behind the children's act and bury their heads .
I hope the social workers and unqualified managers have been brought to task but no as usual hide behind the children's act and bury their heads . car driver
  • Score: -2

3:13pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Ronnie G says...

If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power.
3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT.
The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT.
WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.
If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power. 3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains. Ronnie G
  • Score: -2

5:13pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Fatherxxx says...

We've learnt our lessons....?What a lies!!!
I'm a father of 3 years of child.His mother was abusing him every day.I couldn't prove it so I recorded her what is going on in her house and produced evidence to Police and Social Services.They ignored everything.I got arrested because I was not allowed to record her without her knowledge.My ex-partner got involved in relationship with Police officer dealing with this case and they took all against me.They even made false allegation.I was trying to protect my son but Police and Social Services ignore me and my son has been left with a mother.That is how this system protect children in this Country.
I was in Hospital with my son 3 weeks ago because he had unexplained injuries.He complained that Mother has done it.I took him to Hospital,we stayed over night.Hospital informed Social Services and next morning I was told on the phone by Social Services they suspect I caused injuries.Now they accessed me to do it...It's not even a 1% of story and I'm sure there is more children suffering like my little one.They don't investigate properly...best example Daniel Pelka and many more children.HOPE MY CHILD WILL NOT BE NEXT VICTIM BECAUSE THIS SYSTEM DOESN'T WORK AND NOT PROTECT CHILDREN!!!
I still fighting in the Court but don't have many chances as most Fathers are purely discriminated in U.K based on stereotype that every single father is a monster.
SO PLEASE DON'T LIE TO PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T LEARN ANY LESSON!!!
We've learnt our lessons....?What a lies!!! I'm a father of 3 years of child.His mother was abusing him every day.I couldn't prove it so I recorded her what is going on in her house and produced evidence to Police and Social Services.They ignored everything.I got arrested because I was not allowed to record her without her knowledge.My ex-partner got involved in relationship with Police officer dealing with this case and they took all against me.They even made false allegation.I was trying to protect my son but Police and Social Services ignore me and my son has been left with a mother.That is how this system protect children in this Country. I was in Hospital with my son 3 weeks ago because he had unexplained injuries.He complained that Mother has done it.I took him to Hospital,we stayed over night.Hospital informed Social Services and next morning I was told on the phone by Social Services they suspect I caused injuries.Now they accessed me to do it...It's not even a 1% of story and I'm sure there is more children suffering like my little one.They don't investigate properly...best example Daniel Pelka and many more children.HOPE MY CHILD WILL NOT BE NEXT VICTIM BECAUSE THIS SYSTEM DOESN'T WORK AND NOT PROTECT CHILDREN!!! I still fighting in the Court but don't have many chances as most Fathers are purely discriminated in U.K based on stereotype that every single father is a monster. SO PLEASE DON'T LIE TO PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T LEARN ANY LESSON!!! Fatherxxx
  • Score: 15

5:46pm Thu 6 Mar 14

mickey01 says...

over paid pen pushers the lot of em
over paid pen pushers the lot of em mickey01
  • Score: -1

7:11pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Lone Ranger. says...

Ronnie G wrote:
If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power.
3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT.
The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT.
WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.
Without adding fuel to the fire .... and i am not ..
.
Quote:- They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.
.
Exactly who did they hand these three cases to and when?
.
Because i dont follow entirely your post
[quote][p][bold]Ronnie G[/bold] wrote: If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power. 3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.[/p][/quote]Without adding fuel to the fire .... and i am not .. . Quote:- They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains. . Exactly who did they hand these three cases to and when? . Because i dont follow entirely your post Lone Ranger.
  • Score: 3

7:41pm Thu 6 Mar 14

allstar says...

I do wonder how many of those out of touch overpaid leaders of the social services department will loose their jobs? . I am sick and tired of seeing these scum get away with everything , They should be jailed for failing to protect these poor children , If a owner of a company failed to protect his workforce he would be guilty of corporate manslaughter , the same should be for these useless idiots they are in charge , Time to change the people at the top and sack them without fail and send them to face justice in the courts
.
I do wonder how many of those out of touch overpaid leaders of the social services department will loose their jobs? . I am sick and tired of seeing these scum get away with everything , They should be jailed for failing to protect these poor children , If a owner of a company failed to protect his workforce he would be guilty of corporate manslaughter , the same should be for these useless idiots they are in charge , Time to change the people at the top and sack them without fail and send them to face justice in the courts . allstar
  • Score: 4

9:49pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Ronnie G says...

