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21 JAN 2014

Pelka abuse case ‘could happen again’ according to council

Coventry City Council has claimed, in a follow-on meeting from a serious case review, that abuse comparable with the Daniel Pelka case could happen again.

Daniel was four when he was subjected to abuse by his mother and stepfather resulting in his death. He was left in his room for around 33 hours after he suffered a head injury on 1 March 2012. He was beaten, starved and poisoned with salt by the pair who claimed that he had an eating disorder in order to conceal the abuse. Consequently they were convicted of his murder and jailed for a minimum of 30 years each in July 2013.

The events triggered a serious case review which found that Daniel had been effectively ‘invisible' at times to the NHS, police and social care. In a recent council meeting to monitor progress since the case review, Brian Walsh of the council warned; ‘I could never give assurances this could never happen again. Social care is not a science. All we can do is be clear about our requirements and ensure professionals are properly supported.' He explained that the council was facing 'massive challenges' in managing its budgetary pressures along with keeping children safe.

Amy Weir, head of Coventry's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), said that there had been ‘significant activity' to make changes but there was still ‘huge chunks of work' to do.

Commenting on the case, British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Professional Officer Nushra Mansuri said; ‘Many people are asking why these things happen time and time again but we cannot eradicate human error or whatever the other significant factors are in each given case that meant that errors were made. Unfortunately, while every profession understands that mistakes are made over time, with social work such errors or failures so often involve the lives of vulnerable children.

‘That said, we should not despair and say that the lessons from the past aren't being learned, because if we look at the cases where things have gone well and good decisions have been made, we could certainly argue that this is the case. Even though we are all shocked and upset by this case, it is important that it is not used as an opportunity to devalue and demoralise the profession.'

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