DISTRAUGHT sixth former Dana Baker may well have been "lost in the chaos" of an overstretched new team of social workers, it was admitted at the inquest into the 16-year-old’s death.
Liz Tune, the social worker who was heading up the newly-created team for "looked after" children and was in charge of Dana’s care, said she had gone from managing a team of three to 20 members of staff.
It had also been a time when some staff had moved away to other jobs, a "number" of social workers were pregnant and they were dealing with a lot of emergencies among children in their care.
“We were setting up a new team, had staff who had not met before - some brought cases with them and other teams were passing cases over to us,” Miss Tune told the Stourport inquest. “It was very, very chaotic.”
Asked by Worcestershire Senior Coroner Geraint Williams if Dana was "lost in the chaos", she replied: “I suppose that is how it could be described. Yes I think she possibly was.”
Dana, who was taken into foster care in 2009 after a spell in a psychiatric unit following an overdose amid revelations that she had been abused by her karate instructor, was found hanging from a tree near the Worcester Road island in Kidderminster on March 3, 2011.
The inquest has heard that she became distraught after her foster home with a couple she had grown to call "mum and dad", Tara Kelly and Dan Hulbert, was ended in the days leading up to the tragedy.
Miss Tune, under questioning from Mr Williams, made a series of admissions, including that she should have made sure she spoke to the consultant psychiatrist from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) about the youngster's risks.
She agreed that Clare Baxendale, employed by foster agency the Child Care Bureau as social worker to Dana’s foster parents, had taken on some of the tasks that social services should have done for the youngster because, otherwise, they would not have been done at all.
She accepted that she had let another Child Care Bureau social worker deliver Dana’s medication to her at the home of a friend who took her in when she ran off after the foster placement ended and she said she let the foster carers’ social worker do that because, at the time, she was accompanied by a heavily pregnant colleague.
Mr Williams asked her: “A young girl is at risk of self-harm or suicide and has run off into the night - which of them has priority Miss Tune? You should have made it your business.”
Miss Tune agreed she should have gone to Dana that night, but added: “I didn’t just walk away. I said if she wasn’t there to give me a call.”
She completely denied having a heated telephone conversation with Dana on the day she died, in which she allegedly told the Stourport High School and VIth Form Centre student that she should not call her foster carers "mum and dad".
Her ex-colleague Marrian Pattinson-Vaughan had previously recounted the alleged conversation to the inquest, although Mr Williams revealed that police checks on Dana’s mobile phone records had found no trace of such a call being made to Miss Tune’s Kidderminster office.
Miss Tune insisted that she had never discussed with Dana herself the issue of calling the foster carers her parents and said: “I really deny that I had that conversation.”
She also denied allegedly having described Dana, during a phone call with a member of staff at the Child Care Bureau, as "liking to create a drama" and get everybody running around after her.
“I certainly wouldn’t say ‘create a drama’, as that indicates it was something fictitious - it’s like acting so not real life.
“No, this was very real life.”
The inquest continues.