Birmingham Lib-Dem MP John Hemming accuses Government of cover-up on child deaths
The government is “covering up” details of child deaths, a Birmingham MP has claimed.
John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) asked local authorities to provide details of babies whose death was believed to be connected to abuse or neglect, following the death of Baby P.
But some councils have written back revealing that the Department for Children, Schools and Families has told them not to give him the information.
Mr Hemming’s made inquiries following the death of Baby P at the age of 17 months, in Haringey, London. Baby P had suffered more than 50 injuries in an eight-month period in which he was seen 60 times by social and health workers, but was not taken into care.
The MP believed the “wrong children” were being taken into care, so that those that genuinely needed protecting were left with their families. He asked councils for details of babies whose death had been the subject of a serious case review, which is carried out when abuse or neglect is believed to be a factor.
The requests were made under the Freedom of Information Act, which places public authorities under a legal obligation to answer queries.
But authorities including Durham and Bolton have refused to reply, on the grounds that the Department for Children Schools and Families has told them it will respond on their behalf.
In a letter to Mr Hemming, Durham Council said: “Unfortunately we will not be able to provide you with this information. This is because we have been informed by central government that a national response is being provided by DCSF.”
Mr Hemming said: “Alarm bells rang when I found that the Government were telling local authorities to refuse to give me information. We cannot know the whole truth until they do. They were a little late. Some authorities had already responded by the time the instruction went out. However, a number of authorities have still not responded.”
The Department for Children, Schools and Families has written to Mr Hemming to inform him that 81 child deaths were subject to serious case reviews in 2007 but they have provided only a national figure and not the breakdown by local authority that he requested.
A spokeswoman for the Department said: “We have not ordered councils not to reply to Mr Hemming.”
Mr Hemming has been a long-standing critic of child protection services and claims that there is a tendency to take children into care unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, MP Rob Marris (Lab Wolverhampton South West) says of those responsible for overseeing the death of Baby P: “I have no doubt that ‘heads should roll’ in this appalling mis-managed case which led to the horrible torture and terrible death of this poor little baby boy.”