Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: abuse cases missed due to cuts, Climbié inquiry chair says

Peer who led inquiry into death of Victoria Climbié says social care cuts hitting child protection services

A crossbench peer who led the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié has warned that “marked” cuts to social care funding had taken their toll on child protection services that could have saved Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Herbert Laming said the reduction in funding for social care in the last 10 years meant children like Arthur, whose abuse and death has shocked the nation, were being missed.

Arthur had been poisoned, starved and beaten in the weeks before his death. His stepmother, Emma Tustin, was found guilty of his murder while his father, Thomas Hughes, was found guilty of manslaughter. On Friday, Tustin was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 29 years, and Hughes to 21 years.

The trial raised serious questions about how his suffering was missed after it was revealed family members had reported concerns to social workers and police prior to his death.

Laming, who chaired the 2001 public inquiry into eight-year-old Victoria’s death and was later appointed to review the case of Peter Connelly (known as Baby P), told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the lack of funding had led to a “tremendous reduction of preventive services and family support services”.

Both Victoria and Baby P had been neglected, abused and killed.

Laming said: “The [frontline services] are not able to bring families into a day centre to see how the child reacts to the parents. They’re not able to observe a child with other children and then to see them go back to the adult in their lives, and social workers often find themselves in this day and age out on their own. And we must do something about that.”

He said the report he made following the case of Victoria Climbié was “taken very seriously” and that people tried “very hard initially to implement the recommendations”.

“They could have been improved but I think the marked reduction in funding of local authorities in the last 10 years has had a real withdrawal from frontline services. And I think it’s become something of a crisis service, rather than a preventive service.”

He also said social workers must be properly trained and supported. “I think that the quality of the training of social work needs to be looked at again,” he said.

Victoria Climbié
Laming chaired the 2001 public inquiry into eight-year-old Victoria Climbié’s death. Photograph: PA

The director of the Association of Child Protection Professionals said Arthur should have been the top priority of local social services.

“He wasn’t on a child protection list, he wasn’t one of the children that you would have considered to be a priority,” Wendy Thorogood told Times Radio, adding that lockdown was a factor in why this wasn’t the case.

“We have to remember this was under Covid, so he wasn’t actually getting additional oversight from school and education,” she said. “I feel they took probably the assessment he was out happy, playing, a boy being boisterous.”

Thorogood suggested social workers didn’t look closely enough at the bruises, and the photographs taken by the child’s grandmother should have been assessed.

She added: “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,” she said.

Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership have launched an independent review into the case.

Football clubs Aston Villa and Birmingham City have confirmed they will hold a minute’s applause in the sixth minutes of their games in tribute to Arthur, who was a Birmingham fan.

During the trial it emerged that Arthur’s prized football shirts had been torn up in front of him as a punishment.


Nicola Slawson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
School lockdowns risk more cases like Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, says Ofsted head
Amanda Spielman warns ‘there is a minority of children who sadly are safer in school than out of it’

Richard Adams Education editor

07, Dec, 2021 @11:01 AM

Article image
How much did lockdown help Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ killers escape notice?
Analysis: review into murder of Solihull six-year-old will focus on how crimes against him were not picked up sooner

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

03, Dec, 2021 @4:53 PM

Article image
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: timeline of events that ended in his murder
Worried relatives of the Solihull six-year-old had reported concerns, so were there failures by authorities?

Jessica Murray

03, Dec, 2021 @6:23 PM

Article image
Sentences for killers of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to be reviewed for leniency
Attorney general to consider whether jail terms for Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes are long enough

Nadeem Badshah

04, Dec, 2021 @7:50 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: more lessons to learn | Editorial
Editorial: The promised review into the six-year-old’s death must not shy away from constraints linked to shrinking resources


06, Dec, 2021 @7:12 PM

Article image
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: review launched into six-year-old’s murder
Government review to seek answers regarding circumstances that led to Arthur’s death

Jessica Murray Midlands correspondent

05, Dec, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
The death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes raises hard questions – we must address them all | Harry Ferguson
Social distancing and school closures may have played a part, but other factors were at play, says researcher Harry Ferguson

Harry Ferguson

03, Dec, 2021 @4:28 PM

Article image
Cases of UK child sexual abuse up 31%, says NSPCC
Charity made more than 4,600 referrals to police and social services in 2016-17, a ‘deeply worrying’ rise on the previous year

Matthew Weaver

18, Dec, 2017 @8:38 AM

Article image
What might have saved Arthur-Labinjo Hughes | Letters
Letters: Readers on the killing of the six-year-old, and the failings of wider society that allowed his abuse


07, Dec, 2021 @5:34 PM

Article image
Rotherham abuse inquiry ‘needs 100 more officers’
Operation Stovewood’s head says team has been able to contact only 17% of 1,510 possible victims

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

25, Feb, 2018 @1:46 PM