Victoria Climbie Case Study Bbc Arabic

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The social worker dealing with the case of Victoria Climbie was overworked and insufficiently supervised, her colleagues have told the BBC.

Lisa Arthurworrey is facing disciplinary action following the eight-year-old's death from abuse and neglect, but staff allege she was told by management to close the file on Victoria to reduce her workload.

Ms Arthurworrey, who has been criticised for not visiting Victoria at her home in Tottenham, north London, is said to have had 18 cases to deal with rather than her target of 12.

Staff told BBC Radio 4's Today programme they were concerned that Ms Arthurworrey, a relatively inexperienced social worker, was being made a scapegoat while there had been failures at an organisational level.

Victoria Bristow admitted a decision to close the case had been made

Victoria died from hypothermia last February after months of "unimaginable" torture at the hands of her great-aunt and the woman's boyfriend.

Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning were found guilty of Victoria's murder and jailed for life on Friday.

An independent inquiry into the child's death is beginning after Health Secretary Alan Milburn vowed to "get to the bottom of what went wrong".

The inquiry, headed by Lord Laming, will look into a catalogue of failings by police, health and social services, Mr Milburn said.

'Whole system failure'

Anne Bristow, director of social services at Haringey, the local authority responsible for Victoria's case, admitted an order had been made to close the girl's file but she would not be drawn on why the decision had been taken.

"A decision was taken at one stage close it and we are looking at the reasons why that happened," she told Today.

The system that she was working in was very chaotic, it was managed in a crisis way, really

Pauline Bradley, Haringey social worker

"We are reviewing workloads of cases of our social workers... at that time she (Ms Arthurworrey) did have a high case load but numbers alone don't tell you whether a social worker's case load is heavy, it depends what is happening.

"Haringey Council accepts that the whole system failed [Victoria]."

Ms Bristow added: "We take seriously every referral we receive, we do investigate.

"Over 200 children last year were protected by my council and we continue to do very difficult but good work with those families."

Special measures

The council has been placed under special measures by Mr Milburn and an investigation into why Haringey social services failed to protect Victoria is underway.

Pauline Bradley, a Unison shop steward in Haringey, said her colleague had been working under an excessive workload.

"It is really important that people realise that Lisa was working in a system where it was impossible for her to do her job well and properly, and it is not her fault that this child died," Ms Bradley told Today.

Victoria died of hypothermia after being forced to lie in a freezing bath

"She had 18 cases when she should have only had 12 cases. The system that she was working in was very chaotic, it was managed in a crisis way, really.

"All the decisions that were made on the case, she did not make on her own, she made with her managers. There were conversations with two separate managers about closing the case.

"In the frontline teams, there's a lot of cases coming in, and there's a real pressure to get the cases through the system, to do the work quickly, get the cases through the system, and then close them," Ms Bradley added.

Health minister John Hutton said the government would heed the advice of the statutory inquiry into the case, however radical its eventual recommendations.

"If there are genuine concerns... that we need to do a systematic root and branch reform of the entire structure of child protection in this country, then we do," he told the BBC.

The NSPCC has called for a comprehensive review of child protection procedures in the UK and a spokesman welcomed Mr Hutton's comments.

He said: "We particularly welcome his observation that we need to go outside this case.

'Watchdog' call

"We would welcome the opportunity to work with the government on ways to address this situation and develop a strategy to take things forward."

The charity wants a national strategy to cut the number of child deaths, and independent child commissioners to act as a children's "watchdog".

Victoria died despite the involvement of three local authorities, police and two hospitals.

She was twice taken to hospital with injuries caused by suspected abuse and twice handed back to Kouao and Manning to continue their terror treatment.

Commander Carole Howlett, who leads Scotland Yard's child protection team, accepted a systematic review was needed after a police response which had been "inadequate" and riddled with "failings and short-comings".

Eight officers involved in the case are under internal investigation and the case has been referred to the Police Complaints Authority.

Victoria Climbie's life was short and tragic. Her murder prompted the largest review of child protection arrangements in the UK. Find out more about the story.

2 November 1991:
Victoria Adjo Climbie is born near Abidjan, the Ivory Coast.

November 1998:
Seven-year-old Victoria Adjo Climbie leaves Abobo in the Ivory Coast to lives with her aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao initially in Paris. Kouao takes the girl to London after she is pursued by French authorities over benefit payments.

April - June 1999:
On arrival in England, Victoria's name is given as Anna because of the assumed identity on the false passport used to get her into Europe.

