Review into deaths of two children who suffocated while sleeping with drug-taking parents

David Ashcroft, Chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board. Photo: Norfolk County Council

David Ashcroft, Chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant

A review has highlighted failings following the deaths of two babies who suffocated while sleeping with their drug-taking parents.

One child, who was born in 2016, died in his mother's arms after she fell asleep on the sofa having used drugs and alcohol that evening.

A second infant, born to a different family in 2016, suffocated in his parents' bed after they took cocaine and alcohol in the previous 24 hours.

Both babies were less than two months old at the time of their deaths.

The cases sparked an investigation by the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, with the results published this month in a serious case review.

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While the review details the significant amount of work carried out by various intervening bodies prior to the deaths, it also highlights several areas that need improvement.

The mother of one baby, referred to as AB1, and both parents of the second infant, referred to as AB2, were convicted of neglect following the deaths.

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The review said the parents were seen by a variety of services, including the Norfolk Recovery Partnership and Norfolk County Council's children's services.

It said there was a lack of engagement between the agencies, the families's other children and their fathers. As a result, opportunities to better understand any risks "were missed".

The review said parental drug use remained hidden in regard to AB2's parents, with statements that the father was no longer drinking to excess being accepted at "face value".

"Professionals need to demonstrate professional curiosity and should seek to gather information from a variety of sources," the review said.

David Ashcroft, chair of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, said the review highlighted that there were times when professionals "could have been more curious" as to what was going on in the family homes.

But he added: "It is unlikely that this would have changed the sad outcome for these families, who had been given support and advice on safe sleeping with their babies.

"Since the sad deaths of these babies, agencies have continued to improve how they work together to support families and there has been a key focus on working better with dads and extended families to help keep children safe."

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