Star Hobson report highlights 'shameful chapter' in Bradford Council's history

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022 10:04pm

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

The way social services handled the case of Keighley toddler Star Hobson in the run up to her death has been described as "a shameful chapter in the history of Bradford Council."

This claim was made during a meeting of the Council’s Executive this week – the first Council meeting since a report detailing how social services and police failed to protect little Star was published last month.

The lengthy document looked at the deaths of 16 month old Star Hobson, who was living in Keighley at the time of her death in 2020, and six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in Solihull.

The report made numerous recommendations on what changes needed to be made nationally to prevent such tragedies happening again.

But a large section of the report laid bare the failings of Bradford social services, and the numerous opportunities to protect Star that were missed.

Inexperienced leadership, a high turnover of staff and poor communication between the organisations meant to protect her were all found to have played a role in these missed opportunities.

And pleas from Star’s wider family that the toddler was being mistreated were not given the weight they deserved.

Bradford Council’s Executive discussed the report at a meeting on Tuesday. Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe began the discussion by saying: “I should say before we hear this very serious report how very sorry I am about the death of Star. Star and her family were let down.”

The meeting heard that recommendations made in the report were already being acted upon.

Chief Superintendent Robert McCoubrey – Bradford District Commander, West Yorkshire Police, said: “Nothing is more important for us than the protection of children.”

The report said Star’s mother Frankie Smith had claimed to social workers that complaints made to by her family were “malicious” and due to them not agreeing with her same sex relationship to the woman who went on to murder Star, Savannah Brockhill.

The report said these claims were too easily believed by social workers.

Councillor Sue Duffy, Executive for Children and Families, said staff were being told not to let anyone’s “protected characteristics” stand in the way of investigations.

She said: “We have to make sure staff from all agencies have the confidence to thoroughly look at the situation.”

Councillor Rebecca Poulsen, leader of the Conservative Group on Bradford Council, said: “No family should have to beg for social services to listen to them.

“I’m not confident these recommendations will be implemented in a timely manner. I’ve heard time and time again that families aren’t listened to. We can’t have another Star case in this District, or anywhere in the country.”

Councillor Kyle Green (Conservative, Ilkley) said: “As a parent this report was awful to read. It is a shameful chapter in the history of this Council.

“At least we have some comfort knowing the awful people behind this act are in prison.

“But we must make sure we are never a part of a failure like this again – we need to make sure our house is in order.”

Councillor Bob Felstead (Conservative, Wharfedale) said: “This is the most upsetting report I have read in many, many years.”

Cllr Hinchcliffe said the report highlighted that poor communication between social workers, police and other agencies had meant many concerns had not been acted upon. She said: “Too often information fell through the gaps.”

She said work had been done to make communications between these agencies seamless.

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