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13 November 2013, 12:48
A Government minister says he has ''deep concerns'' over a serious case review (SCR) into the death of a four-year-old boy who was starved to death by his mum in Bradford, saying it does not fully explain the actions taken by children's care services.
Children's minister Edward Timpson was responding to the publication of the SCR into the case of Hamzah Khan, whose decomposed body was found in a cot in his Bradford home in 2011.
Mum-of-eight Amanda Hutton, 43, was jailed for 15 years last month after she was found guilty of the manslaughter of Hamzah.
Professor Nick Frost, who chairs the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, said: ''The SCR is very clear that Hamzah's death could not have been predicted but finds that systems, many of them national systems, let Hamzah down both before and following his death.''
Mr Timpson said in a letter to Professor Frost: ''I have deep concerns over the Hamzah Khan serious case review.
''In particular, I am concerned that it fails to explain sufficiently clearly the actions taken, or not taken by children's social care when problems in the Khan family were brought to their attention on a number of occasions.''
Prof Frost said: ''It is my responsibility, as independent chair, to ensure that lessons are learnt.
''Very sadly, I cannot give assurances that a tragedy like this will never happen again in our country - as we can't control or predict the behaviour of all parents, the vast majority of whom are doing their very best to care for their children.
''However, I can assure you that at this stage I am satisfied each agency is responding adequately but this is an ongoing process which requires constant monitoring.
``No child should go through what Hamzah experienced. I am satisfied that systems are in place today that minimise the chance of a situation such as this ever being repeated in Bradford.''
Bradford Crown Court heard how alcoholic Hutton was living in ''breathtakingly awful'' conditions with five of her young children as well as Hamzah's mummified remains when shocked police entered the four-bedroom house in September 2011.
A jury found she had allowed Hamzah to starve to death in December 2009 and left his body in a cot with a teddy.
The remains were only discovered due to a rookie police community support officer's tenacious pursuit of a minor anti-social behaviour complaint because she knew something was wrong.
The family was known to all the main agencies yet Hutton had a history of failing to co-operate with services that could have helped her.
Prof Frost stressed that Hutton was responsible for Hamzah's death.
He said: ''In my 35 years of involvement in children's services, I have never come across a case that can even be compared to this one.
As the SCR establishes, this was a unique combination of events: a mother who was determined not to co-operate even with the most necessary and essential of services. She managed to mislead professionals and relatives about the whereabouts of Hamzah.''
The professor said the SCR asks how Hamzah could disappear ''from the radar''.
''Certainly there was insufficient information and no evidence that would have allowed any agency to take statutory action to safeguard Hamzah,'' he said.
The SCR said: ''There is nothing in the information examined by the panel to suggest that Hamzah's death was predictable.''
Prof Frost said some issues could have been ''handled more helpfully''. He said, for example, that no thorough multi-agency assessment was undertaken.
Such an assessment may have given a comprehensive picture of circumstances in the household and should have led to a multi-agency meeting,'' he said.
He said one of Hamzah's siblings could have been listened to more carefully after the child raised concerns but added that the young children appeared content about their home life when questioned.
The report also noted Hutton's inconsistent explanations about where Hamzah was following his death which could have been more thoroughly explored.
The SCR's independent chairwoman, Nancy Palmer, said: ''It is important to be clear that Hamzah died because he was neglected by his mother. The overview panel considered carefully all the information available to agencies at the time they were working with Hamzah's family, and analysed how that information was used.
''The panel concluded that the information known to the various agencies at the time of the events does not suggest that Hamzah's death was a predictable event.''
She said: ''None of the various organisations that came into contact with the family had enough information to form a view about what life was really like for any of the children in this household, especially during the last few years.''