Social services inquiry launched

SUFFOLK'S director of social care today admitted his staff failed to act after the father of a baby boy expressed concerns over the child's welfare seven days before his death.

SUFFOLK'S director of social care today admitted his staff failed to act after the father of a baby boy expressed concerns over the child's welfare seven days before his death.

Anthony Douglas apologised to the infant's family as a police investigation continued into how the 16-month-old died after apparently falling into a container of water and cleaning fluid.

Now Mr Douglas is leading a Suffolk County Council inquiry in a bid to ensure there will be no repeat of his department's failure to respond to the father's worries about the toddler.

Mr Douglas said the letter the social care department were sent remained within its administrative system in Ipswich and never got as far as a social worker who would have been detailed to see the family and make an assessment of the risk to the child.

Aware of the damage the mistake will do to people's perceptions and the possible consequences to other children, he stressed his staff remained committed to the protection of youngsters and urged anyone worried for their safety to continue to come forward.

With social care workers and administrative staff swamped under a welter of ever-increasing caseloads and the paperwork which comes with them, Mr Douglas promised procedures would be tightened in a review of the system.

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However he stressed he would not offer excuses for his department's failure and that he deeply regretted the death of the infant.

Mr Douglas, Director of Social Care Services, Suffolk County Council said: "We would like offer our sincere condolences to the family on the tragic death of their youngest son.

"I can confirm that the father wrote to us, asking us to visit his child. The correspondence was not forwarded to our local office covering Knodishall before the child's death, so social workers could act upon the concerns in a speedy and efficient manner.

"However, this should have been done straight away. There was a breakdown in administrative procedures, which is being investigated in a management review, which is being carried out by an independent person.

"As a result of what happened our procedures for handling letters have been updated. We are also giving the family support and protection.

"Once again, we deeply regret that this tragic death happened."

The inquiry began after paramedics were called to the boy's home in Hillcrest, Knodishall, near Leiston on Friday, August 13.

The toddler involved, who has not been named, was airlifted to hospital after the incident, but he could not be saved.

A spokesman for Suffolk police has confirmed officers are currently conducting enquiries following the sudden death of the baby.

He said: "Police were notified of the death by staff at Ipswich Hospital at about 3.30pm on Friday, August 13.

"The boy had been taken to the hospital by air ambulance from an address in Hillcrest, Knodishall, but could not be revived.

"The baby had allegedly fallen into a container containing water and a cleaning fluid.

"Police are continuing to investigate events leading to the tragic death of the baby."

Numerous bundles of flowers with heartfelt messages were placed outside the door to the family's home as news of the tragedy reached villagers.

One of the cards started: "In loving memory of a special little boy" while another simply read: "Sleep tight little man."

Churchgoers were also united in sympathy as they said special prayers for the family at services on the Sunday following the boy's death.

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