Four face action over baby's death


Four social care staff face action over the death of Alex Sutherland

Four social care workers are facing disciplinary action following the death of a 13-month-old boy whose neglect was found to be “preventable and predictable”.

Three social workers and one social care employee will be investigated over their role in the care of Alex Sutherland who died after being left in front of a lit gas fire for three days.

His binge-drinking mother, Tracey, 39, was jailed for 27 months last April after she admitted child cruelty.

A serious case review into his death by Manchester Safeguarding Children’s Board found no single agency was to blame for failing to protect Alex but his case was “poorly managed throughout”.

Manchester City Council said it had carried out an extensive programme of training with care workers in a bid to learn lessons from the death, and announced the disciplinary action as it conceded it “could have done better”.

Mike Livingstone, the council’s deputy director of children’s services, said: “As part of the serious case review process we have scrutinised every aspect of our involvement with Alex and his family. It is clear from this that there are areas where we could have done better, and as a result four members of staff have been subject to disciplinary investigations.

“Two of the staff members (social workers) are now being brought before formal disciplinary hearings, and the other two staff – while not facing formal disciplinary hearings – are now subject to management instruction and oversight of their work.”

On November 3 2009 – a week before Alex’s charred body was found – an anonymous call to social services claimed the youngster looked small and undernourished, and his mother was behaving erratically.

A health visitor planned to meet Sutherland two days later but the mother cancelled the appointment and rearranged it for November 12.

The caller rang again on November 6 to report Sutherland had been seen with Alex at her workplace and had smelled of alcohol. There was no record that information was passed to the health visitor.

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