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Carer of baby who choked to death at nursery had expired first aid certificate

Oliver Steeper died in hospital in September 2021, six days after he choked on food at the Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford, Kent.

A carer of a nine-month-old baby who choked to death at nursery had a first aid certificate that had expired more than a year earlier when the incident occurred, an inquest has heard.

Oliver Steeper died in hospital in September 2021, six days after he choked on food at the Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford, Kent.

Giving evidence at his inquest, Nazia Begum, who was “room leader” for Oliver’s area, said arranging training to renew the certificate was “usually a management thing to sort”.

Oliver Steeper’s parents, Lewis and Zoe Steeper arriving at Oakwood House, Maidstone for his inquest
Oliver Steeper’s parents, Lewis and Zoe Steeper arriving at Oakwood House, Maidstone for his inquest (George Lithgow/PA)

Oliver was one of four children Ms Begum had been looking after when he choked on a mixture of finely chopped mince and pasta, the inquest at Oakwood House in Maidstone was told.

Ms Begum had worked at the nursery for around two years exclusively in the “Panda Room”, which looked after children aged between three and eighteen months, jurors were told.

She had a Level 1 & 2 diploma in childcare and had completed her paediatric first aid training in a previous role.

The inquest was shown a Level 3 Paediatric First Aid certificate for Ms Begum dated May 13 2017, which was valid for three years.

Ms Begum told the inquest: “I didn’t really take any notice as to whether it had ran out or not.”

Put to the witness that carers can arrange their own training, she agreed and said: “Sometimes places don’t accept first aid that you’ve done on your own.”

Asked what she remembered of the training, Ms Begum said she “knew the basics” but had never previously had to deal with a child choking.

Oliver’s parents had “assumed” his food would be blended by staff, his mother previously told the inquest.

The baby’s food was prepared by Ms Begum’s colleague Loetta Collins, as she was Oliver’s “key person”, but it was Ms Begum who fed Oliver on the day of the incident.

Asked if she had spoken to Oliver’s parents, Ms Begum told the inquest: “I usually had a general chat with all the parents. If I wasn’t the key person, I didn’t go too much into detail.”

Oliver Steeper inquest
Oliver Steeper died in hospital aged nine months in September 2021, six days after a choking incident at the Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford, Kent (Family Handout/PA)

Asked if Mr and Mrs Steeper had raised any concerns about the meals Oliver was being fed, Ms Begum replied: “No.”

Details of each child’s needs, such as allergies, times to administer medicine or pick-up arrangements, were written on a whiteboard in the nursery, the inquest heard.

Ms Begum said it was Ms Collins’ role to share any individual dietary requirements with her colleagues.

There were 11 children and four members of staff in the Panda Room for lunchtime on the day of the incident, the inquest heard.

Ms Begum told the inquest carers would usually go with their ‘key children’ as a part of the “bonding process”.

Asked why she did not give Oliver back to Ms Collins, she replied: “(I thought) it would most likely just unsettle him. He was happy where he was.”

Ms Begum had cut up Oliver’s food smaller to “a good size” and gave him two to three lots covering the tip of a baby spoon, she told jurors.

In her police statement, she said: “As the mince hit his (Oliver’s) teeth he inhaled with a gasp.

“Oliver gagged for two or three seconds and then he gasped again, and that was the point I realised something wasn’t right.”

Ms Begum told the inquest she gave Oliver a “light tap” on his back, but did not offer him any water.

Undated family handout photo of Oliver Steeper who died in hospital aged nine-months in September 2021, six days after a choking incident at the Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford, Kent
The inquest into Oliver’s death is expected to last two weeks (Family Handout/PA)

Her colleagues then took over as she ran to the office and alerted nursery manager Debbie Alcock, who took Oliver into the garden before paramedics and police arrived.

Ms Alcock also gave evidence at the inquest via video link.

She told jurors only “one suitably qualified first-aider” was needed across the whole premises, and she had “prioritised” new staff with no first aid certificates to undertake training first before focusing on those with lapsed certificates.

Asked if she would have expected Oliver’s food to be pureed, Ms Alcock replied “no”, instead suggesting “lightly textured food”.

She said she carried Oliver upside down into the garden to try and dislodge any food that was stuck, before she administered mouth-to-mouth and cardiac massage with the heel of her hand.

The inquest is expected to last for two weeks.

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