Ministers urged to triple early intervention funding after child deaths

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Charity Save the Children is calling on ministers to introduce an urgent boost in early intervention funding to prevent further child deaths following the murders of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Star Hobson was just 16 months old when she was killed. Picture: West Yorkshire Police
Star Hobson was just 16 months old when she was killed. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

Dan Paskins, Save the Children’s director of UK impact, says the government needs to “immediately triple early intervention funding to ensure children and families get help when they need it”.

He said the extra funding “will mean social workers can have realistic caseloads” to free up their time to help families in crisis and support the most vulnerable children at risk of harm.

“The minimum expectation is that children are safe and able to grow up and these cases have highlighted failings in the system caused by chronic and persistent underfunding,” he said.

“We cannot let children become the victims of an underfunded system any longer”.

Paskins added that lockdowns have worsened the support children’s services can offer, with more than 200 children dying due to serious incidents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is heartbreaking and distressing to hear about the deaths of Arthur and Star – as well as the additional 223 deaths of children in the UK during lockdown, all of whom were reported as serious incidents,” he added.

“Every single one of these children were let down in the worst possible way.

“Children being stuck at home throughout the pandemic threw the situation into sharp relief but didn’t cause it. The UK government can and must act now to ease the strain on social services.”

This week, Star’s mother Frankie Smith and her partner Savannah Brockhill, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, were convicted for their role in the death of the 16-month-old girl.

She died in hospital in September 2020 suffering from cardiac arrest and had suffered damage to her internal organs and a fractured skull.

At Bradford Crown Court, Brockhill was found guilty of murder and Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child. They are due to be sentenced today (15 December). Both had pleaded not guilty.

“This was one of the most distressing and heart-breaking cases our team has seen,” said West Yorkshire police’s detective chief superintendent Mark Swift, who led the investigation.

“Star was a young baby who had her whole life ahead of her and she tragically died at the hands of those who were meant to protect and care for her.”

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes also died in 2020, in Solihull, at the age of six and after sustained abuse and cruelty by his father and stepmother.

His stepmother has been sentenced to a minimum of 29 years in prison for Arthur’s murder, while his father has been jailed for 21 years for his manslaughter.

The government has ordered a joint review into Arthur’s death, to be carried out by Ofsted and the probation and constabulary inspectorates.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi wants the review to “focus sharply on the entry point to the child protection system across all agencies”.



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