Two social workers sacked over death of boy

Two Brighton social workers have been sacked over the death of a
four-year-old boy, writes Lauren

Case worker David Pamely and adoption worker John Barrow were
dismissed following a disciplinary hearing last week, over mistakes
in their care and protection of John Smith.

When Smith died in December 1999 from a massive blow to the
head, he had 54 bruises and abrasions and four adult bite marks on
his body. His adoptive parents Simon and Michelle McWilliam, from
Fishersgate near Brighton, were sentenced to eight years in prison
for cruelty in October 2001.

Smith and one of his sisters were placed with the McWilliams in
June 1999. Social workers made over 20 visits to the couple during
the next six months, and held a number of review and planning

An independent part 8 review report, commissioned by Brighton
and Hove and West Sussex area child protection committees after
Smith’s death, concluded that there were a number of
occasions when social workers should have sought medical advice,
but failed to do so.

It found that the professionals were too ready to accept the
McWilliams’ explanations of Smith’s injuries.

Following the disciplinary hearing, Brighton and Hove council
said in a statement that it had been “determined that two social
workers should be dismissed from the council’s employment with
immediate effect”.

In October 2001, former social services director Allan Bowman
agreed to carry out an investigation into the social workers’
actions before any disciplinary measures were taken after 100
social workers stormed his office in protest at Pamely’s and
Barrow’s suspensions.

Unison claims the two social workers have been scapegoated, and
has indicated the possibility of future industrial action. A
two-minute vigil was held last week by Unison members in a show of
support for Pamely and Barrow.

Unison has expressed concern that social workers in the area are
overloaded with work, and are therefore unable to give their full
attention to individual cases. The service is also suffering
because of staff cutbacks, Unison claims.

However, the part 8 report concluded that, while the reduction
in fieldwork posts and weaknesses in first-line management systems
in Brighton and Hove social services had been contributing factors,
“the critical failures in this case were not in resourcing systems,
but in the performance of basic social work tasks”.

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