Social workers ‘did not respond’ to risks murdered teenager faced

Newham children's services lacked understanding of 14-year-old as a victim of exploitation, serious case review concludes

Image of Corey Junior Davis, who was shot in Newham in 2017 aged 14, prompting a serious case review
Corey Junior Davis, who was shot in Newham in 2017 aged 14, prompting a serious case review (image: Met Police)

Social workers involved with a boy shot in an East London street in 2017 failed to respond to growing risks he faced from gang members, a serious case review has found.

The investigation by Newham local safeguarding children board, published last Friday, found professionals, including social workers, did not properly perceive 14-year-old Corey Junior Davis, who died shortly after the attack, as a victim of exploitation.

Assessments over several years by Newham council’s children’s services and youth offending team amounted to “snapshots”, giving “limited opportunity to develop planned interventions that effectively responded to [Corey’s] needs”, the review concluded.

Social worker churn meant casework stopped and started as practitioners moved on, denying continuity of care and resulting in information not being shared at critical moments, it added.

“It is clear that despite concerns across agencies, relating to [Corey’s] vulnerability, systems in place at the time of his death did not effectively respond to [him] as an at risk child,” the review said.

‘In fear for his life’

Corey, who had been diagnosed with ADHD, lived in various temporary addresses before his family secured a tenancy in Newham with the housing association East Thames in 2011.

The move meant Corey was separated from primary school classmates in 2014, when he started at Forest Gate Community School in Newham. He was repeatedly excluded over the next two years before being referred in 2016 to a specialist unit, Tunmarsh school, where he was described by police as associating with older gang members.

Over the next 12 months concerns for Corey’s welfare ramped up, with several referrals to Newham children’s services being made that did not result in further action. During this period he was reported to have bought a “Rambo-style” knife and bulletproof vest, and in December 2016 told his mother he been pressured into selling drugs and was “in fear for his life”.

“Children’s social care records at this time note that evidence pointed strongly to [Corey] being groomed by older young people for the purposes of selling drugs and being involved in gang related activities,” the review said.

By early 2017 Corey’s mother had arranged for him to stay with relatives in South London while continuing “to report, in writing to children’s social care, being in fear for her son’s life and welfare”. While Corey became involved with Lewisham’s youth offending team after being arrested for carrying a knife, his case was not transferred to local children’s services.

In June 2017 Corey returned to Newham after falling out with his uncles and continued to work with youth offending services in the East London borough. Taxis had to be arranged to take him to and from appointments due to the potential risk he faced, with a group of other young people reportedly chasing him on one occasion. On 4 September, he was shot.

‘Inadequate response’

From the time Corey and his family got their tenancy in Newham, professionals shared concerns with the council’s children’s services on seven separate occasions, resulting in three periods of involvement.

Missed opportunities dated back, the investigation found, to Corey’s first involvement with children’s services in 2013, relating to concerns his mother had “physically chastised” him.

“It is clear from case records [Corey] was presenting with a range of emerging, yet complex needs at this time,” the review said. “The assessment states that [he] fabricated the reported incidents to ‘take the heat off him’ but his thought processes and motivation were not further explored, nor were the incidents it is inferred he tried to deflect attention from.”

Later, in 2016, an offer of support was made to Corey’s family. But they declined on the basis that it failed to “adequately understand or respond to the context of [his] behaviour and the underlying and complex risk factors at play within the community and home”.

The review found that by this point there were multiple issues requiring intervention. “A full assessment of family dynamics was necessary to put in place diversionary and early prevention when [Corey’s] problematic, potentially exploitative, peer associations were beginning to develop,” it said. “This did not happen.”

‘Clear indicators of risk’

The serious case review identified a number of key omissions by children’s services during the final months of Corey’s life.

In November 2016, he went missing from home for a week, returning with “a number of high-value possessions”. Children’s services were made aware of this but no independent return interview was carried out. “[This] absence would indicate there is still work to do shifting professional perception from offender to potentially exploited child,” the review said.

The next month, children’s services became aware of Corey’s confession to his mother that he was being coerced into selling drugs and that she had destroyed a large bag of them. But no strategy meeting or assessment was triggered, despite “clear indicators of risk for both [Corey] and his family”, the review found, nor was information shared with Tunmarsh school.

Corey’s allocated social worker, who was employed via an agency, left in early 2017, meaning a police letter in support of rehousing was never forwarded to East Thames. After the social worker’s departure support “waned” when the teenager temporarily moved to South London, though he remained on Newham’s educational roll.

At various junctures multi-agency meetings took place, to which a manager from Newham’s children’s services was invited but did not attend, meaning assessments “did not keep pace” with escalating risks.

