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  1. ITV Report

Sunderland children's safeguarding board apologises for 'letting families down'

Sunderland's Civic Centre Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

The body responsible for safeguarding vulnerable children in Sunderland has apologised for letting "babies and families down" after a report into their handling of serious case reviews was published.

An independent report was commissioned by the Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board after issues emerged from a number of serious case reviews, covering a period from 2011 to 2015 when services were under particular strain.

Cases they looked at included the death of a four-month old baby and injuries received to three more young children in the city.

In its findings, published on Tuesday, report authors Dr Mark Peel and his colleague Dr Trish Shorrock said the serious case reviews did not show 'endemic or systemic failure' within the wider safeguarding system in Sunderland. But it did identify as key themes across the four serious case reviews:

  • - Communication within and between agencies
  • - Issues regarding assessments and assessing risk
  • - Management and supervision issues
  • - Records, chronologies and procedures
  • - Failure to listen to the voice of the child

Responding to the report, Jane Held, independent chairman of Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board apologised for letting the families down.

Sadly, these babies and their families were not always served well by the professionals and agencies responsible for supporting them. These included the NHS, early years services, education services, the police and children’s social care.

We let these babies and their families down. This is something we deeply and profoundly regret and we apologise unreservedly to all those involved.

It is however important to acknowledge that responsibility for the injuries to three of the babies rests with those the court found culpable. Although the cause of death for Baby E was unascertained, the Coroner was clear that no-one was responsible for her death. Also that there is no direct causal link between the poor practice in these cases and what happened to all of these babies in their everyday family life.

– Jane Held, independent chairman of Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board

Ms Held said the findings of the reviews and the independent report reflect many of the same issues identified in last summer's Ofsted's inspection which found safeguarding services across the board in Sunderland to be inadequate but that much had changed since then.

She also pointed to the 'significant progress' noted by Ofsted inspectors after their first monitoring visit to Children's Services following the inspection, the findings of which were published earlier this month.

She said: "The standard of practice in these cases and more widely in 2013 was not up to the standards we would expect. A significant amount of work has been done since July 2015 to improve safeguarding across the partnership."