Admin support and training gaps led to failures in Daniel Pelka case, finds review

Coventry child death report reveals how lack of administrative support and training hampered social work assessments

A lack of admin support, effective management and training led to four social care assessments failing to spot the risks faced by murdered schoolboy Daniel Pelka.

The problems were identified by a ‘deeper analysis’ of the events leading up to the four-year-old’s death that was published today by Coventry Safeguarding Children Board.

The independent report’s publication follows pressure from children’s minister Edward Timpson who demanded more detail about what went wrong than was provided in the serious case review.

The new analysis found that the social worker who did the first initial assessment of Pelka’s situation lacked access to information about domestic violence within Pelka’s family because of delays in adding it to social work records.

These delays were blamed on the volume of information about domestic violence and a lack of administrative support in children’s social care.

A lack of training was also uncovered.

The social worker who did Pelka’s core assessment had received no training on parental substance misuse or mental ill health and had been inadequately trained on domestic violence and interviewing children.

“This is not an adequate level of training for this complex work,” says the report.

Matters were worsened when a bid by senior management to encourage “more consistent and proportionate” assessments backfired.

“An unintended consequence of this was that the term ‘thin core’ came to be describe a slimmed-down approach to the core assessment process and seems to have become translated in practice into assessments which did not even meet basic standards,” the report found.

The second initial assessment of Pelka, which the report calls “pivotal moment in the case”, was found to be of very poor quality and carried out by a newly qualified social worker who was being managed by an agency worker, whose contract was not renewed.

Finally there was a culture of “core assessment is the answer to everything” within the service and little use of chronologies partly because a new computer system prevented them being compiled.

The analysis, which also includes an update on the work taking place in Coventry in the wake of the serious case review, concluded that there were no further recommendations to be made as the serious case review had already addressed these problems.

Shaun Kelly, head of safeguarding at the children’s charity Action for Children, said: “The death of Daniel Pelka demonstrates a point that has resounded throughout child protection reform for years: professionals in charge of keeping children safe must have the tools and understanding to see the whole child, rather than small aspects of these young lives in isolation.”

Pelka died in March 2012 from a blow to the head, following months of physical and emotional abuse, including starvation, at the hands of his mother and stepfather.

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