“At the point [Corey] returned to Newham, there was sufficient evidence to review the case and escalate to child protection as it was the view of the multi-agency partnership that he was at significant risk of harm,” the review said. “This did not happen.”

‘We did not understand’

The serious case review made 14 recommendations. These included delivering training around child criminal exploitation (CCE), ensuring that children who go missing in relation to CCE have access to return interviews, and exploring practice approaches “that address the complex needs of adolescents living with adversity and multiple, contextual and community-based risks”.

Responding to the review’s findings, the mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz said it was “clear that as a council we did not understand the risks to Corey’s life”.

“The fact he was viewed as an offender, rather than a child who was vulnerable, points to a flaw in our methods and a wider culture that views young people as criminals,” Fiaz said. “They are children and young people facing complex risks whom we have a duty to help, protect and safeguard.”

Fiaz added: “Under my administration we are now tackling these through a public health approach, better systems and a culture centred on exemplary safeguarding of our children and young people in Newham.”

Nancy Kelley, the chair of Newham’s safeguarding children board, said: “Work has already begun across the partnership to make sure practitioners truly listen to the concerns that children like Corey and their families raise, and provide effective and coherent support.”

She added: “Actions include providing training across the partnership on gangs and criminal exploitation, strengthening management oversight and providing reflective supervision in complex cases, and improving information sharing across agencies, all essential for reducing risk to Newham children.”

20 Responses to Social workers ‘did not respond’ to risks murdered teenager faced

  1. Overseas October 23, 2018 at 12:13 pm #

    Nothing is going to happen. You can put them on child protection plans and risk assess relentlessly but the bottom line is the system is not fit for purpose.

    Legislative reform is needed in order to clearly define roles and responsibilities.

    Continuous investment is needed as well as dissociation from local authorities and the inherent financial cuts. Thus no longer creating conflict of interest.

    What are social workers meant to do? Go and live with these families? What is police doing to tackle the crime?

    Funding for police cut, family centre closed, youth centre closed. Reliance on voluntary sector very dangerous.

    I’m sure that once we’ve left the EU and had a couple of years to save money we’ll not have anymore of these issues!!!!!

    • Sarah October 23, 2018 at 4:43 pm #

      Exactly. There’s only so much YOT’s and social workers can do! We know these kids are vulnerable but apart from ticking boxes on an assessment, what meaningful intervention can be put in place with the current lack of funding and reasources? We often wish we COULD do more.

  2. A Man Called Horse October 23, 2018 at 1:30 pm #

    To expect Social Services to protect people from their own communities is not realistic. Young black males are the collateral damage of Austerity and the destruction of services such as youth support workers. I see no evidence that this Conservative Government carers about young people like him. Millions of Pounds of more cuts are planned in an attempt to eliminate the structural financial deficit. This policy will costs lives but is seen as a price worth paying. We also should be reminded that millions of people voted for more Austerity and cuts at the last election. The wounds of divided Britain are all around us.

    • Lea October 28, 2018 at 1:38 am #

      This issue is not just facing young black males.This is one of the mind sets we need to change. Unfortunately CCE has no race or gender and more training is needed for front line staff in order to help enhance our skills base around CCE. This issue is becoming out of control and we need to be more informed

  3. Tom J October 23, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

    It is hard for the state to become the father figure for a child.

    When I read on page eight that he carried around acid but said he would not throw it at anyone- along with the raft of other behaviours; its clear that he needed heavy cost intensive support and therapy.

  4. Bionic Woman October 23, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

    Even if Corey moved to relatives in south London, this would not have been that effective, as it is easy to to jump on the tube to go from north to south of the River Thames. Corey should have been moved out of London into safe accommodation. I am sure his mum would have co-operated with any such plans under S20. The Police should also be targeting gang ring leaders to bring about convictions. The job of safeguarding YP is a multi-agency task and a multi agency approach is essential. It seems that the other agencies think that once they have referred a YP to children’s services that their job is done. There are good examples of such safeguarding practice in similar cases.

    • Ironlady October 23, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

      Agreed

    • Ava October 25, 2018 at 4:26 pm #

      I absolutely agree it is a multi agency responsibility. the government should also take responsibility for all the cuts to these multi agency services which are being decimated

      YP no longer have the continuity of care of Multi Agency workers working in partership
      As many staff are transient and have no wish to be employed by local the LA they work for

      I’m So pleased I am retired as I would hate to work in such an environment which clearly does a disservice to everyone

  5. Sarah October 23, 2018 at 4:48 pm #

    Once again the workers who try their best to support young people with zero resources are to blame. When is anyone going to point the finger at the real culprits and demand change? The funding cuts and closure of many vital services are crippling us. No one can work effectively like this, and it’s the young people who suffer (Not that the government really cares about the young working class!).

