Tragic two-year-old Keanu Williams, who was beaten to death by his mother, was ‘collectively failed’ by social workers, police, doctors and child services workers, a damning report has found.
The boy was subjected to months of cruelty by his mother, and there were a ‘significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action’ to protect him, a serious case review published today has found.
Keanu, known as ‘Kiwi’, whose body showed 37 external marks of injury, was pronounced dead on January 9, 2011, after paramedics were called to his mother’s partner’s flat in Old Moat Way, Ward End, Birmingham.
His mother Rebecca Shuttleworth, aged 25, formerly of Hay Mills, was convicted of murder and child cruelty in June and jailed for 18 years.
Her partner Luke Southerton, 32, was convicted of child cruelty and given a nine-month suspended sentence and 200 hours community service.
Shuttleworth was described as a ‘monster’ by a senior detective after being convicted of Keanu’s murder following a six-month trial. Today’s serious case review by Birgitta Lundberg said Keanu had been subject to a child protection process once in November 2009, having what is known as a ‘core assessment’.
A child protection conference concluded that Keanu did not need a child protection plan, but was in need of a family support service such as a nursery place. The report said that this ‘led to a loss of focus on Keanu because the child in need services moved the attention towards practical matters such as the lack of settled accommodation and provision of a nursery place’.
Despite Keanu attending hospital and seeing a GP on a number of occasions, Shuttleworth said the injuries were down to ‘bumps and falls due to unsteadiness’ – and she was believed. And when Keanu last saw medics before Christmas 2010, he was given a child protection medical assessment, but the serious case review found that this was ‘not undertaken in accordance with basic procedures and good practice standards’.
On that occasion Torbay-born Keanu – who had been described as ‘a happy, social little child’ – was left in Shuttleworth’s care with a burn to his foot, believed to have been caused accidentally by a hot radiator.
In the new year, despite nursery workers noticing a number of marks and bruises and describing him as ‘distressed’, no referral was made and no clear guidelines followed as staff believed the explanations given by Shuttleworth, the report added. The review concluded: “Professionals in various agencies involved had collectively failed to prevent Keanu’s death as they missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action.”
It said Keanu’s death could not have been predicted, but added: “It could have been predicted that Keanu was likely to suffer significant harm and should have been subject of a child protection plan on at least two occasions to address issues of neglect and physical harm.”
The review added that the core business of the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board ‘was characterised by inattention to procedures and protocols and an absence of reasonable judgement when making decisions about Keanu in a number of instances’.
The report has recommended that the board should undertake a full review of the functioning of its frontline child protection business.
Today Jane Held, independent chairman of BSCB, said that a number of staff had been sacked or had resigned across several agencies since Keanu’s death and the number was ‘not in single figures’. She added that the board apologised ‘absolutely and unequivocally’.
“He was a boy who died unnecessarily, and I do wish on behalf of all the agencies I’m representing to express very very deep regret and distress about his death,” she said. “We fully accept the findings of the serious case review and all of the recommendations made.”