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Wednesday, 02 August 2017

Blame for Liam Fee's death seems to have been placed on me, says ex-social worker

Written by Conor Riordan

A former social worker involved in the case of murdered two-year-old Liam Fee said she feels as if the blame for his death has been placed on her.

Lesley Bate was removed from the register in 2016 after the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) upheld 12 charges raised during her work at Fife Council.

They included a failure to record a number of visits, assess risks and refer cases to other support teams.

Liam died at his home near Glenrothes, Fife, on March 22 2014 following a prolonged campaign of abuse spanning more than two years at the hands of his mother Rachel Fee, also known as Rachel Trelfa, and her civil partner Nyomi Fee

In the BBC Scotland documentary Fife's Child Killings: The Untold Story, to be aired on Wednesday, the former social worker claims the blame for his death has been placed on her.

She said: "For any child to die in those circumstances is horrible. To have had any part in that, it's a horrible feeling. But I don't think the blame lies with me.

"At the end of the day the parents killed that child and nobody else did.

"But, they seem to have made much of my involvement with Liam Fee, albeit that it was a year before he died.

"I never gave a statement to police, I was never approached by the police to give a statement and I was never called to the trial of Rachel and Nyomi.

"Yet all the blame seems to have been placed on me and nobody else has been held accountable."

During her misconduct hearing, she denied multiple charges relating to the care of 15 children during her work at the local authority.

Liam's mother and her partner were both jailed for life in July 2016 for murdering Liam.

He had suffered fatal heart injuries similar to those found on road crash victims and spent the last few days of his short life in agony from an untreated broken leg and fractured arm.

The pair - originally from Ryton, Tyne and Wear - were also behind a catalogue of cruelty against two boys in their care, one of whom they tried to blame for Liam's death.

Trisha Hall, the manager at the Scottish Association of Social Workers, stressed those working in child protection "have a very very complex and demanding job".

She also told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that there had been "significant improvements" since the time of Liam's death.

Ms Hall said: "I've spoken to some of our members in Fife who commented only yesterday to me that they feel they are working now in a better environment than possibly may have been the case before."

But she added: "The reality is the majority of social workers work with quite a large case load still, under great demand, there is not much time for reflective practice."

She continued: "The reality is that local authorities have seen their budgets cut and I have to stress child protection services in Scotland have not been cut.

"However, there are lots of things that impact on child protection services, that have made a significant difference, where the budget is no longer there to do the preventative work in the way that we want to do.

"Fife is a large local authority with lots of areas of multiple deprivation so the context also needs to be taken into account."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Police Scotland / PA Wire.