Safeguarding body told to improve after baby dies in drunk parent’s bed

A facility designed to protect neglected children in Northamptonshire was instructed to improve after a six-week-old baby died in the care of her parents while they were out drinking.

The Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP) has a number of learning points from Dr. Russell Wate QPM who wrote a report on their practices following the death of a child named Baby Ay in October 2019.

Baby Ay’s mother and father went out to celebrate a family occasion the day before the baby died, leaving the child and his siblings in the care of their paternal grandmother, according to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review (CSPR).

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When they got home, both mother and father had “consumed large amounts of alcohol” and fell into a deep sleep.

When the couple woke up the next morning, Baby Ay was found lifeless in their bed after suffocating during the night.

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The parents have since been charged with neglect and convicted earlier this year.

The report found that “there was no information to suggest that professionals could have predicted the death of the child Ay”.

But it pointed out a number of ways the body could improve to help identify when a child is suffering from neglect.

The CSPR focused on three specific issues – the awareness raising experts on the mother’s vulnerability, particularly in relation to learning difficulties or learning disabilities, along with her own alcohol use and the father’s drug and alcohol use.

It also examines professional awareness of neglect and, ultimately, the need to do more to identify the risks of sleeping with young children, especially when alcohol and drugs are involved.

It found that it was not clear whether or not the mother had learning difficulties and whether these might have influenced her decision-making and her ability to understand the information given to her pre-natal and beyond.

According to the report, at an ear, nose and throat appointment in February 2017 for one of Baby Ay’s siblings, the mother and siblings were described as “unkempt, dirty, matted hair and smelling of feces”.

It is also said that the police who visited the two-bed apartment after Baby Ay’s death found plastic bags full of rubbish strewn around the apartment and described living conditions as “poor”, with the family saying “signs of a life of poverty “Showed.

Although two older siblings, separated from their school and a health professional, were found to have shown significant signs of neglect, no further action was taken and the report criticizes the lack of acceptance of the NSCP’s 2016 neglect toolkit.

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The review said, “It is not uncommon for agencies to have different views and standards about living conditions, so it is important, especially with regard to neglect, that tools are used to ensure consistency.”

However, it says that there has been clear evidence of attempts by health professionals to advise families on how to sleep safely, and the report urges professionals such as health visitors to continue to raise awareness of the risks of sleeping together.

Recommendations include:

  • The NSCP ensures that professionals have a better understanding of learning difficulties / disabilities and the difference between these two terms.
  • The NSCP provides a better professional understanding of alcohol abuse by parents and how it can be harmful to children.
  • The NSCP ensures that professionals review their neglect training so that it is cross-agency and focused for consistency.
  • That Public Health Northamptonshire launch a Safer Sleeping Campaign

An NSCP spokesman said: “We applaud the results of this report following the tragic death of child Ay and note the recommendations that have been made to improve our understanding of the concerns, including neglect, that have been expressed.

“While the review finds that professionals could not have predicted this baby’s death, we will take lessons from this case and ensure they are returned to partners working in the Northamptonshire shelter.”

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