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Peterborough SCR points to wider child protection challenges

BASW has called for a “sustained governmental commitment” to child protection following the publication of a serious case review examining the circumstances prior to the murder of five-year-old Tyler Whelan, which identified a number of systemic failures throughout the period leading up to his death in March 2011.

The partner of Tyler’s mother, Elvis Lee, was today jailed for life for his murder. His mother, Stephanie Whelan, was found guilty of causing or allowing his death and will be sentenced at a later date. The serious case review found ‘numerous missed opportunities to help Tyler’.

Commenting in the wake of the convictions, BASW professional officer, Nushra Mansuri, said the issue was about more than one “single tragic case”. She explained: “The circumstances detailed in this case are appalling and we must learn lessons from it. The sad reality, however, is that we are looking at a situation whereby our child protection service is operating near breaking point. No matter how good the social worker, we cannot escape the fact that due to austerity measures, and sustained under-investment for years before that, talented and dedicated workers are being continually asked to do more with less.

“These are the most vulnerable people in our society and we simply cannot afford to put their lives at risk, we need a sustained governmental commitment to funding this vital area of practice.”

The review, produced by the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, detailed a ‘concern that no professional ever saw him [Tyler] in the family home’ and pointed to the failure of multiple child protection procedures, including the absence of a child protection plan. Social work assessments were deemed ‘very poor’ and ‘below basic procedural requirements’.

The author of the SCR, Ron Lock, former regional head of child protection services at the NSPCC, commented: ”It was concerning that there were occasions when child protection procedures were not followed and when established processes, such as strategy meetings, were sometimes dealt with in an ad hoc way. Inter-agency communication was also incredibly poor. “

The trial at Cambridge Crown Court heard that Tyler died following his fourth admission to hospital with blunt force traumas, thought to be caused by a series of kicks, bites and punches administered by Mr Lee.