A child safeguarding board has apologised for failures in the case of a five-year-old boy who was murdered by family members, as calls were made for a Wales-wide review of children’s services.
A report into Logan Mwangi’s death in July last year identified what could be “systemic” issues with safeguarding children, including a failure to report injuries he suffered months before his death.
The child was fatally attacked in his home in Llansantffraid, Sarn, Bridgend, before his body was left in the nearby River Ogmore in the early hours of July 31 2021.
His mother, Angharad Williamson, 31, stepfather John Cole, 40, and stepbrother Craig Mulligan, 14, were all convicted of murder and received life sentences following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court earlier this year.
A child practice review by Cwm Taf Morgannwg Safeguarding Board, published on Thursday, set out a series of failings, ranging from an absence of one-to-one contact with Logan away from the family home to “gaps in risk assessments”.
Agencies involved in Logan’s care “could and should have acted differently”, and a failure to share with children’s services injuries observed on his body was “a significant missed opportunity”, a press conference after the report’s publication heard.
Jan Pickles, the independent chair of the multi-agency panel which undertook the review, said: “Had further information from health been shared it most likely, though we cannot say for sure because of hindsight bias, would have triggered a child protection assessment in line with the joint agreed guidelines, as the nature of those injuries clearly met the threshold.”
In August 2020, Logan attended his local accident and emergency unit with an injury to his arm, bruises to his right cheek and a fractured upper arm.
A child protection referral was made, raising concerns in relation to the delay in Williamson bringing Logan to hospital for medical attention, but social services and police “agreed that the threshold to undertake child protection enquiries had not been met at that stage”.
Officers attended the hospital as well as the family home, where they were told Logan’s injuries were due to him falling down the stairs.
In a further health assessment by a paediatric doctor, Logan was found to have sustained “wider bruising and injuries”, with 31 images taken of these.
Records document that he had a blue mark above his genitalia, bruises to his ankle, forehead, ears, cheeks and a carpet bruise to his chin, as well as bruising to his left arm and bruising around his broken shoulder.
The report said there was no evidence that information about the injuries was shared with agencies outside the Health Board.
The report added there were no records of a child protection referral being submitted in relation to these injuries, or wider concerns for his welfare.
Paul Mee, chair of the safeguarding board, told the press conference: “This review, among a number of other findings, identifies service failures where agencies could and should have acted differently.
“For these failures, we take full responsibility and apologise.”
The report noted that within the Health Board there appeared to be “a culture in which health staff are reluctant to challenge the clinical assessments and decisions made by more qualified professionals”.
Referring to the August 2020 incident, the review stated that “some health staff were uncomfortable about the management” of Logan during his assessment “but felt unable to express their concerns, either to the clinician or afterwards to others”.
The report also detailed how Cole was reportedly a former member of the National Front and would subject Logan – whose father is of British and Kenyan heritage – to racially derogatory remarks.
Cole had previous convictions including assault on a child, possession of an offensive weapon, theft and illegal drug possession, and had served a prison sentence for burglary.
The review said officials did not “fully explore” the context of Logan’s race and ethnicity and that, with hindsight given Cole’s views, life would have been “very hard” for Logan within the family.
Logan’s biological father, Ben Mwangi, was not told by children’s services that they were involved with his son, the review found, adding that there was a lack of understanding from professionals “of their duty to inform any person who holds parental responsibility for a child, of child protection concerns”.
The report also highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic limited the family’s contact with agencies and impacted on the ability to provide “optimum child protection processes”.
The review stated that areas “significantly affected by the impact of the pandemic” included a lack of confidence by professionals in challenging Logan’s family’s potential use of Covid-19 anxieties and symptoms as a barrier to engaging with services.
It said Government restrictions meant that many activities normally carried out face-to-face “which are so vital to accurate assessments and decision-making” had to be carried out remotely and that differences in how services operated “limited the level of contact that the family had with agencies”.
Welsh Conservative shadow social services minister Gareth Davies said authorities had been “quick to blame Covid” for some shortcomings in the case and questioned whether pandemic guidance had been clear enough at the time.
He said: “The report also shows the council being quick to blame Covid for some of its shortcomings, but it does suggest that the Labour government’s guidance was not clear or responsive enough to allow social workers to properly safeguard vulnerable children during the pandemic.”
He called for a Wales-wide review of children’s services and accused First Minister Mark Drakeford of continuing to block it.
His call was echoed by Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds, who said the report’s suggestion that the Welsh Government should consider commissioning a nationwide review of approaches to undertaking Child Protection Conferences does not go far enough.
Ms Dodds, who worked for more than 25 years as a child protection social worker, said: “What we really need now is the Welsh Government need to undertake a full review of social services in Wales.
“I note the recommendation for a review of national child protection conferences but it needs to go wider.
“This is not about apportioning blame, but we need more staff in social work who are supported and who work together better.”
But the Welsh Government appeared to reject such a call, insisting “now is the time for action and not further review”.
A spokesperson said: “We already have an ambitious programme to transform children’s services in Wales, based on a range of independent research and reviews and evaluation which set out the changes and the challenges which must be addressed.
“We have been clear that now is the time for action and not further review.
“Everyone who works with children and young people is committed to making Wales the best possible place in which to grow up.
“The Welsh Government will do everything we can to support our children’s workforce to achieve the highest professional standards possible.”
Among the 10 local recommendations and five national recommendations following Logan’s death, the review urges Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board to commission an independent review into its practice and management of identifying and investigating non-accidental injuries in children.
Nationally, it suggests an annual National Awareness Campaign to raise public awareness on how to report safeguarding concerns.