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Keanu Williams, aged two, battered to death in Birmingham after care professionals ‘missed opportunity after opportunity’ to intervene

Keanu Williams, aged two, battered to death in Birmingham after care professionals ‘missed opportunity after opportunity’ to intervene

🕔03.Oct 2013

Health professionals, social workers and teachers are at the centre of another damning report exposing a “lack of focus on children and their welfare” in the months prior to the murder of a two-year-old boy in Birmingham.

Social services, nursery staff and health visitors failed to prevent Keanu Williams’ death after missing a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action, a Serious Case Review found.

The review, published today, concluded that professionals in the various agencies involved “did not meet the standards of basic good practice when they should have reported their concerns, shared and analysed information and followed established procedures for child protection investigations.”

Keanu Williams, from  Ward End, was battered to death over a period of days in 2011.

His mother, Rebecca Shuttleworth, 25, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in custody.

Her partner, Luke Southerton, was convicted of cruelty to a child and received a nine months suspended prison sentence and ordered to do 200 hours community work.

At the trial of Shuttleworth and Southerton, Birmingham Crown Court heard that the youngster was found with ‘waxen’ skin and ‘fixed and dilated’ eyes after the couple dialled 999. He was taken to Heartlands Hospital but died of internal injuries.

The investigation into the events surrounding Keanu’s death is the latest in a number of Serious Case Reviews in Birmingham which have criticised the failure of professional agencies to work together.

The toddler’s death came three years after that of schoolgirl Khyra Ishaq, aged seven, who was starved to death at the family home in Handsworth. Social workers and education officials failed to intervene on that occasion and could have prevented Khyra’s death, a Serious Case Review found.

Birmingham children’s social services is soon to enter its fifth year of working under Government special measures after being declared inadequate by Ofsted.

Representatives of the various agencies issued formal apologies at a press briefing today.

Jane Held, chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, expressed “deep regret” at Keanu’s death. She said caring professionals had “missed opportunity after opportunity” to intervene.

Keanu Williams died as a result of failure by every agency involved “to see, hear and respond to him”, Ms Held added.

Ms Held revealed that an unidentified number of social workers and other staff involved with the case have been sacked.

Peter Hay, acting strategic director at Birmingham Children, Young People and Families department, said Keanu’s death placed “a further blight on Birmingham”. Mr Hay went on to admit that he could not guarantee the “consistency and standards” surrounding safeguarding of children in Birmingham.

The position was “extremely serious” with a shortage of social workers of a high enough standard, he added.

The latest Serious Case Review explains how obvious signs of child abuse were missed after Keanu’s mother convinced health visitors and nursery staff that all of the toddler’s injuries were accidental and sustained following fights with his siblings.

Keanu’s siblings had been referred to social services at a very young age following injuries sustained from a radiator burn. In 2009, Keanu was the subject of an assessment by care professionals, but a child protection conference concluded that a formal protection plan was not needed.

After being taken to hospital on a number of occasions with unexplained injuries, Keanu was again the subject of a child protection assessment. But the assessment was not undertaken in accordance with basic procedures and good practice, the review found.

The child was returned to his mother’s care despite suffering from a burn to his foot which was believed to have been caused by a hot radiator.

Weeks later, when nursery staff found Keanu covered in bruises and clearly distressed, no referral to social services took place because staff believed the explanation from his mother that the injuries were accidental.

No recording was made of the bruises and no action was taken to refer the matter to the health visitor or social services.

Four days later, Keanu was dead having sustained multiple injuries over a period of time.

The Serious Case Review found: “The standards of practice revealed when some frontline professionals and managers were undertaking basic child protection tasks were of serious concern as several opportunities to protect Keanu were missed.”

All of the agencies involved, including Birmingham City Council, “lost sight” of Keanu and there was no focus on improving the care of the boy outside of the nursery.

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