Report finds family of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes ignored by social services

A damning national review into the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has found that family members of the murdered six-year-old were ignored by social services.

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel - which looks at serious neglect cases - has reported back on their findings today (Thursday, May 26).

The Panel looked at the murder of Arthur - who was killed in a lockdown house of horror in Solihull in June 2020 - and the tragic case of Star Hobson, who was murdered in Bradford after months of abuse.

The expert probe identified failings of police and social workers and said desperate reports were not properly investigated.

Both cases - which involved murder by their parents' partners - shocked the nation as they progressed through court around the same time.

In December 2021, the Government ordered a national panel review to look into how Arthur died. It was later extended to consider the case of Star.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

The review has recommended that experts in police, health and social work form "dedicated multi-agency teams" to probe allegations of serious harm to children.

Charity NSPCC said the findings highlighted a system "struggling to cope".

The Panel found that what happened to Arthur and Star were not "isolated incidents" but reflected wider problems in child safeguarding practice.

The Panel said ministers needed to strengthen the child protection system at a national and local level for a "more effective joined-up response".

In Arthur's case, the review said a judgement became fixed early on that his father, Thomas Hughes was "protective", which was reasonable at the time but was never challenged when circumstances changed.

Concerns about Arthur's bruising raised by family members were not taken seriously, while his voice was not always heard and too many assessments relied on his father's perspective.

Panel Chair Annie Hudson, a former director of children’s services for Bristol City Council, said: "Arthur and Star suffered horrific and ultimately fatal abuse.

"But sadly, whilst their individual stories are unique, many hundreds of children are seriously harmed each year.

"Our proposed reforms would bring together experts from social work, police and health into one team so that they can have a better picture of what is happening to a child, listening carefully to relatives’ concerns and taking necessary actions to protect children.

"Professionals working to protect children have to deal with the most complex challenges and some perpetrators of abuse will evade even the most robust safeguards.

"However, in too many instances, there is inadequate join-up in how agencies respond to high-risk situations where children are being abused."

The Panel has made eight national recommendations and a number of local recommendations for safeguarding partners in Solihull and Bradford.

Arthur Labinjo Hughes

The national recommendations include:

  • Implementing new expert-led, multi-agency child protection units to undertake investigation, planning and oversight of children at risk

  • Establishing national multi-agency practice standards for child protection to provide a standard of quality and consistency in practice for working with children at risk and their families across the country

  • Bringing a sharper performance focus and better co-ordination of child protection policy in central Government

The local recommendations for Safeguarding Partners in Solihull include:

  • Ensuring assessments undertaken by agencies draw on information and analysis from all relevant professionals, wider family members or other significant adults who try and speak on behalf of the child.

  • Reviewing partnership arrangements to ensure a more family-oriented approach.

  • Reviewing and commissioning strategies to ensure practitioners know how to respond to incidents of domestic abuse and understand the risks to children of prisoners.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "It is heart-breaking that it had to take these tragedies to shine a light on the shortfalls in the child protection system.

"Now, we must ensure the memory of Arthur and Star acts as a catalyst for the fundamental changes necessary to prevent further deaths.

"This review lays bare an all too familiar story of a system struggling to cope.

"Social workers, police, health practitioners and teachers however hard they are working as individuals know they cannot do this alone.

"To drive change in child protection we agree that national, political leadership is needed which must come from the very top of government."

Step-mum Tustin was jailed for a minimum of 29 years for Arthur's murder while his dad Hughes was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.

These sentences could be increased after the attorney general appealed them as unduly lenient.

A court appeal to beef up the sentences of Tustin and Hughes was heard earlier this month.

They were accused of "revelling" in Arthur's suffering with the former facing the prospect of dying in prison.