Tyne & Wear

Sunderland child neglect: Nine serious case reviews revealed

Serious Case Review document
Image caption The local authority has been accused of being "in a state of denial" over the seriousness of the situation

More cases of child neglect are being reviewed in Sunderland, amid claims of social workers being overworked.

Nine serious case reviews are being conducted in the city in addition to recently published reports.

Last July, watchdog Ofsted accused the council of "widespread and serious failures" that had left children "unsafe".

The council said it is confident it has begun to address the issues raised by Ofsted and previous case reviews.

Reviews examine cases where children have been put at risk and whether there have been failings by organisations meant to protect them, including the city council's children's services department.

The latest nine come on top of a number of case reviews already completed within the last two years.

Those reviews looked into the death of Baby Penny, who drowned in the bath in 2014, and two youngsters, known as Baby L and Baby A, who died in 2013.

'Too many cases'

The leader of the Conservative opposition group on the council, Councillor Peter Wood, has called for the politician responsible for children's services in the city, Councillor Patricia Smith, to resign.

He also called on the Labour party to "accept that somebody should be accountable".

In a statement, Sunderland City Council said it had made "significant progress" in improving children's services.

It said it was employing additional social workers and that staff caseloads have fallen.

One expert believes that while senior figures at the council should consider resigning, local politicians should not bear all of the blame.

Dr Terry Murphy, a child protection expert at Teesside University, said: "Quite simply the social workers in Sunderland have had too many cases, for too long, with inadequate support systems to actually help them work with families and with inadequate levels of supervision and support.

"But really Sunderland itself has been very much a victim of cutbacks to local government."

The government said it has taken action to address failings in Sunderland.

After last year's Ofsted report, an independent commissioner was sent in to the council by central government to oversee the children's services department.

In December, the government announced the department would in future be run as a voluntary trust under the commissioner.

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