Social worker '˜failed to act' on Liam Fee's injuries

The social worker involving in the care of murdered toddler Liam Fee decided child protection workers should not intervene after he was found badly bruised, a conduct hearing was told yesterday .

Rachel Fee and her civil partner Nyomi Fee were jailed for the murder of Liam Fee

Lesley Bate, who was a member of Fife Council’s Child Protection team in Glenrothes, faces a string of charges at the Scottish Social Services Council conduct sub-committee over her work for the authority between December 2011 and August 2014.

Two of the allegations concern Liam Fee - named only in anonymised SSSC papers as FF.

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Yesterday the official who investigated Ms Bate’s conduct during her time in the Child Protection Team told a hearing of Ms Bate’s involvement with Liam and his parents, Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee.

Tracey Burke said that Liam’s childminder Heather Farmer - referred to at the hearing as HF - had raised concerns in January 2013.

But despite that, and subsequent concerns about a neck injury he suffered weeks later, Ms Bate failed to follow up on the case or make notes relating to it on council computer systems.

Instead, she blamed “pressure of work” for her failures - despite other workers saying her case load was not excessive.

Miss Burke said her failings were “not acceptable” and that she should have followed up allegations of child abuse “in a robust manner”

The hearing was told that Liam’s mother, referred to as RT at the hearing, had fled an abusive relationship in Newcastle to settle with Nyomi Fee in Thornton, Fife.

Miss Burke said the toddler’s case had been allocated to Lesley Bate after he had been referred to the department by the childminder on January 15, 2013, with unexplained bruises.

Liam presented as “unsteady on his feet and with bruising on his back. He also had a black eye,” she said, which his mother explained had happened when he fell while playing.

On another occasion, the childminder reported that FF had a “massive bruise” on his forehead and bruising on both legs. The child’s mother had said he had fallen out of his cot and she had found him asleep on the floor in the morning. The childminder had raised concerns about whether the child had been knocked unconscious, Miss Burke stated.

At the time of her initial joint investigation with a police officer into the family’s circumstances, Ms Bate had noted that during their home visit, they found the mum’s account to be “plausible” and recommended that a health visitor at school should be contacted.

The childminder later reported the child had complained of a sore neck and emailed Lesley Bates about that and also about a lack of supervision of the child, Miss Burke said.

Ms Bate’s manager, Karen Pedder - who gave evidence at the Fee murder trial that the tot had “fallen off the radar of social work” - had instructed her to speak to the childminder again to gain some information and to discuss with her senior manager whether referral to the department was required.

In earlier evidence Ms Bate’s manager after she moved to the Children and Families team in Dunfermline described her as “the most erratic person I’ve worked with”.

The hearing at the SSSC’s HQ in Dundee continues.