Star Hobson: Child protection review shows how social workers "missed the signs" that may have prevented toddler's murder
Star was killed in September 2020 aged 16 months by her mother’s partner Savannah Brockhill, who is serving a life term of at least 25 years for her murder.
Her mother, Frankie Smith was convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death.
The way child protection is approached in England needs to “change fundamentally” the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel said, after it published its long awaited review
into the deaths of both Star and Solihull boy Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Its national review found that the fatal abuses suffered by Arthur, six, and Star, 16 months, “are not isolated incidents”, but reflective of wider problems with poor information sharing and weak decision-making.
Concerns raised by their wider family members were “too often” disregarded and not properly investigated by police and social workers, the review said.
Professionals were increasingly kept at arms length by those perpetrating the abuse, the report also found.
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “The murders of Star and Arthur were truly horrific and should not have happened. On behalf of the council I want to say sorry to Star’s family that signs were missed and that we did not take the action we should have.
“In Bradford, we are fully committed to implementing the findings of this review so that those who work to protect our children can do so in the most effective way possible.”
The review recommends dedicated multi-agency teams staffed by experienced child protection professionals be set up in every local authority area to investigate allegations of serious harm to children.
And the Government should establish a national child protection board to better co-ordinate child protection policy.
The Child protection review was commissioned in December 2021 by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi following the deaths of Arthur and Star to look at what could be done to prevent things from going so “horrifyingly wrong” in future.
For Star, an explanation that concern from a family member might have been malicious and rooted in a dislike of her mother’s same-sex relationship was “too easily accepted,” it found.
The review found that Bradford children's social care service was "in turmoil" in 2020, with a high turnover of social workers and a high volume of work affecting quality and contributing to assessments that were "too superficial" and did not address repeated concerns from family members.