Department in charge of child death case admits poor practice

The director of Newham Council’s social services department has
admitted that poor practice existed around the time of two-year-old
Ainlee Walker’s death after being starved and beaten by her

Speaking last week after Leanne Labonte and Dennis Henry were
sentenced for the manslaughter of their daughter, Kathryn Hudson
said: “It is no secret that the department has been criticised in
the past for poor professional practice.”

She said no one would be disciplined over the case, for which Henry
was jailed for 12 years and Labonte given 10 years’ youth

Hudson said the east London borough’s social services department,
which had been on special measures in January when Ainlee died, had
made improvements. But she regretted these had “not made a
difference in this case”. The department was taken off special
measures and awarded one star in the first round of performance
ratings in May, although its children’s services were deemed to
have “uncertain prospects”.

The findings of an independent investigation into the case will be
published in November. It will look at why agencies failed to share
information, why a child protection nurse who sent letters pleading
for Ainlee’s case to be kept open received no response and why a
planned home visit by health and social workers in the days before
she died was never carried out. But Hudson rejected comparisons
with the case of Victoria Climbi’.

Social services had opened a case on the family after concerns
about Ainlee’s weight. Two months earlier they had closed a file on
her elder brother, who had been placed on the child protection
register after Labonte left him alone in a bed and breakfast.

Hudson said the decision to close Ainlee’s case was made because
social services had received assurances from a paediatrician that
the girl was gaining weight and her parents had agreed to keep
appointments with a health visitor.

“Clearly people within health had different information and we were
not aware of that,” Hudson said.

Labonte hid from the authorities the extent of Ainlee’s injuries by
telling her social worker that she had arranged appointments with a
health visitor through her GP rather than the one allocated by the
hospital. It took the social worker four months to discover the
lie, resulting in Ainlee not being seen by a professional in the
run-up to her death.

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