Agencies working together ‘may have avoided girl’s brutal death’

The killing of a three-year-old girl by her mentally-ill mother may have been prevented if agencies involved in their care had worked together more effectively, a serious case review has found.

Birmingham’s Safeguarding Children Board concluded that the death of Alia Ahmed Jama – whose body was doused in acid – followed “missed opportunities” to assess the mental state of her mother, Iman Omar Yousef.

Yousef, then aged 25, was ordered to be detained in a secure psychiatric hospital in 2010 after a jury ruled that she had unlawfully killed her daughter at their home in Erdington, Birmingham.

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Police and other agencies, including immigration officials, had contact with Yousef and Alia after they entered the UK in March 2009.

Although Yousef claimed asylum – alleging that she was suffering shock from her experiences in Somalia – it was later established that she had lived in Holland, where her child was born, since the age of nine.

The review into Alia’s death confirmed that police attended a domestic incident involving other relatives at Yousef’s home a day after the asylum claim was lodged.

Other professionals who came into contact with the family in the months before Alia’s death in February 2010 included a housing officer, a social worker and other police officers.

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The serious case review, which was published yesterday, found that professionals tended to focus on appeasing the mother, dealing with practicalities and accepting her version of events, rather than probing the concerns raised by the family and other residents.

The report stated: “Whilst the mother was very protective of the child, there was insufficient attention given to the impact of her mental health upon her parenting capability.

“Unqualified opinions were made and accepted which resulted in there being no assessment by mental health professionals and a failure to safeguard the child.

“Whilst there is some evidence of information exchange there are shortfalls in agencies working together to gain a full and holistic understanding of the vulnerability of the child.”