Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Major review into boy’s murder will aim to free up social workers

 Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Major review into boy’s murder will aim to free up social workers

A national review into the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes will look at how social workers can be unshackled from their desks so they can spend as much time with families as possible, The Telegraph understands.

Government sources last night confirmed that the review would look at how personnel could be freed up to ensure they have more contact with children of concern.

It comes after the Children’s Commissioner for England yesterday said that social workers must be more “inquisitive” and listen to the “voices of children” in the wake of six-year-old’s death.

Dame Rachel de Souza suggested that social workers were being “distracted” by unnecessary tasks, adding that it was “critical” they were given the support necessary to ensure a greater focus on “professional curiosity.”

She also suggested that lockdowns had “weakened the system of support” and urged Boris Johnson not to close schools again, although she acknowledged that Arthur had been visited by professionals.

The former headteacher, who founded the Inspiration Trust of academies and free schools, added that recent reforms to education, based on paying more attention to children in the classroom, should be used as a template delivering improvements to the social care system. 

Her concerns were echoed by Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, who said that social services needed to take a “more precautionary approach” and that ministers would now look at “what more we can do to read those early signs earlier and better.”

It came as Nazhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, announced a major review into the circumstances which led to Arthur’s murder by his stepmother Emma Tustin at their home in Solihull.

It emerged in court that the boy, who was repeatedly abused and assaulted, had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.

This came despite both Arthur’s grandmother and uncle raising concerns about his treatment.

Tustin, 32, was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.

Arthur’s maternal grandfather, Peter Halcrow, 61, told The Sun his killers should never be freed.

The review will now determine what improvements are needed by the agencies that came into contact with Arthur in the months before he was murdered by stepmother Emma Tustin at their home in Solihull.

Last night a source close to Mr Zahawi said it would also address the concerns raised by Dame Rachel, telling The Telegraph: “While it’s obviously independent, the review is going to look at ensuring social workers can spend as much time with children and families as possible.”

Mr Zahawi has commissioned four inspectorates, covering social care, health, police and probation, to carry out an urgent inspection of the safeguarding agencies in Solihull who were aware of Arthur’s case.

The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the probe and provide additional support to Solihull Children’s Safeguarding Partnership to “upgrade” its existing local review, which was paused for the court case

Separately, Suella Braverman QC, the Attorney General, is reviewing whether the sentences of Tustin and Hughes should be referred to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of undue leniency. 

However, Dame Rachel yesterday suggested that fresh recommendations from the review would not be enough to deliver the changes required, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “My concern is that here we are 20 years since this post was set up and we’re still having these cases. 

“Arthur raised concerns, he was not a baby, he was six years old, he raised concerns and the system did not hear him.

“We must listen to the voices of children and secondly, no doubt with these reviews and national reviews that are absolutely right that they happen, they tend to make the same recommendations. It’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.

“When I go to the best places in this country. Do you know what I see? I see people inquisitive about children, I see managers asking the right questions. 

“That’s why that professional curiosity is critical, but the system must support social workers’ professional curiosity, not distract them on other things. 

“I’ve had 30 years in education reform and seen many of these cases. Education is unrecognisable now, because we reformed and focused on children in the classroom. We need to see this in children’s social care as well.”

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