  6. sw11 October 25, 2018 at 12:05 am #

    Very sad, a young person is lost. It should be a learning for everyone.
    Defensive and distracting approach should not divert our attention from reflecting and learning.

  7. Annoymous October 25, 2018 at 10:03 am #

    The report is worrying and yet again scapegoates social workers, I cannot understand why they continue to blame social workers other agencies are hardly mentioned secondly the fact that social workers have too many cases and the fact there is no social workers left as they have left the professions due to the way they are treated is not mentioned either. Thirdly the only way to totally reduce risk to this child is a secure unit and would he have met the thresholds for secure I do not think so. Fourthly foster to another area possibly have helped oh but wait social workers are now being criticised for placing too many children in care due to being risk adverse. Child protection plans would not have protected him, it may have gone someone way to raise professionals awareness of the risk but it would not have prevented him from getting harmed. So I think the reader is right we should move in with these families because we have this magic to solve every problem in society. It beggars belief that the people conducted this review continue to scapegoat. It is about time social stood together but we do not and we continue to except this appalling blame culture, and no doubt someone will be sacked

  8. Annoymouse October 25, 2018 at 10:06 am #

    I am sorry sw11 we do reflect but it is very difficult to reflect when the scapegoating continues and yes it is very sad but to blame. The individual social worker will not promote learning or understanding.

  9. mary K October 25, 2018 at 8:21 pm #

    Where was the Mother in all of this, and why does she not bear some responsibility in relation to possible neglectful and lack of consistent parenting? The first thing that jumped out is when there was a criticism of the young person moving Primary School’s, after the family moved house.

    Why is his changing school’s in any way the responsibility of the Social Worker, this is a parenting decision, made by the parent who has parental responsibility? For goodness sake, when will Social Worker’s not be blamed for something for once?? This borough is one of the busiest & least resourced borough in London, with high caseloads, high stress, & high staff turnover and burn out.

    That is why I am leaving Child Protection Social Work, as I am sick of the system, it’s not going to change, so I need to change and leave. We as Social Worker’s are our own worst enemy, as we put up with these conditions, whereas no other industry would.

  10. Tired October 25, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

    I honestly question whether social workers should be the lead professionals in these type of cases. I’ve had too many experiences where young people constantly go missing, lie about where they have been, who they have been associating with and flee any S20 accommodation found ‘to keep them safe”. Some of the parents are on board others collude I literally spend hours tracking returning and chasing kids all over the place. One young person told me up straight “I earn more money in a week than you do in a month why would I stop?”

    These reports underestimate the coercion of the elders and of quick money.

    • Andi October 27, 2018 at 8:48 am #

      I can relate to this, police are too busy to attend core groups but they are the agency who has the clout in these cases. I think these cases need a co-located police/sw team simillar to what many LAs have for CSE. We need professionals who are mapping the data of risky gangs and on it when a yp goes missing.

  11. Wonderwoman October 26, 2018 at 1:53 am #

    I do not understand , what was the backlash/ training needs for the manager responsible for managing this case, clearly there are some accountability issues Agian.. time and time again the social worker is targetted .where was the management guidance ,direction and support and what will be done to learn from this tragic incident by them .

  12. Frank Cliffe October 26, 2018 at 2:05 pm #

    Once again the system as let this boy down and once again the reasons are total indifference and so it will continue.

  13. dk October 29, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    I’m not clear, after a scan through the SCR, what it is a manager attending a meeting or a more through, family-focused written assessment would have actually achieved for this young man. Having records of ‘good practice’ would certainly have helped the LA through a period of scrutiny, but my experience is that completion of organisational tasks does not necessarily lead to real-life outcomes, and especially for adolescents where the concerns relate to CCE, CSE, contextual matters etc. It reads like no one was really alongside this young man, in his real world. I am sure the LA’s social workers missed opportunities, likely as a result of both systemic limitations and individual failings, but our Child Protection system simply cannot manage problems far bigger than it.

    • Tom J October 31, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

      Well said- complete obsession with bits of paper being filled out well.

  14. Rebecca October 31, 2018 at 9:33 pm #

    So sad, may this young person rest in peace… his set free now.. it pains my heart to think that he spent most of his teen life in fear of dying and then the inevitable happened.. this issue is not going to be resolved through blame.. it just fuels resentment and frustration which in turn makes people not want to support out of fear… we need to pull together and show the country line community’s that we are robust enough to tackle them and that we will pull together to do just that. When I say we I mean parents, children’s services, police, YP services etc… the most positive part of this article was the changing of thinking from offender to victim. This in itself will hopefully stop YP who get involved from being scared to talk more and seek help..

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