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Arthur Labinjo-Hughes ‘should have been top priority of social services’

·4 min read
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was murdered by his step-mother (Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow/PA) (PA Media)
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was murdered by his step-mother (Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow/PA) (PA Media)

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes should have been the top priority of local social services, experts have said, as football fans paid tribute to the six-year-old.

Arthur was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of 32-year-old Emma Tustin, who was on Friday jailed for life after being convicted of murder by assaulting the defenceless child in Solihull on June 16, 2020.

Wendy Thorogood, director of the Association of Child Protection Professionals, said the murder of Arthur, whose body was found to be covered in 130 bruises, was a “society responsibility”.

She told Times Radio: “He should (have been at the top of social services’ priority list) and you would have expected them to actually look at his history, but unfortunately they go on what they see at that moment in time.

“I can’t comment on what they actually witnessed but you have to remember he was at the hands of quite cruel people who could manipulate him, his environment and professionals.

“I would have expected any assessment to really take account of the grandmother’s photos, I would have expected to have conversations … with Arthur, and that appears to have been missed.”

Ms Thorogood said that Arthur was not getting “additional” oversight from school and education as the incident took place during the coronavirus lockdown.

She added: “I feel they took probably the assessment he was out happy, playing, a boy being boisterous.

“I would have expected any bruises that had been shown would have actually been shared with health to actually have a view as well as to where the injury was.

“The biggest thing is to actually speak with the child and I can’t say whether or not that actually happened.

“Equally, it’s a society responsibility, in relation to his cries were so abnormal if we’d had an anonymous call from one of the neighbours that could have given them more power to do the investigation.

“He wasn’t on a child protection list, he wasn’t one of the children that you would have considered to be a priority.”

Lord Laming, who led the public inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie and reviewed the case of baby Peter Connelly, said social workers must be properly trained and supported.

The peer also warned the financial cuts of the past decade had taken their toll.

It is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case

Boris Johnson

It came as football fans applauded during the sixth minute of the West Ham vs Chelsea game as a picture of Arthur was shown on a screen.

More tributes will be paid by local football clubs Aston Villa and Birmingham City during the weekend.

Ex-children’s minister Tim Loughton said “we” all have a “duty” to make sure other vulnerable children are not let down by social care in the same way as Arthur.

“Funding for children’s social care has lagged behind and social workers are overstretched and undervalued, when in truth they should be revered as our fourth emergency service,” the Tory MP wrote in The Sun.

“Early interventions to stop the causes of safeguarding problems have been diluted to late interventions to firefight symptoms.

“This is a false economy where in this case a child paid with his life. We all have an interest in putting this right urgently and a duty to make sure it is.”

Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership launched an independent review after it emerged in court the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said ministers will leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong in the “appalling” case.

Speaking during a by-election campaign visit in north Shropshire, Mr Johnson said: “It is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he would be making a statement on the case to Parliament on Monday.

Tustin’s life sentence delivered on Friday carries a minimum term of 29 years while Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.

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