A report says that the death of a three year old girl in Birmingham could have been prevented.
A Serious Case Review (SCR) of the death of Alia Ahmed Jama says authorities missed a number of opportunities to have her mother assessed for mental health problems.
In February 2010, Iman Omar Yusuf killed her daughter at their home on Milverton Road, Erdington – stabbing her, before trying to dispose of the body by burning it with acid.
The asylum seeker from Somalia is currently being held indefinitely in a psychiatric unit for the killing, having been judged unfit to stand trial.
However, despite warnings from family members and neighbours, none of the agencies that dealt with the family decided to refer Yusuf to a mental health professional.
Birmingham Safeguarding Children’s Board (BSCB) say that the crucial factors were a lack of mental health training among staff, and poor communication between the agencies involved.
Click here to read the full report.
Chair of BSCB, Jane Held, says the individual instances where police, health workers, and social services dealt with Yusuf did not indicate any problem:
“She did not present as ill; she presented as angry, and sometimes under the influence of drink.
“People who are not mental health professionals need help to recognise that there is something more than a problem with the neighbours or domestic dispute between family members.
“What people from all the agencies did, was look at the problem, rather than the context of the problem.”
Extra mental health training has now been put in place, and better working between the various agencies involved established.
Best Safeguarding Measures Illegal
BSCB warn that they cannot implement the measures they want to improve child protection, because date protection laws forbid it.
Jane Held believes that a database containing all agencies dealings with children would allow any care worker to see immediately if there is a pattern of incidents which could indicate a deeper problem:
“Sadly, although that was being developed, legislation to make that happen was stopped and we are now back at the point where we cannot do that – [checking with different agencies] has to be done manually.”
A database system called Contact Point was created in 2009, (following the death of Victoria Climbie in London) and was in development at the time of Alia’s death.
However, it was scrapped by the new government, who believed that having so much data available to so many different authorities went against the right to privacy.
At the time, civil liberties group No2ID campaigned strongly for the abolishment of Contact Point, and spokesman James Baker still believes it was the right thing to do:
” If you are a predatory paedophile and you are able to access that information of children who are in a vulnerable state, then that is one way that having access could actually be of benefit to those who want to cause harm to children, rather than those who want to protect children.”
“It is very easy to say if only we had this one bit of kit, we would have saved someone’s life – if you have one big database system with mistakes on it, then that can cause loss of life as well.
“To pull out we could have saved just one child as a justification for their own mistakes, they are just shifting the blame.”
However, the Children’s Society believe that the safety of children is being sacrificed unnecessarily.
Their former Director of Children and Young People, Penny Nicholls, wrote in the Guardian newspaper at the time that Contact Point was scrapped:
“We believe that child protection is of the utmost importance and worries about the so-called ‘nanny state’ should be put out to pasture when children’s lives and well-being are at stake. ”