Case worker failed to pass on Rickwood information

The social worker assigned to oversee the care of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who died in custody, has admitted he failed to ensure critical information on his history of self-harm was passed on to youth justice chiefs.

Adam was found hanging in his cell at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, Durham, in August 2004, after being sent there on remand.

The Youth Justice Board decided to send him to Hassockfield, over 100 miles from his family in Burnley rather than one of five local authority secure children’s home (Lasch) within a 50-mile radius of his home, after being told by Lancashire social services that he had no history of attempting suicide or self harm, the inquest into Adam’s death heard last week.

In fact Adam had taken seven overdoses and had twice been admitted to hospital for cutting his wrists in the two years and nine months preceding his placement in custody.

Peter Jenkins, then social worker with Lancashire’s youth offending team, admitted to the inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates Court in Durham that he failed to ensure the information was passed to the board.

He said the mistake happened because a lack of space at Hassockfield meant Adam was sent from court to a local children’s home until a bed became available. Once Adam was moved to the STC, Jenkins said he presumed the YJB would have been informed of his history.

Peter Minchin, head of placements at the board, took the decision over where to send Adam. He told the inquest that had he been given an accurate picture of the boy’s condition, he may have “made a different decision”, inferring that the alternative would be to send him to a Lasch.

Richard Hermer, representing Adam’s family, told the jury that Laschs had a “different emphasis” to STCs, with better trained staff and higher staff ratios.

The inquest continues.

Further information
Youth Justice Board

Contact the author
Helen McCormack


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