Child’s death is focal point of whistleblowers’ latest concerns

CONFLICTING stories have emerged about a 23-month-old girl who died while Thurrock Council social services was considering the family’s situation.

An inquest was held into the death of Katie Eloise Eden on Wednesday, 5 September and an Open verdict was recorded.

No witnesses were called and coroner Mrs Eleanor McGann told how two “specialist pathologists” failed to find out how the young girl died.

Police informed the hearing there were no suspicious circumstances.

The girl’s family has been busy on the social network Facebook, where the mother Susan Lewis has asked why social services did not offer more help.

A whistle-blowers’ letter sent to council chief executive and seen by the Thurrock Independent, claims a “50-page, thorough internal review undertaken by the safeguarding team identified there were many failings.

“However, this report has effectively been buried [and] the report that was presented to the LSCB (Local Safeguarding Children’s Board) Serious Case Review Panel was a carefully worded document that omitted to include all the details.”

It goes on to allege the “carefully-worded” report was presented by somebody involved in the case.

The whistle-blowers’ letter adds: “Can we remind you Ms Carpenter, a 23-month-old child died. Potentially this could have been avoided if people had done their job correctly.
“If that’s not in the public’s interest we fail to see what possibly could be.”
The letter continues to allege people in the department are trying to “cover up” errors and asks: “How can staff ever have any respect for such people.”
It says that despite “there being serious concerns regarding neglect”, one manager decided “to close the case when [they] should in fact have escalated the case”.
And it says senior staff “failed to adequately safeguard” Katie Eloise Eden, alleging: “Records have subsequently been altered and updated since the child’s death.
“None of the above has been investigated.”

Thurrock Chief Executive Lyn Carpenter

Now social care whistle-blowers in Thurrock Council’s children’s department are demanding chief executive Lyn Carpenter acknowledges their concerns publically.
They say: “Unlike before, we want you to acknowledge to all staff by email, as soon as possible, but no later than the end of Friday, 7 September that further serious concerns have been brought to your attention.
“We want you to acknowledge that previous concerns were not robustly investigated as you had indicated and apologise for this.
“Over the next few months, we want you to personally take an active role in a programme of (unannounced) floor walking and participating visits with social work staff. This will, we believe, demonstrate your commitment [and] instil more confidence in the workforce. We want you to initiate a full, thorough and completely independent review of children’s services, talking to families, staff and partners both voluntary and statutory.”
They conclude: “We believe the children of Thurrock deserve the very best service that is possible.”
Despite the 54 word statement to us, as far as the Thurrock Independent understands, no response has been made to staff.

FOR the second time this year staff in Thurrock Council’s children’s department have contacted chief executive Lyn Carpenter seeking action to prevent alleged further mishandling of cases.The Thurrock Independent has received a copy of the second whistle-blowers’ letter from a source within the council.

When the paper ran stories on the first incident – on 26 April this year – the council complained to the Independent Press Complaints Organisation (IPSO) which later fully exonerated the paper.Many of the whistle-blowing allegations this time are similar to the first, including concerns over a child’s death.

On Thursday (13 September) the Thurrock Independent sent 13 questions to the council, the first regarding details of the child who died, the remaining 12 around the whistle-blowers’ allegations.

The council responded to our questions with the following 54-word statement: “Thurrock Council can confirm that allegations have been made under the Whistleblowing Policy and    Procedure. This matter is being investigated in line with that policy.

“The council will not comment on individual cases, however, it takes its responsibilities for children very seriously. All whistleblowing allegations are robustly investigated and where    necessary action is taken.”

DESPITE the council’s assertion it will not “comment on individual cases”, the Thurrock Independent had asked a series of questions, not all relating to individuals.

In all there were 12 queries relating to the whistle-blowers’ letter.

These were:

1 Has Thurrock Council’s chief executive received a follow-up whistle-blowing letter from the same anonymous staff group who sent her one in January, and which was copied to the Thurrock Independent newspaper in April?

2 How many people have left children’s services in the last nine months – and how many more have handed in their resignation?

3    Over the same period how many staff have been suspended and/or disciplined?

4   How many consultants or other short-term appointments have been made in the children’s services department?

5 Did the safeguarding team prepare a detailed review into the death of a 23-month-old child, identifying many failings in the department?

6  Was this lengthy review report presented to the Local Safeguarding Children Board serious case review panel?

7  Was the panel chaired by David Archibald?

8  What is Mr Archibald’s remuneration?

9  Was a separate independent audit undertaken within children’s services?

10 If so, what was its outcome or recommendations?

11 Were the parents of the little girl who died told their other child was being removed as a “respite” arrangement?

12 If so, was this accurate?

The council’s refusal to provide answers to any of these questions leaves the whistle-blowers’ allegations uncontested.

David Archibald

THE independent chair of the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board – appointed by the current director of children’s services, is his immediate predecessor.
David Archibald was the interim director following the resignation of Carmel Littleton and before Rory Patterson.
Mr Patterson then appointed Mr Archibald to the independent chair post.
According to a whistle-blowers’ letter, the official Serious Case Review Panel into the death of Katie Eloise Eden at the start of this year was chaired by Mr Archibald.
The letter – addressed to council chief executive Lyn Carpenter – alleges Mr Archibald is “being paid £48,000 for 36 days a year, more than twice the LSCB budget (£20,000) for this role”.
The board’s annual report for 2016-17, the latest available, states in its finance section, that the outgoings for the independent chair’s position was £19,543.03 including VAT.

THE children’s department at Thurrock Council is rapidly leaking staff according to a whistle-blowers’ letter seen by the Thurrock Independent.
It says 15 staff members have left in recent months and a further half-dozen will be departing in the weeks to come.
In addition the letter says: “In the last nine months the service has seen an unprecedented number of staff suspensions and disciplinary actions being taken. Staff are there one day and gone the next.
“Many of those who have simply ‘disappeared’ are well-respected, knowledgeable colleagues.
“This has a significant impact on staff moral and stability, all of which impacts on the service provided to children and their families.”
The letter goes on to claim the “management style” in the department is similar to that which led to a London authority being given an improvement notice and, in Thurrock there is a management structure that is “less about improving service and more about protecting [themselves] and avoiding doing any work”.
It alleges the department has had “an army of consultants” most of whom are “friends” of senior management and were paid at ‘extortionate rates’ over and above recognised pay bands.