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Review Reveals Multiple Missed Opportunities to Save Alfie Steele

A safeguarding report has unveiled a series of missed opportunities by professionals that could have saved the life of nine-year-old Alfie Steele. The schoolboy tragically died after enduring repeated assaults, beatings, and cold-water punishments inflicted by Carla Scott, 35, and Dirk Howell, 41, both from Birmingham. At the time of his death, Alfie had suffered over 50 injuries on his body, with only a few attributed to normal childhood accidents.

Alfie’s life was cut short on February 18, 2021, at their home in Droitwich.

The Worcestershire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership report has pointed out that several agencies were involved with the family over an extended period, with separate statistics revealing that 60 calls were made to safeguarding authorities regarding Alfie’s well-being. The majority of these calls occurred in the year leading up to his tragic death.

The report emphasizes that these professionals faced significant challenges due to the deliberate deception and concealment efforts of the two adults responsible for Alfie’s abuse.

Alfie’s home environment was characterized by aggression and abuse, leaving him with little respite. A Freedom of Information request exposed that Worcestershire County Council received 36 concerns about Alfie’s welfare between 2018 and 2020, while West Mercia Police received 28 reports regarding his welfare during the same period.

The review revealed “numerous incidents” of aggression and physical abuse by Dirk Howell towards Alfie, with Carla Scott present but failing to report these incidents to the authorities. Concerns also arose at Alfie’s school, where he appeared hungry, and unkempt, suffered from a severe ear infection, and displayed signs of being unsettled.

Additionally, suspicions arose that Carla Scott and Dirk Howell may have been involved in drug-related activities from their family home.

The report concluded that professionals had placed an undue reliance on Alfie to share his concerns and evidence of abuse, which ultimately proved inadequate.

The independent review conducted by Jane Wiffin made eight recommendations for agencies, including the WSCP and the Probation Service:

Recommendations:

In response to the report, West Mercia Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones expressed deep condolences to those who knew Alfie and vowed to take measures to ensure children’s safety and prevent harm. The police force has also referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) regarding its involvement in the case.

Jones highlighted the importance of the partnership’s actions before Alfie’s murder and the measures implemented to enhance child safeguarding.

She stated, “We fully support the recommendations of the review and are committed to working within the partnership to continually develop and improve safeguarding measures for vulnerable children and young people.”

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