The social work chief in charge of an investigation into the death of two-year-old Lauren Wade said it was the most shocking case of neglect he had seen in his 50-year career.

Colin Anderson, the independent chair of Glasgow’s Child Protection Committee headed up a significant case review launched after murder charges were brought against Lauren’s mother Margaret Wade and her partner Marie Sweeney.

The charges were later reduced to wilful ill-treatment and neglect, but Mr Anderson said: “This is a unique case. 

“It is the most deviant and devious parenting I have ever encountered.” 

He added that he had been “personally distressed” when police showed him evidence about the scene in which Lauren died.

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The review found a series of failures by education, health and social services meant the infant was barely on the radar of social workers at the time of her death from complications caused by malnutrition. 

Although concerns were raised by a primary school attended by Lauren’s two older siblings, who were unkempt, dirty and had repeated head lice infestations, education, health and social services all failed to give enough consideration to the fact that Lauren was also at risk.

When shocked police attended the family home in Townhead, Glasgow, they found it infested with headlice. 

The ambulance called for Lauren later had to be decontaminated.  

Glasgow Times:

A post mortem revealed unexplained traces of diazepam and paracetamol in her system.Although Lauren had been seen 13 times by health visitors, including eight home visits, and Wade had made 17 visits to pharmacies over two years, and had only partially heeded advice given about treating the children’s head lice, too little was done, the report says. 

The school and health services thought Wade was a struggling single mum, but were persuaded the situation was improving. 

A GP took a “wait and see” approach and social workers were only alerted to the case in May 2014. 
Health and education staff did not consider the impact of Wade’s mental health problems on the care of her children and her failure to respond to advice on dental care, hygiene and headlice did not trigger the “professional challenge” it should have done.

Wade, who told workers she was the only adult in the house, concealing her 17 year relationship with Marie Sweeney, also concealed problems from social service staff and although social workers visited the home in June 2014, they were reassured that Wade and Sinclair – who worked as a cleaner – were making improvements.  

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In fact, Lauren was about to go into a period of rapid decline but though she was seen again by a health visitor in July 2014, there was no further contact from any agency until her death was discovered in March 2015. 

The report says Lauren’s needs were never properly assessed while she slowly starved to death. 
It says much remains a mystery, including why Wade and Sweeney concealed their relationship and why they fed the two older girls but not Lauren. 

It says there is a danger social services in deprived areas have too high a threshold for intervening in cases of neglect, calling for “clarity..[in] providing interventions for children in areas of multiple deprivation who have the same right to protection as all other children.”

Colin Anderson said lessons from the case had already changed practices in Glasgow, including the way workers respond to neglect and better communication between agencies. 

But he said workers needed to show more ‘nosiness’ and where there were concerns should not stop challenging parents until they were completely satisfied. 

“Workers need to own their concerns, not pass them on to someone else, and push and push and push until they get answers,” he said.