Cornwall’s director of adult social care is investigating why staff failed to take steps to help prevent the abuse and murder of a man with learning disabilities.
Carol Tozer told Community Care the council was conducting an investigation following two damning reviews identifying more than 40 missed opportunities by agencies to protect Steven Hoskin.
Hoskin, 39, was subjected to “harrowing” abuse ending in his death in St Austell, Cornwall on 6 July 2006. He was forced to swallow a lethal dose of paracetamol, hauled around his bedsit by a dog collar and burned with cigarettes. Hoskin’s body was found at the base of the St Austell railway viaduct.
Darren Stewart, 29, and Sarah Bullock, 16, were convicted of Hoskin’s murder and Martin Pollard, 21, his manslaughter in August this year.
The three had made Hoskin walk to the viaduct, and Bullock made Hoskin fall 30 metres to his death by kicking his face and standing on his hands.
A serious case review and an internal management review published last week highlighted failings to share information between numerous agencies.
Hoskin was placed in a bedsit by adult social care in April 2005 and he was allocated two hours of help each week, but he chose to cancel the service in August and by September the council closed his case, the serious case review found. Hoskin then “lost all control of his own life” when Stewart and his girlfriend moved in and began to abuse him.
Hoskin’s decision to end contact with adult social care “was not investigated or explored”, the review found.
The director of adult social care Carol Tozer was not told of Hoskin’s death until June this year, a separate internal management review by social care consultant Ray Jones found.
This week, Tozer told Community Care she was “at a loss” to explain why staff failed to communicate and said an internal personnel investigation would examine this, and why Hoskin was not given a risk assessment when he asked the council to end his service.
She said all agencies had failed to view Hoskin as vulnerable. She said: “Steven Hoskin was seen as involved in and surrounded by antisocial behaviour, but the haunting and uncomfortable reality is that he should have been seen as a vulnerable adult.”
She also defended the local authority’s progress in learning disability services since the separate abuse scandal that was reported last year.
She said: “We share everyone’s shock and abhorrence at what happened to Steven Hoskin. It is too horrible for words. The best legacy we can give to Steven is to strengthen adult protection.”
Reg Broad, chair of East Cornwall Mencap, called Hoskin’s case “a nightmare” and called for “heads to roll” among those Cornwall politicians responsible for cuts to learning disability services.