Murdered toddler Liam Fee was “failed” by his social worker who didn’t “assess the full risk and any potential risks” he faced from his mother and her civil partner, who later went on to kill him, a probe was told today (Thursday).
Social workers involved in the Fife Council Child Protection Team in charge of his case were “meant to be professional people” but were instead “concerned with childish games”, a Scottish Social Services Council hearing was told.
Lesley Bate (60) faces 13 charges relating to 16 children at an SSSC conduct sub-committee.
They include allegations that she “failed to take necessary steps to minimise actual or potential risk of harm” to Liam Fee – identified only in anonymised SSSC documents as FF.
Today Karen Pedder (45) team manager of Fife Council’s Child Protection Team and Bate’s direct line manager gave evidence to the probe.
She earlier told Rachel Trelfa (31) and 28-year-old Nyomi Fee’s trial over the murder of Liam that the tot had “fallen off the radar” after Bate went off sick in April 2013.
At the conduct probe today (Thursday) Pedder ran through the history of Liam Fee’s case within her team – and said Bate hadn’t taken any action even after it emerged the women had lied about taking Liam to a GP when concerns were raised about a neck injury he sustained.
She said: “The referral came from a childminder on January 15, 2013 and it was allocated to Lesley Bate.
“She created an entry on the computer system relating to a joint investigation visit and that the health visitor and school were to be contacted.
“It said there was no further social work involvement required.”
Asked by solicitor Gary Burton, presenting the case for the SSSC, if contact with the school and health visitor should be noted in the system, Miss Pedder said: “Yes. But there is no evidence that took place.
“No further action took place between January 15 and the next referral in February.
“An email was received in February from a social work assistant, who was friendly with his childminder, saying he had a sore neck.
“The parents were asked and said he had been taken to a GP. That was checked and he had never been to the doctor.”
Miss Pedder said there was no record of conversations taking place with Liam’s health visitor, childminder or nursery following the February contact – despite her having been explicitly told to follow it up.
Mr Burton asked: “Having considered this and given the lack of follow up what would your comment be on whether she took the necessary steps to minimise actual or potential risk of harm?”
Miss Pedder replied: “In my view she failed to take appropriate steps to assess the full risk of any potential harm that might be around for the child.”
She added: “My perception was Lesley Bate did as little as possible to get by and was happy for other people to do her work.”
And speaking of an atmosphere of division within her team – spoken about earlier in the hearing by other staff – Miss Pedder said there were “several different personalities” within the unit.
She said: “The situation was very difficult to manage.
“They were meant to be professional people, not concerned with childish games.”
The sub-committee was earlier told that Bate has “relinquished” her SSSC registration – but does not admit any wrong-doing in relation to the charges.
The hearing continues.