'Extended family help is critical in saving a child', says social work expert after Ellie Butler murder

'Extended families help is critical in saving a child', says social worker David Niven

Butler was found guilty at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

David Niven, the former chair of the British Association of Social Workers, has said that more needs to be done to avert terrible incidents like the murder of Ellie Butler. 

Ellie's father Ben murdered his daughter after she was returned to his care following a custody battle. 

He has now been jailed, as well as being found guilty of child cruelty alongside mother Jennie Gray.

Niven says parents trying to cover up what they've done to their child is common.

"The social workers in Sutton, and the grandparents, strongly objected to any idea of the child being returned to the father but the judge overruled it and even went as far as to say this is a very joyful occasion," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

"Parents can be incredibly clever at covering things up. The police face this every day with criminals, and there are those people who can convince courts that something happened when it didn't.

"People like social workers and police officers on the frontline are trying to deal with this every single day and it really doesn't help when the justice system gets it totally wrong. The grandparents in this case are absolutely devastated."

Niven believes the authorities need to work more closely with communities around those involved in such cases.

"It's the world we live in. You must get your facts right if you possibly can, but sometimes it's a judgment call, and that’s the difficulty sometimes. I've got no problem accepting that people get things wrong and they need to be challenged.

"I think that partnerships with communities, the public and wider extended families really ought to be more objective and helpful sometimes to the authorities.

"In this case it showed the grandparents were absolutely fanatically helpful and it didn't work. But in many other cases extended families help is critical in saving a child.”