Doncaster Children’s Services
Yet another report criticising Doncaster’s Children’s Services as grieving parents forced to end negligence claim
The parents of one of the children at the centre of Doncaster’s social services scandal are have been forced to end their claims for negligence against the Council, during a week that has seen further criticism of the Council following the brutal attack on two young boys last year in Edlington, South Yorkshire.
The serious case review, to be published in part this week identifies 31 chances to intervene being missed over 14 years.
Andrea and Ian Jobling are the parents of 7 year old Warren Jobling who died on 12th April 2008. Warren was profoundly disabled. He died during a respite stay in the home of a carer who was supervised, managed and paid by Doncaster Council, under the Care to Share Scheme.
The family’s solicitor Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall in Huddersfield has recently obtained a medical report which does not support their claim that Warren’s death was caused by the negligent failures of his foster carer. Sarah Young comments “There is a high burden of proof in legal claims and unfortunately we have not been able to clear that hurdle in this case. There is no doubt that Warren was neglected – but we cannot prove that the neglect caused Warren’s death.”
This case is entirely different to the dreadful attack in Edlington but the string of highly critical serious case reviews reveals the complete systemic failure of the Council to protect the children in its care.
On the evening of Friday 11th April 2008 Warren was dropped off at the carer’s house by his mother. It appears that at about 10.00pm Warren was put to bed on the sofa bed in the downstairs study. The carer fell asleep on the sofa downstairs and went to bed at about 11.30pm. She told the police that she had checked on Warren 3 or 4 times during the night and the last time she checked him she rolled him onto his right side to make him more comfortable.
Mrs Young commented: There is no doubt that the standard of care fell short of what either a reasonable parent or local authority could expect:
1. Andrea is adamant that for about a year before his death it was known that Warren could not be left to sleep on his right side because of the danger of him suffocating.
2. The carer was not using the baby monitors provided and paid for by the local authority nor inflatable bedsides that should have been in place. Andrea and Ian had always understood that Warren would sleep in the bedroom adjacent to the carer so that she would be able to hear any change in his breathing and any signs of distress.
3. The carer told the police that she woke up on Saturday 12th April at 9.30am having overslept. She checked on Warren, found that he was not breathing and called for an ambulance. Warren should have been fed at 7.00am and had his medication at 8.15am. The medication was to help control seizures and a muscle relaxant to ease the tightness in Warren’s chest.
4. He was left to sleep on a sofa bed in a downstairs study and covered with a wheelchair blanket rather than a proper duvet. Warren was found with thin cushions between his legs rather than the proper pillows that he should have had to support his posture.
No post mortem was carried out but Warren’s Death Certificate states the causes of death as:
• Acute ventilatory failure.
• Baraitser Winter Syndrome.
• Severe global developmental delay.
The family now understand that it cannot be proved that the foster carer’s negligence lead to their son’s death. They are distressed that despite the glaring failures by the foster carer they are unable to pursue their claim against the Council.
Mrs Young went on: “Doncaster have lessons to learn from this tragedy:
1. Serious failures must be investigated more quickly
Warren’s parents have been pursuing a legal claim against the carer and the Council for over 18 months. Alongside the claim they have waited a long time for the publication of a Serious Case Review. The couple are disappointed at the significant delay from the commissioning of the report in October 2008 to its publication on 4th December 2009.
2. Doncaster must be more open and get its facts straight
Doncaster’s Safeguarding Board had over a month before publication to consider it and formulate their response. By contrast Andrea and Ian had a meeting with the chair of the Safeguarding Board the afternoon before publication but were not given a copy of the report which they had access to only from 9.00am on 4th December, the date of publication. This only allowed the grieving parents the chance to see the report on its publication date. It betrays a total insensitivity to the parents’ feelings. The report also stated that Warren had a history of cardiac arrest. This is simply not true.
3. Doncaster must be able to accept blame when they are wrong;
The council were adamant that none of the recommendations made in the Serious Case Review would have prevented Warren’s death, which could have occurred at any time. They do not accept any responsibility despite recommending de-registration of the foster carer, saying in a report that the carer had “compromised her position [and] practiced at a level below that expected of her role as a registered foster carer”. The implication is that the carer’s actions could not be anticipated. Andrea and Ian Jobling say:
“we assumed that, knowing of the carer’s history of depression, her manager would have kept a close eye on her. We were wrong and will always believe that her neglect caused our son’s death.”
The Parent’s views
Andrea feels bitter: “The council have fought us all the way and have never tried to help me find the answers to the questions that I have had. If I hadn’t had a solicitor we would not have even been able to find out that the carer had been deregistered after Warren’s death. When I found that out at first I was pleased because I thought that it meant that she would not be able to look after any other disabled children. Then I found out that she was still caring for another child through the direct payments scheme. I asked the Council if they knew about that and they didn’t seem to think that it was a problem. It was only when I contacted OFSTED that action was taken to stop her looking after the other child. It seems to me that all the council have tried to do since Warren’s death is to protect themselves. Disabled children seem to be second class citizens.”
The Jobling family will be keeping a very close eye on Doncaster to see whether they do in fact implement the many recommendations that arose as result of the Serious Case Review into Warren’s death. Andrea will not stop asking questions until she is satisfied that every disabled child in Doncaster receives the proper care, protection and supervision from Children’s Services that they are entitled to.
Sarah Young comments:
“The legal claim has to be abandoned now – but the moral and practical challenges that this case has raised remain and must be tackled by Doncaster if they are to avoid further tragedies in the future”.
Sarah Young is Managing Partner of Ridley and Hall. She specialises in personal injury. Sarah has an LLM in Personal Injury Law and is a specialist in claims involving head injury. She has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.