Vulnerable toddler left in danger by catalogue of failure

Vulnerable toddler left in danger by catalogue of failure

Vulnerable toddler left in danger by catalogue of failure

First published in Crime Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Deputy News Editor

IT is the damning report into how a two-year-old child was left seriously ill after drinking methadone and was failed by a multitude of agencies that were supposed to be protecting her.

The youngster was left living with a heroin and crack cocaineaddicted mother, Kelly Cooper, who had problems with alcohol abuse, in a household riddled with domestic violence.

Nobody will ever know exactly how the child came to swallow the toxic drug, used to help addicts wean themselves off heroin, but she is thought to have picked up a bottle from the waste bin.

Shortly afterwards she was rushed to hospital with a wheezy chest that turned into breathing difficulties. She was drowsy and disorientated, yet her mother could not explain why.

The potentially fatal incident happened in March last year – two months after Miss Cooper’s boyfriend, Ashley Russell, died from overdosing on methadone.

He lay dying for five hours at the bottom of the stairs in the house, with Miss Cooper, now 32, “too hungover, lying around in a drunken stupor” to notice and call for emergency help. Despite those shocking details, still nobody intervened and saw that the little girl and her elder sister, aged six, who were both already the subject of a council child protection plan, were in danger.

Both girls have since been removed from their mother.

Today some 13 organisations, including police, council and health services in Southampton, have been criticised for a catalogue of failings revealed in a report into the child’s welfare.

The serious case review, chaired by an independent adviser and written by an independent author, described the situation as “an accident waiting to happen” and said it would have taken a child to come to serious physical harm before anybody acted robustly.

The Daily Echo understands that some agencies involved hoped that it would not be made public. When it was released, it was published in a summary on a website. It revealed how:

  • The two sisters had been allowed to live with their mother even though two older siblings had already been removed and taken into care.
  • The entire family was known to several agencies who were concerned for the children because of neglect.
  • Their intervention, when it happened, focused too much on Miss Cooper and not her children.
  • All agencies ignored evidence from previous court proceedings that showed it was a case of “chronic neglect”.
  • GPs who saw Miss Cooper and the children should have played a crucial role – but did the least.
  • Police knew the history and the criminal behaviour of Miss Cooper but failed to see the risk to the children.
  • Care workers visiting the family home didn’t know how to identify methadone.

The failings were so great in number and widespread that no one person has lost their job or been disciplined.

The report, which has taken around a year to compile, was released this week with a total of 137 recommendations for improvement.

In its key findings about what went so wrong that could have cost a child her life, it said that assessments in this case “lacked a child focus” and centred on Miss Cooper’s capacity to parent rather than the impact of her behaviour on her little girls.

It said that had it have been done properly, they would have noticed her “inconsistent care and neglect” of the children – factors that required rigorous monitoring.

Looking at the role GPs played, it continued: “They were the professionals who received all the information about the parents and the children and were the least practised in assessing the impact on the children.”

The report then criticised police for knowing about domestic violence in the family, the drug and alcohol abuse and criminal behaviour, saying: “The lack of join up between these areas of work ensured that they failed as an agency to properly identify, assess and respond to the risk posed to these young children by the criminal and violent behaviour of their parents.”

Talking about city council care workers who visited Miss Cooper’s home, it went on to say: “The lack of clarity by workers visiting the home about what methadone looked like and the  arrangements for safe storage and disposal did not provide any sort of safety net.”

Concluding the investigation, it said; “The pattern of chronic neglect in the family and the agencies’ pattern of responding to individual incidents does suggest that the sad event was an accident waiting to happen… it seems inevitable that only evidence of physical harm to one or other of the children was going to prompt a robust response.”

The review listed a total of 137 recommendations – 32 made by the agencies involved after internal reviews. The remainder include particular points that must be addressed by the police, city council – responsible for social care, education and drug action teams – plus doctors, mental health teams, South Central Ambulance Service and Southampton University Hospitals Trust.

The agencies have been told the impact of the review will be evaluated in six months time.

Comments (14)

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12:04pm Thu 18 Oct 12

hulla baloo says...

No doubt all reviews will take place, nobody will be accountable, practices will be restructured and retraining will be given and left to move on until the next tragic case arises.
No doubt all reviews will take place, nobody will be accountable, practices will be restructured and retraining will be given and left to move on until the next tragic case arises. hulla baloo
  • Score: 0

1:01pm Thu 18 Oct 12

waltons11 says...

