SANDWELL has the highest number of child deaths in the Black Country according to the latest figures.

A worrying report has shown that 144 children have died in Sandwell in the last four years – much higher than deaths recorded in Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall. 

A total of 40 deaths were recorded in Sandwell last year – the highest in the Black Country – and the borough has recorded the highest number of child deaths every year since 2020.

The deaths in Sandwell in the last 12 months compared to 35 in Dudley, 29 in Walsall and 24 in Wolverhampton.

A total of 99 child deaths have been recorded in Dudley since 2019/20 with 96 recorded in Walsall and 77 in Wolverhampton.

Sandwell’s response to serious safeguarding incidents – where a child is known or suspected to have been abused or neglected and the child has died or been seriously harmed – was discussed at a scrutiny meeting on January 8.

Gillian Ming from the Sandwell Children’s Safeguarding Partnership told councillors: “Across the four Black Country areas, we have the highest number of child deaths. There’s no question about it. And that has been year-on-year for a number of years.

“If we look further afield, we’re not the highest but we’re certainly not the lowest.”

Sandwell Children’s Safeguarding Partnership is made up of representatives from Sandwell Council, Sandwell Children’s Trust, West Midlands Police and the NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board (ICB).

The partnership rules whether serious incidents have passed the threshold to be reviewed and higher authorities, such as Ofsted and the Department for Education, are notified.

A ‘rapid review’ is then held to investigate any concerns and highlight any issues.

Of the 20 serious incidents investigated in Sandwell since April 2019, two-thirds warranted further investigation and all of the reviewed cases showed worrying issues with communication and information sharing between the children’s trust, police, the NHS and other agencies. 

There were three ‘rapid reviews’ last year, according to figures, and a further three have taken place since April with three months remaining in the 2023/24 year.

Cllr Nicky Hinchliff, chair of the children’s services and education scrutiny board, said: “Why don’t we get it right? Why aren’t we communicating?

“We’ve been talking about this since Victoria Climbié [in 2000] and we’re still talking about it,” she went on to say.

Eight-year-old Victoria Climbié was tortured and murdered by her great-aunt and her boyfriend in London in 2000.

A judge accused police, social services and the NHS of “blinding incompetence” and the death led to much public outrage and eventually a public inquiry highlighted numerous opportunities where Victoria could have been saved.

“I think that quite often we’re all working with children and we’re just doing the job,” safeguarding partnership manager Ms Ming replied.

“I think the bit about stop and just seeing what does this actually mean, who else is actually involved or who else needs to be involved, I think doesn’t always come into play.”

The safeguarding partnership manager said there were regular problems with sharing information between the children’s trust, police and other agencies in Sandwell and across borders with the rest of the Black Country and Birmingham.