Edinburgh director resigns

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Les McEwan

Edinburgh’s director of social work Les McEwan has resigned
following a highly critical inquiry report into the death of an
11-week-old baby on the child protection register,
writes Ruth Winchester.

 

Caleb Ness was
admitted to hospital in October 2001 and pronounced dead shortly
afterwards. He had suffered a brain haemorrhage, thought to have
been caused by shaking. His father Alexander Ness was jailed for 11
years in March after pleading guilty to culpable homicide.

 

The inquiry
report, commissioned by Edinburgh and Lothians child protection
committee, found that Caleb should never have been left in his
parents’ care unsupervised, and described the agencies involved as
“flawed at almost every level”. Edinburgh council
social workers were criticised – one has been suspended and two
removed from child protection duties.

 

McEwan, who has
spent 36 years with Edinburgh’s social work department,
resigned today in a letter to the chief executive of the council,
Tom Aitchison.

 

In the letter,
McEwan said he was taking “ultimate responsibility” for
the tragedy. “While I played no part personally in any of the
decisions taken regarding Caleb… I was, and am, part of the
“collective responsibility”, and as director I should
shoulder that responsibility.”

 

Aitchison said
McEwan had made “a huge contribution” to the social
work service in the city, and said it was typical of him that he
was “putting the interests of the service before his
own”.

 

Edinburgh had
initially attempted to defend its role in the death, arguing that
Caleb’s mother, who had a drug problem, was looking after him
satisfactorily.

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