The government is launching a national review into the killing of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to protect other children from harm and identify improvements needed in the agencies that came into contact with him before his death.
Announcing the review on Sunday, the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, said the government would “not rest until we have the answers we need”.
Arthur was tortured and killed following weeks of abuse during lockdown last year. Social services were notified of concerns from family members who found bruises on the boy’s body but after a home visit found “no safeguarding concerns”.
Arthur was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of 32-year-old Emma Tustin, who on Friday was jailed for life after being convicted of murder by assaulting the child in Solihull on 16 June 2020. Tustin’s life sentence carries a minimum term of 29 years, while Arthur’s father, Thomas Hughes, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
“Arthur’s murder has shocked and appalled the nation. I am deeply distressed by this awful case and the senseless pain inflicted on this poor boy, who has been robbed of the chance to live his life,” Zahawi said.
“I can announce that this government is launching a national review into the circumstances leading up to his tragic death to determine what improvements are needed by the agencies that came into contact with him.
“This will identify the lessons that must be learnt from Arthur’s case for the benefit of other children elsewhere in England, to be led by the national child safeguarding practice review panel who will work with Solihull safeguarding children’s partnership.”
This national review will in effect “upgrade” the existing local review, launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020, and paused for the court case.
Zahawi also said the government was commissioning four inspectorates, covering social care, health, police and probation, to carry out an urgent inspection of the safeguarding agencies in Solihull who were aware of Arthur’s case.
He said: “All the agencies tasked with protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect in Solihull will be subject to a Joint Targeted Area Inspection to consider their effectiveness and advise on where improvements must be made.”
“We are determined to protect children from harm and where concerns are raised we will not hesitate to take urgent and robust action. We will not rest until we have the answers we need,” he added.
The Conservative MP is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons about Arthur’s case on Monday.
Speaking about Arthur’s case, the children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, urged the prime minister not to close schools again following the emergence of the Omicron variant as lockdown weakened the system of support for children.
“I think there’s no doubt that lockdown was such a shock to the whole nation that it weakened the system of support,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“But actually in Arthur’s case he did have a number of professionals around him, he did have home visits, we have to wait to hear exactly what’s happened there.”
She said more must be done to help social workers to spot cases like Arthur’s.
“The system must support social workers’ professional curiosity, not distract them on other things. This is not a quick fix, an easy recommendation,” she said. “The best places in the country that do this have taken three, four, five years to do this. It’s a big job but we must do it for Arthur and we have to do it.”
Over the next few days the Department for Education (DfE) will work with the national panel and the Solihull partnership to agree a timeline for publication of the review.
In a statement, the DfE said: “The national review takes into account the significance and scale of the circumstances of Arthur’s murder, allowing findings to be disseminated around the country to improve practice and identify the lessons that must be learnt.”