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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Social workers accused of 'failing' Carlisle baby

Social workers have been accused of failing to adequately protect a baby boy – despite being told about his drink and drug-abusing parents five months before they were arrested for neglect.

The child’s parents – 25-year-old Roxanne Irving and her partner Gary Hetherington, 34 – were jailed earlier this month after magistrates heard how their drug use exposed their son to appalling risk.

The crisis came to a head when onlookers saw Irving pushing her baby son in his pram in and out of traffic on busy city centre roads in Carlisle.

Irving later admitted that on the day in question – November 13 last year – she had taken heroin and 10 tranquilliser tablets which had left her barely able to stand.

Now the baby’s uncle, 40-year-old petroleum industry worker Lee Hetherington, has revealed how he had alerted social services to the couple’s chaotic lifestyle more than five months earlier. Yet children’s services did not take the baby into care, he said.

Mr Hetherington, a married father-of-two, from Currock, Carlisle, said: “My only concern was the welfare of that baby but I don’t think they did enough to protect him. I phoned social services because I felt I needed to highlight what was going on and the risk to the baby.

“I phoned them the day after the incident when the police were called round to Roxanne and Gary’s House in Toronto Street, Carlisle.

“When I rang, the social worker told me they were just about to close the case and I told them that they might like to think again because there had been an incident. It happened on June 27 at their house and I called social services about it the next day.

“Gary and Roxanne had split up and the police were called round to the house, where the police found her unconscious in her bed with the child. The social worker told me that they needed to corroborate what had happened with the police.

“But they never rang me back. Social services certainly knew the background to Roxanne and Gary, and the fact that she’d had kids taken away after previous relationships.

“Gary is not a bad person but his alcohol dependency was horrific. I was highlighting the fact that Gary was out of control with his drink and drugs and that Roxanne was misusing drugs, but it seems that nobody was prepared to act to protect the child.

“I have no ulterior motive. I was simply concerned for the welfare of their child but it looks like I wasn’t taken seriously. As far as I am concerned, there seems to have been a systemic failure.”

The News & Star has had it confirmed that police were called to the couple’s address and the child was then taken to a place of safety. But the couple were again allowed to continue looking after their baby son until the incident in Carlisle in November.

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “Children’s services and other agencies have been working with the family but following this incident it was felt appropriate for the family court to consider all the circumstances and agree future plans for the child.

“As this case is now the subject of legal proceedings it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

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