19/08/2009

Brandon Muir Case Review

The reports into the case of Brandon Muir were published today you can read the report by Peter Wilson and Jimmy Hawthorn here. There is also a report to the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee next Monday which can be read here.

This is clearly an issue which every elected member has to take seriously. As a member of the council I have a duty along with my other 28 colleagues to protect Dundee's children.

When discussing this report we must remember that a child aged 23 months died. This was a tragedy. We must remember Brandon and do everything in our power to protect Dundee's children.

This report is a complex document and requires detailed study. It must also be considered in the context of HMIe report on Child Protection Services. I think that there is a need for more scrutiny of these reports.

My colleague Councillor Kevin Keenan has made some interesting comments on this report prior to the publication of the report, his comments are below

Statement by Councillor Kevin Keenan, Leader of the Labour Group, Dundee City Council

Tomorrow we will receive a Presentation and a copy of the Independent Reports carried out by Mr Hawthorn and Mr Wilson. They have been looking into the very short life of Brandon Muir paying particular attention to the final three to four weeks before he was subjected to the horrendous ordeal that lead to his death. The death of a child is always a sad matter.

Again at this time our thoughts go out to Brandon’s wider family who will still be coming to terms with the loss of a loved one so young. This was a particularly tragic set of events and Brandon's death came as a shock to everyone.

We have no doubt that this Report will have its own set of recommendation that the City Council and its child protection partners from Police, Health and the Voluntary Sector should all accept and adopt these without reserve.

This Report can now be clearly linked to the recently published HMI(e) Report that highlighted serious short falls in the area of child protection across Dundee. We believe there is still a need for this Report to be reviewed to establish the root cause of each failure highlighted by the Inspectors in relation to this underperforming, yet vital service for our City’s vulnerable children. Only when the root cause is identified can the correct action be taken to address the problems and can confidence be rebuilt.

The Labour Group will be calling on the Scottish Government to initiate an independent review of Children’s Protection Services across Scotland, as we consider that the services currently being delivered can only be described as a post code lottery. A standard must be set and adequately funded so that no child in Scotland is left at risk due to their family’s choice of post code.

People in Dundee have to look no further than Perth for an area that received an excellent commendation following its HMI(e) Inspection into Child Protection Services. We must also take time to reflect that their partner agencies are mainly the same as ours - NHS Tayside and Tayside Police.

We also call upon all agencies involved with Child Protection in Dundee to engage the help of the local expertise within Dundee University or from other Universities e.g. Stirling as they have considerable, but untapped knowledge with the subject of Child Protection. They hold a multi disciplined team that could also undertake audits/inspections that would help drive up the quality of services delivery within Dundee until the current partners start self inspections/service evaluations that the public can be confident reflects the service being delivered.

I support Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray's call for a national inquiry into Child Protection in Scotland. His statement is below

GRAY: BRANDON MUIR REPORT SHOWS SYSTEM NOT WORKING

LABOUR CALLS ON ‘COMPLACENT’ SALMOND TO BACK NATIONAL INQUIRY


Labour leader Iain Gray says the publication of the Brandon Muir report today shows the “system is not working” and it is time now for the First Minister to rethink his complacent attitude over child protection and back Labour’s call for a National Inquiry.

Iain Gray, MSP, said:

“It is damning indictment of the system that Brandon Muir’s case did ‘not stand out as giving cause for concern’ as the report concludes. The evidence revealed at the trial show Brandon Muir was living in horrific conditions. It is obvious the threshold before agencies consider more serious intervention is far too high.

"It’s clear from the report that Children's Services in Dundee acted within their powers and resources but that the chaotic lives of Brandon Muir and those around him were not deemed serious enough by the system to take more formal action before it was too late.

“We have to ask ourselves what prevented us from taking the right action that could have saved Brandon 's life.

“I have criticised the First Minister for persisting in defending the system. Maybe now Alex Salmond will think again and back Labour’s call for a National Inquiry into Child Protection across Scotland .

“Surely the Scottish government will recognise now that there is something wrong if as the report says concerns ‘never reached a threshold which prompted consideration of more formal intervention until shortly before Brandon’s death’.

"We have to challenge the presumption that the best place for a child is always with their family. “We have had a series of damning reports on child protection services in Dundee , Moray, Aberdeen and Midlothian in the recent past. Alex Salmond could act immediately so that agencies are required to share information so children at risk are identified and receive the help and support they need urgently. Too often overworked social workers have taken the rap when the wider system is clearly inadequate.

“We know that 10–20,000 children live with drug addicted parents. Many more – perhaps up to 100,000 - live with parents addicted to alcohol. We have heard these same figures from the Scottish government for two years now. I have been saying for months now that we don’t need to count them. We need to find them so we can protect them. But the First Minister has failed in the last two years to find out exactly who these children actually are.

“We cannot wait for yet another damning report and take only piecemeal action. There needs to be a national debate and inquiry and it needs national leadership.”