You are spot on Hulla Baloo, They will say they have learned from this, but it wll happen again and again and again.
You are spot on Hulla Baloo, They will say they have learned from this, but it wll happen again and again and again. waltons11
  • Score: 0

1:26pm Thu 18 Oct 12

mickey01 says...

i have seen it on my road many times kids as young as 3 or 4 up and outside the house at 1 am while the so called adults are high on drink and drugs yelling and swearing at each other i have reported this to the council more than once but it seems to fall on deaf ears and as in the baby p case they seem to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and then they hide behind the learn from the mistakes routine but i shall keep a diary of events and show how afraid they seem to be to take action
i have seen it on my road many times kids as young as 3 or 4 up and outside the house at 1 am while the so called adults are high on drink and drugs yelling and swearing at each other i have reported this to the council more than once but it seems to fall on deaf ears and as in the baby p case they seem to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and then they hide behind the learn from the mistakes routine but i shall keep a diary of events and show how afraid they seem to be to take action mickey01
  • Score: 0

1:43pm Thu 18 Oct 12

nedscrumpo says...

What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs!
What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs! nedscrumpo
  • Score: 0

4:15pm Thu 18 Oct 12

Over the Edge says...

Like others have posted I fear cases such as this will happen time and time again,under investment from central Government, lack of correct training for staff, the stupid data protection policies that doesn't allow agencies to share information (useless authorised by the client) will lead to children dying.

The 5 main outcomes of the Every Child Matters are that a child should be Healthy, Stay safe, Enjoy and achieve, Make a positive contribution
Achieve economic well-being clearly counted for nothing in this and many other cases.

A shocking indictment of how the social welfare of has gone wrong in this city.
Like others have posted I fear cases such as this will happen time and time again,under investment from central Government, lack of correct training for staff, the stupid data protection policies that doesn't allow agencies to share information (useless authorised by the client) will lead to children dying. The 5 main outcomes of the Every Child Matters are that a child should be Healthy, Stay safe, Enjoy and achieve, Make a positive contribution Achieve economic well-being clearly counted for nothing in this and many other cases. A shocking indictment of how the social welfare of has gone wrong in this city. Over the Edge
  • Score: 0

5:21pm Thu 18 Oct 12

sotonbev says...

I dont understand how this can happen time and time again up and down the Country, I mean what do these people who work for all these agencies/councils do everyday as a job, because thier certainly not doing thier job are they, its disgusting, how do they sleep at night, sack the lot of them and get some people in who DO CARE!!
I dont understand how this can happen time and time again up and down the Country, I mean what do these people who work for all these agencies/councils do everyday as a job, because thier certainly not doing thier job are they, its disgusting, how do they sleep at night, sack the lot of them and get some people in who DO CARE!! sotonbev
  • Score: 0

6:17pm Thu 18 Oct 12

solomum says...

This will continue to happen for as long as we live in a country that does not make people accountable for their actions. Under age girls falling pregnant, yet no consequences despite the fact that they have broken the law by having underage sex, Children being bought up by parents who are not capable of looking after themselves let alone a child and the agencies saying children are better off with their parents and agencies being overstretched by the sheer number of incapable parents. This country has bred a culture of irresponsible beings. It breaks my heart when I see children who have dire home lives and yet despite agencies being involved, the children are left there to become the next generation of delinquents. The fact that this lady already had a child removed from their care should have been enough for these children to be removed also and compulsory sterilisation of the mother. But of course that would be against her human rights. It is a shame people forget that with rights comes responsibilty. The 2 work well together, but not as singulars.
This will continue to happen for as long as we live in a country that does not make people accountable for their actions. Under age girls falling pregnant, yet no consequences despite the fact that they have broken the law by having underage sex, Children being bought up by parents who are not capable of looking after themselves let alone a child and the agencies saying children are better off with their parents and agencies being overstretched by the sheer number of incapable parents. This country has bred a culture of irresponsible beings. It breaks my heart when I see children who have dire home lives and yet despite agencies being involved, the children are left there to become the next generation of delinquents. The fact that this lady already had a child removed from their care should have been enough for these children to be removed also and compulsory sterilisation of the mother. But of course that would be against her human rights. It is a shame people forget that with rights comes responsibilty. The 2 work well together, but not as singulars. solomum
  • Score: 0

6:23pm Thu 18 Oct 12

mickey01 says...

these are the views the echo should be printing and sending to the council departments concerned for them to plaster on their office walls and then maybe the message might get through
these are the views the echo should be printing and sending to the council departments concerned for them to plaster on their office walls and then maybe the message might get through mickey01
  • Score: 0

