All babies count...

editorial image
Share this article
Have your say

A month-old baby boy found dead in a ditch in Kirkham, with still no sign of the mother or father who may have carried him in a shoebox and abandoned him – dead or alive? – in this bleak place.

He was found on Saturday, October 1. Six weeks later, a high-profile Lancashire Police investigation and nationwide TV appeal on Crimewatch have failed to locate his parents.

Another baby boy battered until brain damaged by his own mother – right here in Blackpool – in a catalogue of abuse so systematic it shocked the estate on which Kayleigh Searle, 19, formerly of Troutbeck Crescent, Mereside, now the first month into an eight-year sentence behind bars, was raised.

Thomas was just three months old when he was rushed to hospital with a fractured skull, bleeding to the brain and a broken collarbone.

He will never again be the normal healthy baby boy he was when he had the misfortune to be born to Searle – who attempted to justify her actions by admitting she had failed to “bond” with Thomas after becoming convinced he did not like her, or would cry when she entered the room.

Her former partner, Reece Bourne, 19, formerly of Harbour Lane, Warton, also admitted child cruelty.

Last month, a court heard the little boy’s acquired injuries had made his condition life limiting, and “there remains a significant question mark as to exactly how long he will live”.

That knowledge chills Det Insp Nina Foley, from Blackpool’s major investigation team, to the core.

She says: “Searle’s actions were wicked and cruel, and she showed no remorse for her actions.”

Obviously people in Blackpool and the Fylde’s hearts went out to the innocent babies who were the victims in both these cases – whether that be to a desperate mother or a violent attacker.

And it is cases like this which the NSPCC is all to familiar with - not just locally but around the country.

They are at the coal face of the issue, dealing with the problems – and the solutions – 24 hours a day.

Today, a new campaign All Babies Count warns 200,000 babies are at risk of abuse.

They are born to families with domestic violence, mental health or addiction problems, all of which we have aplenty in Blackpool and the Fylde.

The charity, which is out to heighten its presence in the resort, says 144,000 children aged under one live with a parent who has mental health problems.

A total of 109,000 have a parent with drug or alcohol problems, and 39,000 are in a home affected by domestic violence – some fall into more than one category.

Just how those statistics break down locally is not known – but risks go with the turf in a resort so high in the national social deprivation league it’s in danger of developing nose bleeds – and that means children here are in danger unless we all play a part in protecting them.

The NSPCC does not discuss specific cases, but concedes each grim reminder of the need for greater safeguards raises public awareness of the most chilling statistic of all – that children under one are EIGHT times more likely to be killed than any other age group.

The charity wants “early and effective” support for babies living in homes with these problems, and has called on the Government to act now before it is too late for many more victims.

In Blackpool, it’s already happening.

The NSPCC has an early intervention policy, which helps support families, and protect vulnerable babies.

It places the charity, and those who support it, on the frontline of halting abuse, or the potential for abuse of children, in particular babies, in the Fylde.

Bernadette Oxley, head of NSPCC services for children and families in the North West, says: “We have five service centres across the region, at Blackpool, Crewe, Warrington, Liverpool and Manchester, providing direct services to children and families.

“The work we do in all our centres concentrates on the most important issues affecting children and groups of children most at risk. We are looking to increase our presence in the Blackpool area.”

The local centre helps children under one, children at risk of physical abuse, children who experience sexual abuse and neglect.

The team provides a perinatal programme to help vulnerable parents cope and set a pattern of good parenting for life; another to protect children living with adult substance misuse; therapy to help children move on with their lives after sexual abuse; a good practice guide for assessment of adults to protect children from sexual abuse; educating parents about risks of shaking and how to cope with parenthood pressures; and, finally, evidence-based decisions for children in complex neglect cases – a pioneering new approach which the NSPCC will test with local authorities to help social workers make effective decisions in child neglect cases.

n If you have any concerns about a child or young person, you can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, or visit Children and young people can call ChildLine confidentially on 0800 1111 or visit to speak to trained ChildLine counsellors online.