A two-year-old boy has reportedly starved to death next to his father’s body after his family claimed social services failed him, prompting a review of the actions of the authorities involved in the case.
Bronson Battersby, 2, was found two weeks after he was said to have last been seen alive by a neighbour in Skegness, Lincolnshire on Boxing Day.
His father Kenneth, 60, died of a heart attack allegedly shortly after 26 December, leaving the toddler in the dark with no food or water for days.
Lincolnshire County Council told The Independent that social services spoke with Kenneth on 27 December to organise a visit to the home on 2 January. After receiving no response that day, the council said the social worker contacted police and made an unannounced visit two days later, after which they again contacted police.
However, it was another five days before the father and son’s bodies were found on 9 January, after the council said the social worker was forced to get access from the landlord to enter the property themselves.
A rapid review of the case has been launched by the council after preliminary tests reportedly found that Bronson, who was under children’s services care, had died of dehydration and starvation.
Lincolnshire Police said the exact actions of all organisations involved will be analysed in a forthcoming review.
The force said it has also referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). A spokesperson for the watchdog confirmed that it is now assessing the referral to determine further action.
Bronson’s mother Sarah Piesse, 43, told The Sun: “If social services had done their job, Bronson would still be alive. But they didn’t do anything. I can’t believe it. They can’t let them get away with this. We have to be able to rely on social workers to keep our children safe.”
The mother-of-three continued: “I’ve had the results of the post-mortem. Bronson starved to death because his dad died. They think Kenneth died no earlier than 29 December. It means if the social worker had pushed to get in when she got no reply on 2 January then Bronson would still have been alive.”
Having last seen Bronson following a row with her ex before Christmas, the heartbroken mother said she was not able to hold her son when she went to identify him. “I couldn’t pick him up because his body was too fragile,” she said. “I could only touch him. He had been left there too long.”
Lincolnshire Police said the deaths are not being treated as suspicious following investigations, and the case has now been passed to the coroner’s office.
Describing Bronson as a “loving, adorable little boy”, a family friend told the paper: “Bronson deserved so, so much better... They found him curled up at Kenneth’s legs. He was left in the dark and must have been terrified and so confused.”
They added: “Social services have let that boy down. He might still be alive now if they had done their jobs properly. When does a social worker just accept no answer on the door of a vulnerable child? It’s a disgrace.”
The social worker involved has not been suspended but has taken time off following the incident.
Heather Sandy, executive director for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council, told The Independent: “This was a tragic incident, and we are supporting the family at this difficult time.
“We are currently carrying out a review of the case alongside partner agencies to better understand the circumstances, and we await the results of the coroner’s investigations as well.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.”
Lincolnshire Police said: “Police were made aware of the deaths of a 60-year-old man and a two-year-old child at a property in Prince Alfred Avenue, Skegness, at around 3.25pm on Tuesday 9 January.
“Investigations have been carried out and the deaths are not being treated as suspicious.
“The matter has been passed to the coroner’s office.”
They added: “The exact actions of organisations involved will be analysed in a forthcoming review and at this stage it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“As part of standard procedures we have referred this to the IOPC as a result of a death or serious injury following police involvement.”
A spokesperson for the Independent Office for Police Conduct said: “We can confirm that we have received a referral in relation to this matter from Lincolnshire Police and we are now assessing that to determine what further action is required from us.”