Baby Death 'Could Have Been Prevented'

The death of a baby boy who drowned in the family home could have been prevented if he had been taken into care from birth, according to a report.

Five-month-old Aaron Egan died after drowning in his bath at an address in Kilmarnock in July 2010.

His father Thomas Egan and mother Chrystine Templeton were originally charged in connection with the death but the case was dropped by the Crown.

Following the death, a significant case review was commissioned by East Ayrshire's child protection committee and led by an independent reviewer.

It concluded the death of the young boy, referred to as Baby E in the report, could not have been anticipated.

But it also found that "accommodating Baby E at birth... would have prevented his death in these circumstances''.

The death would also have been prevented "if the parents had fulfilled their parental responsibility that night and had not left the baby on his own'', the report found.

Review officer Andrew Cameron made 17 recommendations for various agencies, centred on issues such as information sharing, leadership and resources.

A redacted report by East Ayrshire Council's chief officers group, responding to the independent findings, notes that the boy was the subject of a multi-agency support plan at the time of his death and that he had previously been on the child protection register.

Prior to his birth, a "high risk pregnancy referral'' had been made to social workers by the midwifery service.

Aaron was transferred to "special care'' when he was born in February that year and discharged home around six weeks later.

Officials decided to remove his name from the child protection register on April 26 that year after a case conference heard how the family was engaging well with the various agencies involved.

Outlining the key findings of the review, the council's report found "an incredible amount of effort'' was made to support the parents and that the baby had been progressing well under their care.

But it adds: "The independent review officer concluded that the stark reality is that the death of Baby E could have been prevented if the parents had fulfilled their parental responsibility that night and had not left the baby on his own.''

It went on: "The independent review officer recognised the complex family history and... concluded that the death of Baby E could have been prevented if he had been accommodated at birth. The review findings also noted that such a decision in the case of Baby E was extremely difficult given the range of factors which services had to take into account.''

The review further highlighted "missed opportunities'' when professionals could have shared information more effectively about the parents' lifestyle, taken action in response to changes in parental circumstances and made immediate decisions about their capacity to continue to care for the child.

In response, East Ayrshire Council pointed to what it said were a range of improvements and developments which have been put in place to keep children safe.

No disciplinary action has been taken against any staff member involved, it confirmed.

Susan Taylor, chair of the child protection committee, said: "Child protection professionals will always strive to keep children safe, and where possible, families are supported to care for their children at home. In this situation, the multi-agency child protection team put in place a package of measures to help the family care for Baby E.

"The independent review officer recognised that the child protection team tried their level best to support the family, and noted that staff could not have anticipated that this event would happen.

"This significant case review has been carefully considered by the agencies involved and there has been a determined effort to understand and learn important lessons from this incident. We are committed to working together to keep children safe from harm through continuous improvements and developments in practice.''