Placing Baby P in the care of a family friend after his discharge from hospital in December 2006 gave his mother, Tracey Connelly, the “wrong message”, the second serious case review into his death has stated.
However, it admitted that managers were following the council’s operational guidance that, before using one of the department’s foster placements, every effort should be made to place the child with family or friends.
Published in full today, the serious case review reveals that Tracey Connelly took her son, Peter, to his GP on 11 December because there were bruises on the toddler’s body and swelling on his head which she could not adequately explain.
The GP referred the child to Whittington Hospital and a social worker and a detective constable were assigned to the case. A health visitor was also consulted.
When it was decided that Peter could not return home with Connelly until the enquiries were completed, the mother’s suggestion to place the child with a family friend was taken up. Peter’s father was considered as a secondary alternative.
Haringey social services was divided about the arrangement. The social worker on the case believed the family friend would provide adequate accommodation for the child, but her team manager said Peter should be taken into care. They took the disagreement to the senior team manager, who supported the social worker.
The SCR author is damning in his analysis of these events.
“Legal services agreed that the threshold [for taking Peter into care] had been met, but CYPS [Haringey’s children’s services] elected for a voluntary arrangement with the parents, and even one which was chosen by [Connelly],” he said. “It would be difficult for the social worker to be sure that [the family friend] could monitor the situation objectively, and she was a person that the authority knew little about.
“To place [Peter] with the family friend was the wrong judgement and gave [Connelly] the wrong message that the authority was not too concerned about the injuries to [Peter].”
The report concluded that managers should have reconsidered the council’s guidance in a case of suspected non-accidental injuries.
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