By Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
Waltham Forest Council could have housed the family of murdered 14-year-old boy Jaden Moodie two months earlier than they did, a new report estimates.
Jaden was living on his grandmother’s sofa, away from his mother, when he was stabbed to death in Leyton in January 2019, nine months after the family moved to the borough from Nottingham.
A report from Waltham Forest Safeguarding Children Board argues Jaden not living with his mother “increased his vulnerability to exploitation”, although the council’s housing service does not accept this.
While the report’s author said it was “not possible to say with confidence” whether the threat to Jaden could have been reduced, he was concerned by the council’s “slow” response to his mother’s three requests for housing and failure to act for months.
In his report John Drew, former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, says: “There is no doubt in my mind that some of this work could have been given greater priority.
“I am thinking here in particular of the response to the family’s housing needs, where as I have calculated, settlement could have been reached two months earlier.
“Information exchange was not always good, a fact exacerbated by his living in Nottinghamshire and then Waltham Forest.
“But none of these issues on their own appear to be decisive and by November 2019 there was clear engagement by a number of branches of the council and its partners to support [Jaden’s] family and to protect [Jaden].”
The report highlights “at least one reachable moment” which “could have been seized” after Jaden was found in a Bournemouth crack den with another teenager from Waltham Forest in October 2018.
Jaden is thought to have been involved in drug dealing, although he does not appear to have used drugs and the report questions the assumption that he was a gang member.
An account of Jaden during this incident, quoted in the report, describes a “vulnerable young person” who “wanted to find a way out of the mess he was getting into”.
John’s continues in the report: “This was a pivotal moment in providing support to [Jaden]. For the first time the authorities in Waltham Forest had been presented with completely unequivocal evidence that was being criminally exploited.”
Jaden’s mother, Jada Bailey, made three housing applications to the council during 2018, the first on 31st May. No action was taken on this application at all until 4th July.
In an email on 6th August closing her application, Jada told the housing officer her son was in “no way out of danger”.
John adds: “I am wary of reaching judgements influenced by the bias that can come from hindsight but I believe Housing Officer A should have spoken to [her] after receiving this reference to the danger to [Jaden].”
Just over three weeks later, Jada emailed the officer again asking to reopen her application, to which she received no response.
John said: “I have not been able to interview Housing Officer A as he has left the council’s service but the housing officer’s inaction here appears to reflect a very limited interpretation of what the officer’s responsibilities towards [Jada] and her family might be.
“Senior managers in the housing service have confirmed to me their view that Housing Officer A’s approach at this time was ‘reasonable and proportionate’.
“In my opinion Housing Officer A’s approach was not satisfactory because the officer had not taken any new action since July 2018.
“[Jaden’s] mother feels her application for housing was handled ‘terribly’. She was not offered any temporary housing until January 2019.”
Jada reapplied in person on 29th October and was given a new housing officer, whose work the report praises for its “commendable tenacity”.
John goes on in his report: “All the information uncovered by Housing Officer B would have been available to Housing Officer A from mid September 2018 at the latest (and the most pertinent information was available in August) onwards.
“In these circumstances I have to conclude that Housing Officer A could and should have done better.
“My view remains that the proper parental oversight and care of [Jaden], still only 14 years old at this stage, would likely have been impeded by the lack of adequate housing.
“It is worth adding that both the social work and youth justice assessments, written at the time, agreed that the housing situation added to Child C’s vulnerability.”
Jada was finally offered temporary accommodation for the family in Tilbury on 4th January, four days before her son was killed.
Council leader Clare Coghill said the council “fully accepts all of the findings of this report” and is “working with every local agency with responsibilities for the safeguarding of children to make changes to the way we work”.
She added: “Our thoughts remain with Jaden’s family and friends following his senseless killing. We owe it to them to make sure that the lessons learned from his murder prevent more children’s lives being cut short.
“The report raises two crucial national issues – the lack of a register and adequate regulation of home-schooled children, and the need for a national co-ordination effort to beat the criminal county lines drug trade.
“The report also highlights the need for more national action and better communication between all agencies to tackle the scourge of county lines drug dealing gangs who are creating misery and exploiting vulnerable young people across the UK.
“If the government can take action to ensure that there is a co-ordinated nationwide effort to tackle the county lines gangs, we can all work together to better protect children like Jaden from criminal exploitation.”