Saturday, 4 December 2021

R v Tustin and Hughes ~ Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews ~ Funding and resources


The case of R v Tustin and Hughes concerned the death, on 16 June 2020, of a 6 year old child - Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. The facts of this case are truly horrific and are set out by Mr Justice Wall in his sentencing remarks of Thomas Hughes and Emma Tustin at the Crown Court in Coventry (pictured). The facts need not be repeated here save to note that the judge described the case as 'one of the most distressing and disturbing case with which I have had to deal.'

R -v- Tustin & Hughes sentencing remarks | Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

Arthur's father (Thomas Hughes) was convicted by the jury of manslaughter and was sentenced to imprisonment for 21 years of which he will serve two-thirds before release on licence. He was

also sentenced to 9 years on offences of child cruelty - those sentences to be concurrent with the 21 years.

The father's 'partner' Emma Tustin was convicted of murder and, under Schedule 21 of the Sentencing Code, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 29 years before parole can be considered. She was also sentenced to 10 years on offences of child cruelty - those sentences to be concurrent.

Since first writing this post it has been announced that the Attorney General is to refer the sentences to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) under the "undue leniency" provisions

Sentences for killers of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to be reviewed for leniency | Child protection | The Guardian

Child Safeguarding Practice Review:

A Child Safeguarding Practice Review is underway. Such reviews were previously known as "Serious Case Reviews." The law about this is in the Children Act 2004 as amended by the Children and Social Work Act 2017 (legislation.gov.uk).

The purpose of a review is 'to identify any improvements that should be made by safeguarding partners or others to safeguard and promote the welfare of children' - (CA 2004 s16B). Hence, the review is NOT concerned with criminal or civil liability which are matters for the courts of law.

A review must issue a report and it must be published by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel 'unless they consider it inappropriate to do so.'

Media comment:

There is much media speculation about individuals who may be 'responsible' for failing to detect the serious abuse that Arthur was subjected to. I am not indulging in such speculation since it is preferable to await the outcome of the formal investigations but it can be noted that local authorities have a duty to investigate under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm (see section 31 CA 1989).

Inspections by Ofsted:

In common with other local authorities, Solihull Children's Services are inspected from time-to-time by Ofsted. I have included links (below) to the Ofsted report of an inspection in November 2019 and a 'focused visit' in June 2021.

Solihull's Director of Children's Services resigned in 2020 having held the post from March 2019 but, in the event, continued in post until a new Director was appointed.  More details of this are at -

Council appoints new Director of Children’s Services | solihull.gov.uk

Funding and resources:

Almost inevitably there will be questions about funding and resources. An overview of this, NOT specific to Solihull, is published by the Institute for Government -

Children's social care Performance Tracker 2019 - The Institute for Government and Performance Tracker 2021.

The 2019 Tracker notes a considerable increase in demand all areas for the local authority to be involved in care for children and, in particular, section 47 investigations more than doubled from 89,300 in 2009/10 to 198,090 in 2017/18.

The 2021 Tracker notes that spending on children's social care was already rising rapidly before the Covid pandemic. Children's social care (and adult social care) are the only local government services where spending was higher in 2019/20 that it was in 2010/11. Local authorities spent £420m extra on children's social care between April 2020 and March 2021. Local authorities funded the extra spending from the overall funding central government provided to local authorities to handle the extra direct and indirect costs of the pandemic.

Other data published by the Local Government Association points to increased demand for children services and also financial cuts -

Children's services funding – facts and figures | Local Government Association

and as at February 2019 see

Children's social care budget survey FINAL_0.pdf (local.gov.uk)

The survey took place in February 2019 to inform the Local Government Association's call for properly funded children's services. An online survey was sent to 152 local authorities. 76 responded. The report contains a list of  'Key messages' which include the view that confidence in the sufficiency of council budgets to deliver ALL desired children's services was considerably lower for 2021/22 than for 2019/20. 

UK Government - official reaction:

On 5 December it was announced a "Joint Targeted Area Inspection" to be led jointly by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, and HM Inspectorate of Probation. There will also be a National Review to be led by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel which, according to the government announcement, will provide additional support to Solihull Children's Saefguarding Partnership.

Government action following murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

6 December - Statement to House of Commons by Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP - Arthur Labinjo-Hughes - Hansard - UK Parliament

Links:

Solihull Safeguarding Children Partnership (safeguardingsolihull.org.uk)

Child Practice Reviews – resources for practitioners : Manchester Safeguarding Boards (manchestersafeguardingpartnership.co.uk)

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: abuse cases missed due to cuts, Climbié inquiry chair says (msn.com) - a comment by Herbert Laming who chaired the Victoria Climbie inquiry (2001-2003).

Article published by Community Care 7 December - Zahawi: take children into care when 'any inkling of harm' - Community Care

  1.  Children's services focused visit
  2.  Children's services inspection

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