Lone Ranger. wrote:
Ronnie G wrote:
If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power.
3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT.
The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT.
WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.
Without adding fuel to the fire .... and i am not ..
.
Quote:- They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.
.
Exactly who did they hand these three cases to and when?
.
Because i dont follow entirely your post
You're right I need to make things clearer. That's fine I'm happy to explain.
The mother of the 2 brothers had herself alerted Southampton Social Services as to her own fears of what could happen. This was a serious cry for help from a mother who felt she couldn't cope. Why was nothing done immediately to protect the welfare of the boys as well as their mother?
Family members of little Blake were in contact with Social Services, why oh why was this not chased up and checked immediately? Council was quick enough to take the other children with no proof.

It's the hardest job in the world being a parent. Sometimes it does get too much for people to cope. But no parent should ever have to feel they are left alone, feeling vulnerable and unable to cope. Certainly not in this day and age.
So to me these cases would not benefit the detection as the detection was already identified, everything was there, the council just had to act on it, yet no movement or follow up from social services or by any council officer???
The deaths off these 4 children in the space of a few months is no coincidence,.
Southampton City Council have seriously let these 3 children and their families down.
[quote][p][bold]Lone Ranger.[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Ronnie G[/bold] wrote: If lessons have been learned then own up now to the political bull that has led to this devastation. The massive campaign launched by opposition Labour/union council members was to blame. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure as parents, grandparents themselves, They didn't intend for the tragic events that have unfolded, but they have. And it has to be said, The senior working officers of the opposition that have a sympathy with the aims of Labour, I'm sorry to say their political pro's have far outweighed the importance of their actual job they were (at the time ) employed & paid to do by Southampton City Council, regardless of any political party in power. 3 cases were detected and identified for the council. They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains.[/p][/quote]Without adding fuel to the fire .... and i am not .. . Quote:- They were handed on a plate for the council to act on.ONLY THEY DIDNT. The council had the knowledge and importantly the power to stop the cruel people that they knew were doing horrible things. AGAIN THEY DIDNT. WHY? Because they were too busy furthering their own political gains. . Exactly who did they hand these three cases to and when? . Because i dont follow entirely your post[/p][/quote]You're right I need to make things clearer. That's fine I'm happy to explain. The mother of the 2 brothers had herself alerted Southampton Social Services as to her own fears of what could happen. This was a serious cry for help from a mother who felt she couldn't cope. Why was nothing done immediately to protect the welfare of the boys as well as their mother? Family members of little Blake were in contact with Social Services, why oh why was this not chased up and checked immediately? Council was quick enough to take the other children with no proof. It's the hardest job in the world being a parent. Sometimes it does get too much for people to cope. But no parent should ever have to feel they are left alone, feeling vulnerable and unable to cope. Certainly not in this day and age. So to me these cases would not benefit the detection as the detection was already identified, everything was there, the council just had to act on it, yet no movement or follow up from social services or by any council officer??? The deaths off these 4 children in the space of a few months is no coincidence,. Southampton City Council have seriously let these 3 children and their families down. Ronnie G
  • Score: 0

10:00pm Thu 6 Mar 14

car driver says...

Its no good blaming councillors they are not in the frontline dealing or not dealing as these cases proved with telephone calls or visits to these poor children name and shame the inadequate handling who supervised the referrals who is the overall manager of the department Sharon Shoosmith again comes to mind .Stand up and be accountable for your department what is it called again children and families I dont think so .destroying children and families is more in keeping
Its no good blaming councillors they are not in the frontline dealing or not dealing as these cases proved with telephone calls or visits to these poor children name and shame the inadequate handling who supervised the referrals who is the overall manager of the department Sharon Shoosmith again comes to mind .Stand up and be accountable for your department what is it called again children and families I dont think so .destroying children and families is more in keeping car driver
  • Score: -1

4:02pm Fri 7 Mar 14

Mummybp10 says...

I don't just blame southhampton social services, I also blame hertfordshire social services over the death of baby Nico. Hertfordshire social services knew of the pregnancy and never passed on the information. This makes me so sick that if they talked to each other he may still me a live. Also why has this evil man got away with murder?
I don't just blame southhampton social services, I also blame hertfordshire social services over the death of baby Nico. Hertfordshire social services knew of the pregnancy and never passed on the information. This makes me so sick that if they talked to each other he may still me a live. Also why has this evil man got away with murder? Mummybp10
  • Score: 2

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