Social Work Recap: Finley Boden’s death and Fatima Whitbread’s journey from care to the medal rostrum

Our review of the week in social work

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Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

From the Finley Boden case to how Fatima Whitbread went from looked-after child to champion and the children’s services with a history of failure that were rated good, here’s what you might have missed this week in social work:

Finley Boden’s parents convicted of murder

Finley Boden

Finley Boden (photo: Derbyshire Constabulary)

The parents of Finley Boden, who died at 10 months old, just 39 days after he was returned to their care, have been convicted of his murder.

A post-mortem found that Finley, who died in the early hours of Christmas Day, 2020, had 71 bruises, 57 fractures and two burns on his body, caused by multiple, separate assaults. A paediatrician concluded he would have been in “severe and protracted pain” before his death.

Despite his injuries, his parents, Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden, told paramedics that he had been poorly with a cold and high temperature. According to Derbyshire Constabulary, they had also previously been evasive with health practitioners and social workers.

A child safeguarding review is currently underway to examine agencies’ involvement with Finley and his parents.

You can read a full rundown of the case in our article.

Fatima Whitbread’s journey from child in care to Olympian

Fatima Whitbread

Photo by WikiCommons/LailaSohila

Former javelin champion Fatima Whitbread has opened up about her childhood in care and the trauma she experienced before she was saved by sport.

Speaking to the Guardian, Whitbread shared her story of being sent to hospital as a baby, after neighbours discovered her malnourished and dehydrated in a London flat.

She spent the next several years in children’s homes, describing a life of deprivation – physical and emotional – to the publication. From the age of 14, she was looked after by her javelin coach, who later adopted her.

Whitbread did not let her past define her. She went on to become an Olympic medalist and break the world javelin record – the first British athlete to set a record in a throwing event.

Today, she is an advocate of children in care, expressing a particular concern about young people leaving the system at 16.

“At 16, these are vulnerable kids. For a lot of [them], history starts repeating itself: they start getting in trouble, or offending, and it costs the state a whole lot more. […] Because once they get out there they’re easily preyed upon.”

BBC: adults assaulted at care home years before abuse uncovered at same provider’s child services

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Adults were abused at a Doncaster care home run by a provider in whose services child abuse was uncovered years later, the BBC has revealed.

The incidents, according to the BBC, included physical assaults, residents being found in soiled clothing, peer-on-peer abuse, use of tasers, and neglect, and were detailed in a 2010 Doncaster council report.

Hesley, the care home provider, said improvements were made to address the failings. However, the company was also the subject of a national inquiry into the serious abuse of disabled children in three of its residential special schools in Doncaster from 2018-21.

In a report last year, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel found a culture of abuse and harm in the settings. This included evidence of physical abuse and violence, neglect, emotional abuse and sexual harm.

It also found evidence that medication was misused and maladministered, an overuse of restraint, and unsafe and inappropriate use of temporary confinement.

The BBC further revealed staff members accused of assault finding work elsewhere after the homes closed, failures to report abusive staff and months-long delays in verifying criminal records checks.

Last week, the panel published a follow-up report with recommendations on improving the safeguarding of disabled children in care. You can read about them in our latest article on the case.

Children’s services with history of failing services rated good

Ascending steps with the words 'make things better' written on them to symbolise improvement

Image: DOC RABE Media/Adobe Stock

Birmingham’s children’s services have been upgraded to ‘good’ by Ofsted, after being branded ‘inadequate’ from 2009-18.

The progress comes five years after government intervention resulted in Birmingham Children’s Trust taking charge of the then failing services from Birmingham council. When the council’s children’s services were last inspected in 2018, they were rated requires improvement.

Ofsted found further improvement in its latest inspection, with children now “safeguarded through effective ‘front door’ arrangements, thorough child protection assessments and a strong response to safeguarding children at risk of exploitation”.

Other improved areas included manageable caseloads, children and young people being listened to and their physical, emotional and mental health needs being well considered.

However, the inspectorate still found areas for the service to work on, including the effectiveness of the response to domestic abuse, the need for earlier pre-birth assessments and the consistency of written plans.

