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Babies dying amid agency failings

Too many babies have been killed or seriously injured through child abuse because of failings by the authorities that are repeated across the country, a report has found.

Ofsted highlighted recurrent patterns of agencies carrying out inadequate pre-birth risk assessments, placing too much focus on the mother's needs at the expense of the baby, and underestimating the vulnerability of young infants.

The regulator also warned that staff were underestimating the risks resulting from the needs of parents with problems ranging from drug addiction to histories of abuse, and said teenage parents in particular were receiving insufficient support.

It cited the case of a 12-week-old boy from the Isle of Wight who suffered 16 separate non-accidental fractures after the authorities failed to consider the dangers posed by his 19-year-old father's history of becoming violent when drunk or his 17-year-old mother's troubled background.

There has been heightened concern about how agencies care for vulnerable young children since the horrific death of 17-month-old Baby P - now named as Peter Connelly - while on the at-risk register in August 2007.

Babies make up a disproportionately large proportion of the youngsters who are the subject of official investigations into the worst cases of child abuse or neglect, known as serious case reviews.

Under-ones accounted for more than a third of the 602 children in England whose death or serious injury was examined by reviews evaluated by Ofsted between 2007 and 2011.

The regulator's new report identifies a series of lessons to learn from these investigations, especially for health workers, who are most frequently involved with vulnerable babies.

Ofsted also published a second report looking at how local authorities can successfully keep children out of care by supporting families to stay together.

Miriam Rosen, the regulator's chief inspector, said: "These two reports make a significant contribution to our understanding of how to better protect some very vulnerable groups, particularly babies and children over 14."


From Belfast Telegraph