A teenage brother and sister who suffered almost four years of horrific sexual abuse want a full and open inquiry into their case.
But the council doesnâ€™t want that.
Oh, dear me, no, it doesnâ€™tâ€¦
They have accused Leicestershire County Council of using an ongoing internal review â€“ which will not be made public â€“ to cynically cover-up a catalogue of alleged failures that left them in the clutches of their abusive step-father Mark Thomas and his brother, Paul Thomas.
It sounds as though the council have done almost as bad a PR job as their SS have done at child protection, too:
They decided to speak out after a senior council official stated the aim of its review was “not to point the finger”, but to “highlight the excellent practices of our staff”.
The girl first told a nursery nurse that her daddy had hurt her on the bed in 1999. The nurse informed social services.Neighbours, a head teacher, a housing officer and health professionals also raised concerns about the children’s safety to the authorities.
Yet Leicestershire Social Services did not get the children out of their squalid Ibstock home until November 2002 â€“ three years and 10 months after the first allegation of abuse was made.
Good grief! And kudos to the copâ€™s tenacity, one Det Con Spence, who wasnâ€™t about to let the councilâ€™s appalling lack of competence stop him pursuing the case all the way.
The youngsters were made to see Mepham and Mark Thomas at a child-parent contact centre, even after they went to live with their foster parents. Mepham and Thomas used those visits to try to force the children to keep secret what had been done to them.The youngsters told social services what was happening, but the visits were allowed to continue.
Yes, amazingly enough, nothing was done. Isn’t the whole point of these supervised visits to catch just this sort of thing?
It does seem that at least one SS member was a little perturbed at that, though:
The youngsters claim that Jennifer Johnson, the council’s allegations manager who is conducting the review, told them that the authority owed them “a huge apology” and that social services “had a lot to answer for”.Yet Walter McCulloch, the assistant director of the council’s children’s and young people’s service, has publicly stated: “Our social workers have done a really good job in this case.”
Well, nothing to hide, nothing to fear then, right?
The council said it could not comment on what Ms Johnson allegedly said to the children at this stage, adding: “This will be addressed within her report.”
If I was her, Iâ€™d be looking for another job soon.
The runaround the victims are getting is depressingly familiar, and would do credit to Kafka:
They want independent inspectors from Ofsted to scrutinise the findings. Ofsted told the Mercury it can only do so if a Serious Case Review into what happened to the youngsters is launchedby the Leicestershire and Rutland Local Safeguarding Children Board.A spokesperson for the board â€“ made up of health, police and social services representatives â€“ said it could only carry out such a review when abuse and neglect was thought to have been a factor in a child’s death.
Marvellous! â€˜Hey, kids, you arenâ€™t dead! So what the hell are you complaining about?â€™
This wasn’t a case of a clever, manipulative, seemingly normal mum and dad pulling the wool over social workers’ eyes. They were aggressive and abusive. Their council house was so filthy that contractors downed tools when they were brought in to clean it up.
This seems to be something that SS always gloss over; surely kids should never be left in such conditions, regardless of the validity of the other accusations?
The council’s head of service for children in care, Jan Slater, insists that the review will be thorough and impartial.”It’s about providing a balanced response. Some of the things we did right and properly,” she says. “There are question marks about the time it took (to get the children into care).
It is not about naming and shaming, it’s about social services learning lessons in hindsight. It’s about what we could do better, but also about things that were done well.“
But the SS never do seem to â€˜learn lessons in hindsightâ€™, do they?
I canâ€™t wait to see what it is you think youâ€™ve done well, though; will that too be hidden?