Kouao takes a job as a hospital cleaner and the pair initially live in a hostel in north London. Some weeks later Victoria is on a bus with her aunt when they meet Carl Manning, the driver, for the first time.

July 1999:
Kouao and Victoria, who speaks no English, move into Carl Manning's home in Tottenham, north London. Within days, Victoria would be suffering abuse at the hands of Carl Manning. That abuse would lead to her torture and death.

14 July 1999:

Kouao: Pretended to care for Victoria

Victoria makes her first visit to the Central Middlesex Hospital after the daughter of her childminder suspects the girl has non-accidental injuries. The doctor accepts Kouao's story that Victoria has inflicted the wounds on herself by scratching at scabies sores.

During this period, doctors alert child protection authorities as a precaution. Haringey social worker Lisa Arthurworrey and PC Karen Jones are assigned to the case. They later cancel a home visit scheduled for 4 August after hearing about the scabies.

24 July 1999:
Victoria is taken to North Middlesex Hospital's casualty department with scalding to her head and face. Doctors immediately suspect that the injuries have been deliberately inflicted.

Kouao tells Lisa Arthu4worrey and PC Jones that she poured hot water over Victoria to try and stop her scratching her scalp. She says that Victoria caused other injuries with utensils.

6 August 1999:
Victoria is discharged from the hospital and is collected by Kouao after her explanation for the injuries is accepted by child protection authorities.

October 1999
Trial evidence reveals that from October 1999 until the following January, Carl Manning forces Victoria to sleep in a bin liner in the bath every night at this flat.

1 November 1999L:
Kouao tells social workers that Carl Manning has sexually assaulted Victoria. She withdraws the accusation the next day. PC Jones is asked to investigate why but takes no further action after her letter to Kouao remains unanswered.

24 February 2000
Victoria is rushed to North Middlesex Hospital suffering from a combination of malnutrition and hypothermia. Doctors later transfer her to an intensive care ward at St Mary's Hospital in west London.

25 February 2000:
Victoria is declared dead at 3.15pm at St Mary's Hospital.

Dr Nathaniel Carey, the Home Office pathologist who examines her body, finds 128 separate injuries and scars, many of them cigarette burns, and describes them as "the worst case of child abuse I've encountered".


The Climbie trial


Carl Manning and Marie Therese Kouao are charged with the murder of Victoria Climbie. During police interviews both claim that Victoria was possessed.

November 2000:
The trial opens with the prosecution making it clear that the blame lay not only with Kouao and Manning in the dock but child protection authorities who had been "blindingly incompetent".

Manning denies murder but pleads guilty to child cruelty and manslaughter. Kouao denies all charges.

12 January 2001:
Almost a year after Victoria Climbie's death, Manning and Kouao are found guilty of her murder.

Sentencing both of them to life imprisonment, Judge Richard Hawkins says: "What Anna endured was truly unimaginable. She died at both your hands, a lonely drawn out death".


The Inquiry

April 2001:
The government announces a public inquiry into the death to be headed by Lord Laming.

The inquiry is the first in Britain to use special wide-ranging powers to look at everything from the role of social services to police child protection arrangements.

Ministers make clear that they expect the inquiry to scrutinise the child protection system and not just the failings in the Climbie case.

May 2001:
Lord Laming opens the inquiry and in an unprecedented move calls both Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning to give evidence. He says the killers should appear at the inquiry to help it establish where the authorities failed to stop them.

The inquiry is split into two parts. You can read the key stories on the Victoria Climbie special report.

The first part or phase takes the testimony of more than 230 witnesses including neighbours, child protection officers and high-ranking social services officials.

During this phase, the inquiry heard allegations of racism, incompetence and agencies neglecting their duty of care to Victoria. The inquiry hears of 12 occasions when agencies could have intervened and possibly saved the girl's life.

The second part during 2002 uses a series of special one-day seminars to bring invited experts together to debate the nature of the child protection system and help Lord Laming draw up his conclusions.

July 2002
Lord Laming reopens the first phase of the inquiry after it emerges that a critical document by social services inspectors had not been revealed to his team.

August 2002
Carole Baptiste, one of the key social workers in the case, is found guilty of failing to attend the public inquiry and fined $500.

November 2002
Two further social workers at the heart of the Victoria Climbie child abuse scandal are sacked for gross misconduct. Lisa Arthurworrey and her manager Angella Mairs are dismissed by Haringey Council in north London following disciplinary proceedings.

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