You can read more about Birmingham’s journey from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ here.

Scotland: national social care service bill pushed back

Scottish Parliament building

Scottish Parliament building (photo: Heartland Arts/Adobe Stock)

The first vote on Scotland’s proposed national care service has been pushed back until after the Holyrood summer recess by new social care minister Maree Todd.

This is the second time the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill, which has been criticised for its lack of detail, has been pushed back. The first debate on the bill had been due to take place in March but, last month, was pushed back to June.

“We wish to use the time ahead of the stage one debate to find compromise and reach consensus with those who have raised concerns during the stage one scrutiny undertaken so far,” wrote Todd, in a letter to the Scottish Parliament committee studying the bill.

One of the changes under the bill would see adult social care and, potentially, children’s services transferred from local authorities to regional care boards, which would be responsible to ministers.

It is not yet clear when the Scottish Government now intends to hold the first vote.

Must watch: what does social work mean to practitioners?

For its tenth anniversary, Frontline has put together an inspiring video of social workers describing what the profession and helping children and families have meant to them.

“The reason I’m still here is because I love my job,” said one social worker.

“There’s nothing I can imagine myself doing that is not social work based or social work related.”

Tweet of the week: Eid Mubarak!

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One Response to Social Work Recap: Finley Boden’s death and Fatima Whitbread’s journey from care to the medal rostrum

  1. Chris Sterry April 27, 2023 at 5:46 pm #

    While social care for adults and children are well short of funding and have been for many years, this should not means that care is not to be delivered to the required standards, children deserve so much better.

    As we can see this has been happening for years, for too many years and by now all the lessons should have been learned. But learnt they have not been, so it is not just stopping these atrocious incidents from occurring, but that the lessons which are so obvious are being learnt.

    Why are lessons not being learnt, well for lessons to be learnt there has to be a willingness to learn and it is obvious that that willingness is not there. So why are these incidents not being seen at inspections, a good question. It is my belief that again funding has some part in this and that more funding needs to be brought in for the CQC and it major reliance on records needs to be countered. Records have a part to play, but unless the inspection is there when they are written, then anything can be recorded, especially if management is not what it should be.

    With the lack of funding, recruitment also has it shortfalls and maybe to maintain staff numbers the quality of staff being taken on may not be as good as it should be, as many of quality could be deciding that with the very low rates of pay that care is not for them. There will be good quality there, but if they feel they will not be listened to, then maybe they don’t speak up as they should do, who knows, but that could be an explanation. These good quality staff could then decide to leave and thus leaving more staff of not so good quality behind and when new staff are eventually taken on, they could follow the examples of the staff left behind and so poor quality care is maintained, especially when coupled with not good and ineffectual management.

    So good and substantial funding is essential for many reasons, but as Local Authorities (LAs) are so short of funding themselves, due to Tory austerity cuts from 2010 to the present day, LAs are unable to fund social care as it so should be.

    LAs are doing what they can with ever diminishing funding, so while the social care providers and their staff and LAs have to shoulder some of the blame, the real blame should be firmly placed at the door of government, which it is not, so government continue to well underfund social care.

    This is a gross dereliction of duty of care from government for which they should be made fully accountable for, but they are not being and so government dereliction continues thereby causing all the suffering to those who are so in need of good quality care and undergo the much suffering and inconsideration during their lives.

    This is about caring of children, but unfortunately, to a large degree it is endemic throughout all areas of care to some degree, there are many areas of good care and here we have to acknowledge the staff, but their rates of pay don’t.

    This government and all previous governments should be ashamed of their total inaction with social care, but it appears they are not and continue to ‘kick dealing with social care down the road’, now not until 2025. Will it be then, well I doubt so no matter who is in government, for do governments and Government Ministers really care about social care, I have great doubts and therefore social care and the suffering of vulnerable children and adults will continue and become much worse.

    All of this has a great impact on the NHS and with the decline of social care, the NHS suffers more and so do everyone in need of social care and the NHS.

    When will we have a government who is prepared to listen and then take the required actions, unfortunately I fear never.