Teenager who killed man was let down by Haringey and Sheffield social services

Serious case review found Haringey failed to respond to repeated referrals from social workers for investigation and intervention

Haringey council has been criticised by a serious case review for failures in the care of a teenager who went on to kill someone.

The review, published jointly by Enfield and Haringey councils, found Haringey children’s services failed to respond to repeated referrals from social workers for investigation and intervention, including the initiation of a multi-agency case conference, and intervention following “multiple and escalating concerns” about the boy’s care in his home.

‘Worrying trajectory’

The boy, CH, and his family were known to three different social services departments in the seven years prior to him murdering a man during an altercation in 2011 when CH was 15.

At the time of the murder, CH was “on a worrying trajectory of violence, offending, disengagement and rootlessness and he was seeking increasingly to identify with gang culture,” the review stated.

The serious case review (SCR) also noted that CH was at risk of harming someone or being harmed himself.

Early disclosures ignored

CH was known to have grown up in a home with “extraordinary levels of violence”, but his early disclosures were seemingly ignored by professionals in his first authority, Sheffield, who “appeared to do the opposite of what the boys asked”.

The opportunity to remove the children and provide them with stable environments might have been missed by Sheffield council, the review also found, while the voices of CH and his siblings were rarely heard.

Similar opportunities were missed in Haringey, where a poorly written request to move CH to secure accommodation the year before the murder was “rightly rejected”, the report said, and no alternative was considered.

“CH should have been removed from the H household at least two years before the tragedy of Mr Z’s death,” the report concluded.

Lack of leadership post Baby P

Services were guilty of confusing assessments and reviews with progress and failed to ask ‘what is changing?’ for the child.

There was a consistent failure to see what experiences of emotional abuse and neglect meant and what was needed to change these experiences.

“CH was a troubled, displaced and stressed young man with a growing history of aggressive actions and criminal behaviour. He was judged, in keeping with his history of emotional trauma, to have little concept of the link between actions and consequences,” the report said.

“Despite thousands of professional hours provided by nearly 70 people, and provision of multiple forms of support to different family members, little changed for CH or his siblings,” the SCR concluded.

It criticised the lack of leadership identified within Haringey council during crucial years in the family’s intervention between 2006-09, when the authority was working with – and dealing with the aftermath of – the Baby P case.

Enduring impact of neglect

The SCR called on professionals to be alert to the “severe and enduring impact” of continual emotional neglect and exposure to violence and chaotic family systems, after it found that, “extraordinary levels of violence, emotional and physical abuse and criminality were accepted by many professionals as the norm for the household with no consideration of its long-term impact on the children”.

“Children cannot be expected to articulate the physical, emotional and cognitive impact of living long-term with such stresses, though they will express it through distressed, aggressive or overly-compliant behaviour,” the SCR warned.

Assumptions must be avoided in child protection, the review warned, noting that professionals can mistake parental participation for co-operation and engagement.

Key lessons for social workers

Key lessons from the review also included: that follow-through is critical when dealing with information and that focus on a child can be easily lost due to parents employing deliberately distracting techniques.

A Haringey spokesperson accepted the review’s findings, adding: “We should have taken more robust action both to support the child in this case and to ensure that harmful behaviour was properly addressed, and we are sorry that we failed to do so.”

Community Care has contacted Sheffield council and is awaiting a response.

  • Community Care Inform has a range of relevant guides on neglect and disguised compliance. More information here.

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