Two senior directors have stepped down from a Yorkshire council’s family services department in the wake of four serious case reviews being launched.
Wakefield Council yesterday confirmed it is currently working on the serious case reviews, weeks after its director of family services Elaine McHale – one of three corporate directors in the local authority – retired after 12 years in the post.
Meanwhile, it has emerged one of five service directors in the same department working under her resigned last week.
A council spokeswoman would not confirm or deny whether the decisions by both directors to step down were linked with the serious case reviews – one of which relates to five-year-old Haroon Bhatti, whose father Pazeer Ahmed was yesterday jailed for the murder of the boy whose suffering was described by the trial judge as “truly appalling”.
Haroon was rushed to hospital in January this year after paramedics called to his home in Wakefield found the youngster apparently lifeless in bed.
He could not be resuscitated and died from a fractured skull and abdominal injuries. Doctors found many other old and more recent injuries inflicted at his father’s hands during the three months he had sole care of him which left his body covered head to toe in scars and bruises.
Edwina Harrison, independent chair of the Wakefield and District Safeguarding Children Board, said yesterday: “This is a tragic case involving the death of a little boy who had his whole life in front of him.
“We are conducting a serious case review to ensure that any possible lessons which can be learned from this case are learned and put into practice in the interests of safeguarding children in this district.”
The board had made the decision to undertake a serious case review in the case to identify whether there were any lessons to be learned by agencies working with children and their families in Wakefield.
The latest Ofsted report into the council’s safeguarding services, published in January last year, awarded an overall effectiveness of adequate, although it found joint investigations between social care and the police required further strengthening.
Reacting to the retirement of Wakefield corporate director Elaine McHale, chief executive Joanne Roney, said: “It is something that Elaine and I have been discussing for some time and I respect her decision.
“I would like to thank Elaine for her time at the council and I, along with colleagues, wish her well for the future.”
Ahmed, 34, was ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years in jail after a jury at Leeds Crown Court convicted him of his son’s murder.
The trial judge Mr Justice Coulson said Haroon’s suffering was “truly appalling”.
Between November last year and his death, Ahmed inflicted 104 separate injuries or areas of injury to him including, fractures, bites and a burn with an iron.
He said he could not describe it as a case of sadism since there was no evidence Ahmed had enthusiasm for inflicting pain on his son but they represented “the grossest breach of trust” on behalf of a parent.
The jury heard Ahmed suffered from mental problems but did not tell anyone of the abuse he was inflicting to his son when he felt stressed.
He took him to hospital on one occasion with a broken arm after he told staff at a supermarket in Bradford his son had slipped on water in the toilet but never reported any other of the boy’s numerous injuries as he led a solitary life with the youngster.
Services to protect young ‘adequate’
The latest Ofsted investigation into Wakefield Council’s safeguarding children services, published in January 2011, awarded an overall effectiveness of “adequate”.
The report acknowledged there had been progress in tackling seven areas for development, although it warned further improvement is needed regarding “quality and timeliness of contacts, referrals and assessments”.
It found joint investigations between social care and the police required further strengthening, while a “significant” number of children in need cases remain unallocated, despite being adequately risk assessed.