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Care agencies "not to blame" for mother and baby death tragedy

PUBLISHED: 12:32 26 April 2012

The 11-month-old baby was found dead in his cat

The 11-month-old baby was found dead in his cat

Archant

Health and social-care professionals in Westminster have been praised for their work with a baby and his mother who died in St John's Wood within two days of each other.

Family history

Prior to the tragic events of March 2010, Baby EG’s mother had endured a traumatic few years in England.

She arrived from Africa illegally in a lorry at Dover in 2005 and applied for asylum, Westminster Coroner’s Court heard.

She was housed in Stoke-on-Trent where she was diagnosed with HIV during her first pregnancy in 2006.

The court heard the mother initially refused to accept her HIV status, but began to take medication which she responded well to.

But at the same time she also became increasingly socially isolated as she distanced herself from her community due to a fear of stigma attached to the illness.

The woman moved to Birmingham the following year where social services first became aware of the family after an allegation that the mother had been punched by the child’s father and the little girl thrown on the bed.

The girl was taken into care but returned to her mother nine days later and was temporarily placed on the child protection register under the category of neglect due to domestic violence and failure to administer medication.

The mother moved to Westminster with her two young children in September 2009, six months after Baby EG’s birth, as she fled her ex-partner.

Having lived in temporary accommodation for a number of months they eventually moved into a flat in St John’s Wood on February 16, 2010, less than a month before the death of Baby EG and his mother.

The 11-month-old Baby EG, who cannot be named for legal reasons, starved to death on March 8, 2010, two days before his mother, who also cannot be named, died from a rare brain condition associated with HIV, an inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court heard last week.

While experts said the illness suffered by Baby EG’s mother had been “unpredictable” and “could not have been avoided”, the family was well known to a number of medical professionals in the borough.

Health support worker Aneta Kurasiak-Kurasinska, who saw the family 21 times between December, 2009, and February 17, 2010, said the mother had relied on her help with everything from paying bills to booking appointments.

“She required a high level of support to deal with her day-to-day social problems.”

“She wasn’t pro-active in dealing with her issues and was highly reliant on me to help her,” she said.

Ms Kurasiak-Kurasinska also told the court that the mother had told her she could hear voices and she showed signs of paranoia while flat-hunting, when she expressed concerns that some properties had too many windows.

The mother had been seen by mental health practitioners in January and later agreed to have a proper mental health assessment, but this never took place because of her sudden death.

The health worker told Westminster Coroner’s Court that she had never seen the mother hold Baby EG, but she did not have any other concerns because “the children were always wearing clean clothes and had food”.

A paediatric physiotherapist, who cannot be named, was the last medical professional to see the family before the two deaths.

She told the court that Baby EG had suffered from global developmental delay – lower than normal intellectual functioning, affecting the child’s speech and movement.

“During a routine developmental check on the sister [in December] I started to realise that the baby wasn’t age-appropriate,” she said. “You would expect a baby of that age to be moving and doing other things but he wasn’t.”

A month later she confirmed her diagnosis, with Baby EG functioning “at the level of a three to four-month-old child” despite being 10 months old.

But other than the baby’s special educational needs, the physiotherapist said there was nothing else she was worried about. She remarked that the baby was always clean and immaculately dressed in white.

On the final home visit on March 1 she again assessed Baby EG and found no signs of muscular wasting or emaciation.

On viewing a photograph of the baby’s body after his death she said she felt “physically sick”.

Comparing the image to the baby she had seen a week earlier she added: “There was no similarity.”

Deciding that Baby EG’s death had been an accident, the jury stated: “Over a period of time a team of professionals had contacted the family and no concerns were raised with regards to the mother’s ability to feed her baby.

“A week before his death EG was found to be nourished and well fed.”

Speaking outside court, a joint statement from a number of bodies, including Westminster Council and NHS North West London, said: “We welcome the coroner’s verdict, which provides clarity and closure to what has been an awful family tragedy in the most unusual and distressing of circumstances.

“The inquest has high-lighted the regular and conscientious care and support of health and social-care agencies and professionals involved in providing care to this family. The condolences of all agencies involved go to the family and surviving sibling.’’

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