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Ministers meet to discuss ‘Poppi’s Law’ for stronger child protection

Poppi Worthington

The campaign to prevent a repeat of lapses that left one-year-old Poppi Worthington unprotected before her death in Barrow comes to Westminster today as local MP John Woodcock meets government ministers.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock will press the government to adopt ‘Poppi’s Law’ – forcing increased data sharing between health workers and social services so the risk to children born to troubled parents cannot be overlooked like Poppi was before she died, probably at the hands of her father.

Poppi was not known to social services before she died at home in 2012 despite her mother having previously had a long history of contact with children’s services, including having a previous child taken into permanent care and past allegations of child abuse made against Poppi’s father, Paul Worthington, which were withdrawn.

Failures in the police investigation into Poppi’s death meant no criminal charge could be brought against Mr Worthington despite two coroners ruling that he had probably sexually abused his daughter just before her death in the early hours of December 12 2012.

But Mr Woodcock insists that her life could have been saved if social services had picked up on her vulnerability when she was born.

In a Whitehall meeting with child protection minister Victoria Atkins, health minister Jackie Doyle-Price and education minister Nadhim Sahawi today, he will put the case for the new child protection information sharing project (CP-IS) to be widened to include pregnant women whose children are likely to need a care plan from birth. The serious care review carried out by the Cumbria safeguarding board after Poppi’s death found that health visitors had no knowledge of the troubled background of her mother or intelligence about Mr Worthington and so did not alert social services that Poppi might be at risk. The family set-up at home was judged to be ‘noisy and chaotic’ but Poppi was described as ‘appearing to be a happy and healthy baby’ by professionals who were given no knowledge of the family background.

The child protection information sharing project was established in 2013 to ensure that any health treatment received by a child with a protection plan is flagged up to social care teams. It is designed to alert social workers in case the injury or illness is a sign of that the child’s vulnerability has increased.

But the project does not currently apply to adults, meaning the care history or evidence of abuse of parents-to be cannot be disclosed despite the fact it is often an indicator that their children will face increased risk.

‘Poppi’s law’ would require care and abuse history of pregnant women and their partners to be visible to health visitors and pre-natal NHS staff, allowing social workers to make more informed decisions about the level of protection to give newborn children born into families with a history of vulnerability.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Woodcock said: “The bungled police investigation means we will never get proper justice for Poppi but we owe it to her memory to stop other little girls and boys being left in a vulnerable situation without support like she was. Anyone who saw the basics of Poppi’s family’s deeply troubled history of abuse would know immediately that this was a child who would need support, yet currently professionals looking at pregnant mums and newborns are not routinely given any past information and so make assessments based on what they see at the moment they visit.

“Having ministers from three different departments coming together to hear the case today shows the government is taking seriously the possibility of widening out the data sharing on family backgrounds that could have stopped Poppi falling through the cracks in the system.

“The circumstances of Poppi’s death shocked the nation and bitterly hurt our community, this is an obvious and achievable common-sense change to strengthen child protection in her memory.”

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