A REPORT into the tragic death of Chelmsley Wood toddler Levi Blu Cassin, has revealed ‘a series of serious failings’ in safeguarding Solihull children.
The Serious Case Review, published by the Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and shared online by the toddler’s maternal grandmother, Angela Cassin, has revealed a series of failures by numerous agencies in the months leading up to the youngster’s death.
Levi Blu was just 21 months old when he died as a result of traumatic abdominal injuries caused by being stamped on or kicked with significant force.
The toddler was found in the Chelmsley Wood flat shared by his parents on February 20, 2013 with a split duodenum – the intersection between his small intestine and his stomach.
Levi Blu’s parents – Danielle Cassin, aged 26, of Frensham Close, Chelmsley Wood, and Marcus Piper, aged 31, of no fixed abode – were both initially charged with murdering the toddler.
But after giving differing accounts and maintaining their innocence throughout, the pair were found guilty of causing or allowing the 21-month-old’s death following a four week trial at Birmingham Crown Court and sentenced to nine years behind bars each.
The SCR detailed numerous occasions in which organisations, including Children’s Social Work Services and West Midlands Police, missed opportunities for ‘investigative and proactive action’.
It also reveals that agencies relied on Miss Cassin – a known drug addict with on-going issues with her mental health and being subjected to domestic abuse from partners – to honestly ‘self-report’ her progress and current situation.
Vitally, a mistake from one unnamed social worker resulted in police being unaware of Levi Blu being the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
This meant that officers who were called to the family’s home on numerous occasions to investigate allegations of domestic violence focused on the adults involved, rather than considering the possible affects on the toddler.
The review also found that professionals often based decisions on overly optimistic view of the Levi Blu’s situation and the parents’ potential for change rather than on the facts presented to them.
This ‘rule of optimism’
It concluded that Levi Blu’s death was not ‘predictable’, though it will be the decision of the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) whether his death was ‘preventable’.
Describing the youngster’s death as an ‘absolute tragedy’, director of children’s services at Solihull Council, Sally Hodges said Levi Blu’s death highlighted a number of things that could have been done differently.
“We could have done better,” she added.
The report also revealed the toddler’s case was ‘inappropriately discussed for closure on a number of occasions’ before being ultimately closed on the ‘mistake judgement’ his situation was improving.
But Ms Hodges argued that in the two-and-half years since Levi Blu’s death, Solihull Council had worked hard to introduce a number of changes – including establishing a new training programme for all staff and a joint domestic violence and safeguarding service with West Midlands Police.
She added: “Communication between departments meant that overall principle problems seemed to be not realise the degree of risk he was under from his parents.
“Also, the degree of deviousness by the parents – including hiding Mr Piper in the house when he was not supposed to be around the baby – meant that it would have been difficult for anyone, let alone professionals to recognise what was happening.
“While the Council has made an awful lot of changes to make sure our services are a good as they can be, this does not guarantee that when when devious and difficult parents want to do something to child that it will not happen.
“We have to be alert and we must never be complacent.”