Baby boy found dead in Wythenshawe 'failed'

Alex Sutherland
Image caption Alex was found dead in his pushchair after his mother called police in November 2009

Health and social workers in Manchester have been criticised for failing to protect a baby who was found dead in his pushchair in front of a lit fire.

Alex Sutherland was 13-months-old when he was found dead at his home in Baguley, Wythenshawe, in November 2009.

His mother, Tracy Sutherland, who drank heavily, admitted neglect and was jailed for 27 months last April.

A Serious Case Review found Alex was the victim of failures by several agencies who were meant to protect him.

Alex was found on the morning of 10 November 2009, after his mother called police telling them she had a dead baby at her house.

Ambulance crews, who were called to the scene along with police, were forced to unlock the door to the property and once inside found baby Alex with charring to his body in his pushchair by a lit gas fire.

He was also covered in faeces and had unexplained injuries on his body.

Alex was taken to hospital but pronounced dead a short time later.

The review, carried out by Manchester Safeguarding Children's Board, found the case was "poorly managed throughout" and that Alex's neglect was "both predictable and preventable".

It concluded: "No single agency was responsible for failing to protect him from the chronic neglect which he suffered at the hands of his mother.

"He was the victim of the multiple failures of all those agencies with whom he was involved (with the exception of Greater Manchester Police) to recognise the risks to which he was exposed and to take appropriate protective action."

Image caption Sutherland was sentenced to 27 months in prison

Ian Rush, chairperson of Manchester Safeguarding Children's Board, said: "The report is clear in saying that the level of neglect this little boy was experiencing was preventable, had things been different at certain points and had people assessed the situation in a different kind of way.

"It is important to stress that it's not as if agencies and organisations weren't trying to do something to support this mother, they were."

He added: "She was denying to them that she was drinking as much as she was and was playing down the impact that alcohol was having in her life."

Laura Roberts, Chief Executive of NHS Manchester, said: "The death of this little boy was a tragedy and we offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

"We are very sorry that NHS Manchester, as one of the agencies involved in his care, did not fully recognise the extent of his neglect.

"The Serious Case Review clearly identifies a number of areas requiring improvement within our own organisation, and in the way we work with other agencies."

'Lessons learned'

Manchester City Council offered its condolences to his family, saying it had since worked with staff to ensure they fully understand the lessons that can be learned.

Pauline Newman, the city council's director of Children's Services, said: "It is clear there were areas where we could have done better.

"We have carried out an extensive programme of work with staff since this little boy died to ensure that staff fully understand the lessons that need to be taken on board from this tragedy, in particular the need to sharply focus on the experience of the child, and to understand and act upon the impact of parental alcohol abuse upon them.

"We have also further trained staff to be assertive and challenging to parents who abuse alcohol."

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