7:37pm Thu 18 Oct 12

Mark.D says...

sotonbev wrote:
I dont understand how this can happen time and time again up and down the Country, I mean what do these people who work for all these agencies/councils do everyday as a job, because thier certainly not doing thier job are they, its disgusting, how do they sleep at night, sack the lot of them and get some people in who DO CARE!!
they work really hard , are given ridiculous case loads that are impossible to manage,they get really stressed and leave ,they are replaced by young newly qualified staff or very expensive agency staff and the same thing happens again and will get far worse as the government systematically cuts services, and many have trouble sleeping becaused they care about what they do and the people they are trying to help but the whole system is crumbling around them.
[quote][p][bold]sotonbev[/bold] wrote: I dont understand how this can happen time and time again up and down the Country, I mean what do these people who work for all these agencies/councils do everyday as a job, because thier certainly not doing thier job are they, its disgusting, how do they sleep at night, sack the lot of them and get some people in who DO CARE!![/p][/quote]they work really hard , are given ridiculous case loads that are impossible to manage,they get really stressed and leave ,they are replaced by young newly qualified staff or very expensive agency staff and the same thing happens again and will get far worse as the government systematically cuts services, and many have trouble sleeping becaused they care about what they do and the people they are trying to help but the whole system is crumbling around them. Mark.D
  • Score: 0

10:33pm Thu 18 Oct 12

MegGriffin says...

mickey01 wrote:
these are the views the echo should be printing and sending to the council departments concerned for them to plaster on their office walls and then maybe the message might get through
Spot on mickey01
[quote][p][bold]mickey01[/bold] wrote: these are the views the echo should be printing and sending to the council departments concerned for them to plaster on their office walls and then maybe the message might get through[/p][/quote]Spot on mickey01 MegGriffin
  • Score: 0

12:59am Fri 19 Oct 12

andysaints007 says...

nedscrumpo wrote:
What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs!
Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt
[quote][p][bold]nedscrumpo[/bold] wrote: What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs![/p][/quote]Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt andysaints007
  • Score: 0

6:41am Fri 19 Oct 12

nedscrumpo says...

andysaints007 wrote:
nedscrumpo wrote:
What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs!
Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt
Not the echo report; the council report - who's the pratt?
[quote][p][bold]andysaints007[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]nedscrumpo[/bold] wrote: What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs![/p][/quote]Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt[/p][/quote]Not the echo report; the council report - who's the pratt? nedscrumpo
  • Score: 0

9:50am Fri 19 Oct 12

FoysCornerBoy says...

This is the second serious case review into clients under the care of the City Council to have reported this year. Both reviews point to an appalling lack of management at the most senior level of the Council organisation and at a political level.

One major problem was the crass decision to arbitrarily (and unlawfully) cut the salaries of Council staff with the result that many experienced and qualified social workers upped ship and went to work for other local authorities.

Last summer I met two charming American social workers who were so frustrated with working conditions in Southampton that they decided to return to their homes towns (Detroit and New York's Bronx).

Children and Adult social services in Southampton have been left in an awful mess as a result of years of weak political leadership. I worry that - even with a new Council administration that seems to get the importance of social care - the financial cutbacks being forced on local authorities by central government will result in more cases like this.
This is the second serious case review into clients under the care of the City Council to have reported this year. Both reviews point to an appalling lack of management at the most senior level of the Council organisation and at a political level. One major problem was the crass decision to arbitrarily (and unlawfully) cut the salaries of Council staff with the result that many experienced and qualified social workers upped ship and went to work for other local authorities. Last summer I met two charming American social workers who were so frustrated with working conditions in Southampton that they decided to return to their homes towns (Detroit and New York's Bronx). Children and Adult social services in Southampton have been left in an awful mess as a result of years of weak political leadership. I worry that - even with a new Council administration that seems to get the importance of social care - the financial cutbacks being forced on local authorities by central government will result in more cases like this. FoysCornerBoy
  • Score: 0

11:41am Fri 19 Oct 12

cliffwalker says...

andysaints007 wrote:
nedscrumpo wrote:
What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs!
Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt
Do you mean "prat"?
[quote][p][bold]andysaints007[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]nedscrumpo[/bold] wrote: What a terrible report! Full of typos, formatting errors and references to non-existent bodies. You would have thought something so important would have been proof-read; bunch of amateurs![/p][/quote]Go read the news somewhere else then you pratt[/p][/quote]Do you mean "prat"? cliffwalker
  • Score: 0

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