Liam Fee’s social work team ‘split into two camps’

Toddler Liam Fees mother and her civil partner received life sentences for his murder. Picture: Contributed
Toddler Liam Fees mother and her civil partner received life sentences for his murder. Picture: Contributed
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A team of social workers handling the case of murdered toddler Liam Fee were beset by “personality clashes” and “split into two camps”, a conduct hearing heard yesterday.

Lesley Bate, a member of Fife Council’s Child Protection Team (CPT) 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.

The hearing was earlier told that Bate had chosen not to intervene after Liam Fee was found badly bruised in January 2013 – and failed to follow up on reports he had suffered a neck injury weeks later.

Yesterday senior social worker Sharon Barr, who worked with Ms Bate for three months in early 2013, told the tribunal of other cases Ms Bate had worked on.

In one Miss Barr said Ms Bate, 60, left a child “at risk of harm” by failing to follow up on reports the child’s parents were “living in squalor”.

In another Ms Bate recommended a girl be returned to her mother – who had assaulted her – despite bosses ordering her to change her recommendations ahead of a case conference.

Miss Barr said the team had left a child, identified only as AA, “in a very risky and vulnerable condition” because of Ms Bate’s failures. She said: “The parents were living in squalor. There were dirty nappies lying around and ingrained dirt. There were blind cords hanging that posed a danger. There was no record of Lesley Bate carrying out any visits or of tasks being done. Her practise was not good and in my opinion left that child, AA, at risk of harm. It was like the AA case had fallen off the radar.”

Speaking of issues within the Child Protection Team, she added: “There were personality issues in the CPT and I didn’t want to become embroiled in any of it. I took the personality clashes not to be work-based issues.There was a split in the team – almost like they were in two separate camps.”

The hearing is examining 16 charges involving 13 children whom Ms Bate was involved with over the course of almost three years. Two of the charges relate to Liam Fee – identified in SSSC papers only as FF.

Those charges allege that Bate failed to follow up on a referral regarding serious bruising Liam suffered in January 2013, and that she did not follow up claims he suffered a neck injury weeks later.

Earlier, an official who investigated Bate’s conduct during her time in the CPT told a hearing of Bate’s involvement with Liam and his parents, Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee.

Tracey Burke told how Liam’s childminder Heather Farmer 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.

The hearing in Dundee continues.