Birmingham social services, the police and health workers could and should have prevented the death of a four-month-old girl at the hands of her uncle, an official inquiry has concluded.
Aalihya Jordan-Fellows suffered serious head injuries and died in 2008 after the authorities failed to act on reports from her father about the uncle’s violent behaviour.
A Serious Case Review by Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) found that Aalihya would probably have been alive today if all of the public agencies involved had undertaken a “more robust application of safeguarding procedures”.
The review is the latest in a line of damning reports into preventable child deaths in Birmingham.
Social workers, police officers, doctors and health officials faced similar criticism of failing to intervene over the death of seven-year-Khyra Ishaq, also in 2008, who was starved by her mother and stepfather at her home in Handsworth.
At least 19 children have died of abuse or neglect in Birmingham since 2004, with16 of them being known to social services. The council’s children’s social care department has been operating under a Government improvement order for almost four years.
Aalihya Jordan-Fellows’ uncle was convicted of manslaughter and jailed following her death. Aalihya’s mother and her partner were charged with child cruelty; the mother was found guilty and the partner acquitted.
Both the mother and father had been in the care of Birmingham City Council until they were 18 and were receiving support for the Leaving Care Service at the time of Aalihya’s death.
A number of care placements had ended due to violent or disruptive behaviour, particularly on the part of the mother. The review found their move from care to independence was not managed as robustly as it should have been and that all agencies involved struggled to maintain meaningful contact with the couple, as the parents often failed to keep appointments.
It also found flaws in the way assessments were done, and in how professionals talked to each other.
Both parents were effectively living independently from the age of 16 years although not always with the approval and knowledge of their social worker, or in accommodation that was not necessarily suitable. The mother spent some time in a flat that police believed was being used for prostitution, the serious case review found.
Jane Held, independent chairman of the multi-agency safeguarding board, said: “We want to apologise unreservedly for the fact that the Local Authority, Health Services and West Midlands Police did not do enough to protect her. The people directly responsible for her death have been held to account.
“It is our duty as well as responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to learn from this tragedy and to use that learning to improve how we protect children. All the recommendations have been fully implemented by the relevant agencies and over the next six months the board will be checking that practice has changed as a consequence.”
Key recommendations in the Serious Case Review are:
• BSCB should ensure through their partner agencies that front line professionals comply with the requirements in our safeguarding policies to escalate their concerns when risks increase
• BSCB works on ways to increase the understanding of parents and practitioners about the impact on children of domestic violence and the risks that this can pose to the child’s safety
• South Primary Care Trust and Heart of Birmingham PCT to ensure all health visitors receive training in domestic violence and the potential impact on children
• Birmingham City Council’s leaving care service to be clear about the provision of support to vulnerable young people and have a well-trained and qualified workforce to deliver it
• All looked after children with a substance misuse problem can access support and treatment
• Children’s social care puts in place strong quality assurance systems to enable managers to directly influence the quality of assessments.