Worcester NewsTragic teen felt 'alone and abandoned' (From Worcester News)

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Archive - Tuesday, 13 May 2014

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Tragic teen felt 'alone and abandoned'

DESPERATE teenager Dana Baker's final message - saying how "alone and abandoned" she felt on the day she was found hanged - went unanswered because the foster agency social worker who received it had been ordered to have no more contact with her, an inquest heard.

Worcester News: FOUND HANGED: Dana Baker. FINAL MESSAGE: Dana Baker.

The social worker, Clare Baxendale, sobbed as she told how she had earlier taken a call from the 16-year-old in a distressed state and she tried to reassure the youngster, telling her someone would call her back.

She reported her concerns about Dana's emotional state to her boss, Howard Verran.

Dana, a Stourport High School and VIth Form Centre student, later continued to phone the office of the agency Clare worked for, the Child Care Bureau, and called the social worker's mobile phone.

But Miss Baxendale had turned it off and it was not until she switched her phone back on at 5.17pm on March 3, 2011 that she read the text message from Dana saying: "You have no idea how alone and abandoned I feel. All I want to do is talk to you."

Mr Verran, deputy head of service at the Child Care Bureau, then told her to make contact with Dana but a short time later Miss Baxendale, who had previously been social worker to the teenager's foster parents, discovered that Dana had been found hanging from a tree near the Worcester Road island in Kidderminster.

Miss Baxendale had been instructed by Mr Verran to have no further contact with Dana after Worcestershire County Council social services raised concerns she had been overstepping her role in looking after the teenager.

The inquest heard that, in July the previous year, Miss Baxendale had tried to set up a meeting for Dana and her foster carers with the prosecuting barrister in a court case against Riat Jaspal, the youngster's karate instructor, who was eventually jailed for eight years for sexually abusing her.

Miss Baxendale thought Dana needed to see the person who would be talking to her about her evidence in court.

Eventually the meeting took place at the barrister's home on July 29, 2010 but it was later found that it breached the rules because neither the police nor a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service was present.

When the case came to court the following week, the judge adjourned the case because of the breach of protocol.

The inquest had heard earlier that Dana had been upset by the delay.

Miss Baxendale told Senior Worcestershire Coroner Geraint Williams she believed she had been doing things that should have been taken on by the teenager’s own social worker from Worcestershire County Council, while her main task was to support the foster carers.

“The level of social work support that Dana was getting was very low,” she told Senior Worcestershire Coroner Geraint Williams on the fifth day of the inquest.

“I guess it’s quite easy to get into a situation where, if something needs doing, then you do that because you want to do a good job.

“There were some times where the social worker was happy for me to take up some of that role.”

She had raised her concerns about a "lack of social worker input" with county council social services managers.

In September, 2010, Dana was allocated a new social worker after the teenager complained about social services at a Children in Care Council meeting.

The inquest, expected to last for 12 days, continues.



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