The death of a two-year-old in a brutal murder in Wolverhampton in 2016 has been linked to the failures of Croydon’s children’s services department.
Croydon children’s services has responsibility for the borough’s fostered and adopted children, unaccompanied asylum seekers and the most vulnerable youngsters.
The department was rated “inadequate” by an Ofsted inspection last year, with inspectors finding “widespread and serious failures”, which “leave some children at risk of significant harm”.
Croydon’s children’s services has been under the supervision of a government-appointed commissioner since September. Last month, the commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, recommended that social workers from another local authority need to be sent in to Croydon to oversee improvement works.
Brazil came to Croydon with a reputation for thoroughness in turning around failing social services departments. She had previously worked in a similar capacity in Haringey, following the notorious abuse and death of Baby P.
Now, a report published by another local authority earlier this month gives plentiful evidence of failings in Croydon’s children’s services which contributed to a tragic outcome for another vulnerable toddler.
Jeremiah Regis-Ngaujah died at his home in Wolverhampton in 2016 after being badly beaten by his stepfather. Jeremiah’s mother, Sindyann Regis, was moved to the Midlands by council social services, in part to get away from an abusive relationship while she and Jeremiah’s sibling were living in Croydon.
Last June, Chevaze McGregor was jailed for life for the murder of Jeremiah.
Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children’s Board has now published the findings of its serious case review, noting that the “severe level of violence” Jeremiah suffered could not have been predicted.
Yet the report contains a tragic litany of references to Croydon’s children’s services failing to keep adequate records, not communicating its findings, or not acting on concerns for the child and his mother’s well-being while Jeremiah, who was born in a Croydon hospital in 2014, was under their care.
Vital information on the family’s circumstances were never properly passed on to colleagues in Wolverhampton, even though Regis and her children were forced to move to Wolverhampton to save money for Croydon’s housing budget.
Jeremiah is referred to as Child G in the report.
It is clear that there were serious and justifiable concerns about the child’s welfare even from before he was born.
“An illegible referral from London midwives to Croydon Children’s social care in Dec 2013 mentions that Child G might be exposed to Domestic Abuse but there are no details and no record of a response,” one footnote in the Wolverhampton report states.
That pattern of lack of action when concerns had been raised continues throughout the child’s short life.
“After Child G’s birth, the ward sister requested advice from the safeguarding midwife due to concerns about lack of antenatal care and an unclear social history. The safeguarding midwife contacted Croydon Council. She established that Sibling was not subject to a Child Protection Plan as had been indicated by Mother… and obtained details of the support being received from the NRPFT [No Recourse To Public Funds Team, the particular social work team at Croydon Council that was dealing with the case].
“Subsequently, another midwife made a multi-agency referral to the local children’s services; there is no record of this in the local authority concerned.” That local authority would be Croydon.
In a case complicated by the mother’s uncertain immigration status and a succession of abusive partners, the account of missing referrals and lack of action by the council continues as Jeremiah and his mother left hospital and moved in with his grandmother in March 2014.
“The discharge summary containing information about the involvement of the Croydon social worker, alleged domestic abuse by an ex-partner and that the new partner was controlling and obsessive was sent to the community midwife and GP, but are not contained within Mother’s health records. A midwife also phoned a Croydon duty… social worker regarding the discharge arrangements, she stated that the message left included the concerns about the new partner, although this is not recorded in the Croydon records.”
The Wolverhampton report states that a Croydon “… social worker had spoken with the Mother by phone while she was in hospital to explain the inadvisability of being discharged with a new baby to live with a partner she hardly knew, and followed this up with a visit a week later. Mother and Grandmother repeated the reasons for Mother not wanting to be discharged to her Partner’s home…”.
The report records that Croydon social workers continued to visit Jeremiah and his mother after they moved to Wolverhampton.
The case illustrates the risks inherent with the current benefits system which can see vulnerable people moved hundreds of miles away from established networks, of family, friends, schools and GPs, simply because rents outside London, paid for out of local authority budgets, are cheaper.
Regis and her children were moved into an inadequately furnished property in Wolverhampton in March 2014, when Child G was a few weeks old. The mother did not immediately register with a Wolverhampton GP, and local social services were slow in requesting referral reports from Croydon. According to the report, “Wolverhampton Children’s Services were not formally sent written notification of the family’s arrival… until the summer of 2015.” That is at least 15 months after they had been moved into the area.
The Wolverhamption serious case review states: “Almost immediately after financial responsibility transferred from Croydon children’s social care to the NRPFT, the family were moved to Wolverhampton because accommodation was cheaper and more readily available. All members of the family interviewed had concerns about this as she was moving away from family and friends.”
The review also states that despite being alerted to risks around the case in 2013, following allegations of domestic abuse and child abuse (to Jeremiah’s sibling), “This was never reviewed or updated in the three years that the NRPFT were involved with the family. It was also never shared with Wolverhampton children’s services, as would have been good practice.
“… There are a number of instances where records were incomplete, insufficiently specific or not effectively transferred when Mother moved,” the report notes, sharply.
Although there was a video broadcast through social media of an “exorcism” carried out on the unborn baby Jeremiah, the review found that no social workers were aware of this until after the murder, when a national newspaper found the clip on social media.
Jeremiah, described as a “smiley, happy toddler… who enjoyed hugs”, died in November 2016 from multi-organ failure after his abdominal injuries caused septic shock. He had been hit with a rod and a belt causing more than 100 injuries.
During the trial last year, Birmingham Crown Court heard the child was left “broken and battered” by McGregor, who inflicted numerous injuries, including a skull fracture, broken ribs and a bite wound.
Jeremiah’s mother, Regis, was jailed for three years and four months for allowing her son’s death. Her sentence was cut on appeal to two years four months.
Di Smith, the recently appointed chair of Croydon’s Safeguarding Children Board, told the BBC that the Wolverhampton report had given the board “the opportunity to reflect on the services we deliver to families and children”, and added, “We will implement the recommendations relating to our local safeguarding children board.”
Inside Croydon sought a comment on the case from Alisa Flemming, the council’s £43,339 per year cabinet member for children.
Flemming has not responded.
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