Worcestershire’s senior coroner has revealed an independent investigation’s criticisms of social services’ handling of the case of a 16-year-old sex abuse victim who ended up hanging from a tree near a road island.
And Geraint Williams gave an intense grilling to Dana Baker’s first social worker about the findings, which included a failure to carry out a risk assessment on the vulnerable Kidderminster teenager and a lack of evidence about how she was ‘matched’ with foster carers.
Deana Newman, who became Dana’s social worker after the teenager took a drug overdose in May 2009, said she was a ‘very complex young person’.
She added that Dana took the overdose because she had felt rejected by her karate instructor, who had ended a relationship she had been having with him.
The instructor - 49-year-old Jaspal Riat, formerly of Denewood Avenue, Handsworth, Birmingham - was jailed for eight years in September 2011 for sexually abusing her.
After the overdose, Dana was treated at the Darwin Centre, a psychiatric unit for young people in Stoke-on-Trent.
Questioning her at the Stourport inquest, coroner Mr Williams said an independent management review found no risk assessment was ever conducted by children’s services for Dana.
“Despite readily available information, no such risk assessment was carried out - there never was an assessment of risk in the core assessment,” he said.
Miss Newman replied that the assessment was ‘ongoing’.
But the coroner said he had not been able to see any paperwork giving evidence that Miss Newman or anyone else carried out a risk assessment for Dana when she left the Darwin Centre in September 2009.
“In my opinion this oversight - the lack of a risk assessment - led to professionals later failing to understand the very real risks,” he said.
But Miss Newman replied: “I disagree with that.”
Mr Williams added that Alan Ferguson, who carried out the independent management review, had found that records showed ‘scant’ information about how Dana was matched with foster carers but Miss Newman said she could not answer that.
Miss Newman also said she could not remember if a structured action plan was devised for Dana after she left the psychiatric unit but the coroner said he had not been able to find one in any paperwork.
The social worker was questioned about whether a ‘disruption’ meeting was organised after the breakdown of Dana’s first placement with a social worker, which the coroner said should be normal procedure.
But she told the inquest she could not remember.
The coroner asked if she was aware that her care plan for Dana was cut and pasted into later plans.
He said: “The suggestion being made about the whole thing is that some people might have the impression that the bare minimum was achieved to satisfy performance indicators, with no care to the outcome.
“Were you just ticking the boxes?”
Miss Newman replied: “I don’t think so.”
The hearing continues.