Murdered toddler Liam Fee’s social worker decided child protection workers should not intervene after the tot was found badly bruised, a conduct probe heard.
Lesley Bate was a member of Fife Council’s Child Protection team in Glenrothes and faces a string of charges at the Scottish Social Services Council conduct sub-committee over her work for the authority between December 2011 and August 2014.
Two of the allegations concern tragic Fife tot Liam – named only in anonymised SSSC papers as FF – who was killed by his parents Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee at a house near Glenrothes.
At a hearing in Dundee on Tuesday, the official who investigated Bate’s conduct during her time in the Child Protection Team told of her involvement with the family.
Tracey Burke said that Liam’s childminder Heather Farmer – referred to at the hearing as HF – had raised concerns in January 2013.
But despite that, and subsequent concerns about a neck injury he suffered weeks later, Bate failed to follow up on the case or make notes relating to it on council computer systems.
Instead, she blamed “pressure of work” for her failures despite other workers saying her case load was not excessive.
Ms Burke said Bate’s failings were “not acceptable” and that she should have followed up allegations of child abuse “in a robust manner”.
The hearing was told how Liam’s mother Rachel Trelfa, referred to as RT, had fled an abusive relationship in Newcastle to settle with Nyomi Fee.
Ms Burke said the case had been allocated to Lesley Bate after Liam had been referred to the department by the childminder on January 15, 2013, with unexplained bruises.
Liam presented as “unsteady on his feet and with bruising on his back. He also had a black eye,” she said.
On another occasion, the childminder reported he had a “massive bruise” on his forehead and bruising on both legs.
At the time of her initial joint investigation with a police officer into the family’s circumstances, Bate had noted that during their home visit they found the mum’s account to be “plausible” and recommended that a health visitor at school should be contacted.
However there was to be no further role undertaken by the social work department, the note said.
Ms Burke said the childminder later reported Liam had complained of a sore neck and had emailed Bates to report that and concerns over a lack of supervision.
At that stage Bate’s manager, Karen Pedder – who gave evidence at murder trial – instructed Bate to speak to the childminder again to gain some information and to discuss with her senior manager whether referral to the department was required.
However, there was no note of any update on that, Ms Burke discovered, and the health visitor was never contacted.
Ms Burke said: “There was no SWIFT [social work computer system] notes that Lesley Bate had followed up on the information.”
During the hearing Ms Burke was also taken through a series of other cases allocated to Bate where, despite being reminded by senior managers to complete projects, she had failed to follow up on cases.
Some of those included allegations of sexual abuse towards young children and instances of physical abuse including one child who alleged she was being kicked and struck by her grandmother.
Despite home visits with police officers, Bate had failed to record information on the outcomes of the cases, Ms Burke stated.
In earlier evidence another of Bate’s managers described her as “the most erratic person I’ve worked with”.
The hearing at the SSSC HQ continues.