Liam Fee social worker’s failings ‘put string of children at risk’

Liam Fee died at the hands of his mother and her partner after his case 'fell off the radar'. Picture: PA
Liam Fee died at the hands of his mother and her partner after his case 'fell off the radar'. Picture: PA
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A social worker put murdered tot Liam Fee and a string of other vulnerable children at risk of harm as a result of her failings in “the most serious cases” local authorities have to deal with, the lawyer for Scotland’s social services watchdog has said.

Lesley Bate faces 13 misconduct charges relating to 16 at-risk children that she worked with while employed as a social worker by Fife Council, first in their Child Protection Team and then in their Children and Families Team.

Liam Fee’s case was allocated to her in January 2013 after allegations he had been seen covered in bruises by his childminder.

Weeks later it was reported he had a “sore neck,” with mother Rachel Trelfa and civil partner Nyomi Fee, both later convicted of his murder, lying to social workers that he had been taken to see a GP about it.

Bate faces a charge of putting Liam, identified in Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)documents only as FF, at risk of potential harm by failing to follow up on the allegations.

The murder trial heard earlier this year that Liam’s case “fell off the radar” as a result.

A hearing of the SSSC’s conduct sub-committee was yesterday urged to find Bate, 60, guilty of misconduct following four full days of evidence from colleagues and investigators.

Solicitor Gary Burton, presenting the case on behalf of the SSSC, said Bate’s failings related to “the most serious cases in Fife Council’s social work department”.

Turning to Liam Fee’s case specifically, Mr Burton added: “This is a very serious and concerning referral on 13 January 2013 of unexplained bruising reported and an explanation given that he may have fallen out of a travel cot and slept on the floor.

“There are computer entries by Lesley Bate that she is satisifed by the account given for the injuries, but does say the health visitor and nursery are to be contacted to check they are satisfied.

“There is no record she undertook this contact.

“There is no further record of any follow up – no evidence at all that the follow up took place.

“The next entry is on 20 February, 2013 relating to a further referral by the childminder that he had a very sore neck.

“There was a clear instruction to speak with the childminder and discuss if further work is required.

“Despite the very serious nature of the reports regarding a young child we see no record whatsoever that she followed up with the childminder or considered other work.

The three-person sub-committee has begun deliberations on the case.

It will return to give its findings at the SSSC’s Dundee headquarters later this month.