ENGLAND – Baby P council apologises for failings in Child T abuse case

Haringey council says it should have intervened more swiftly in case of toddler who at one point had 50 bruises on his body

 

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The council that dealt with the Baby P and Victoria Climbié cases has apologised after failing to prevent the abuse of a toddler who suffered extensive injuries at the hands of his family.

The boy, referred to only as Child T, was twice taken to hospital but returned to his mother and stepfather before eventually being taken into care in June 2011, when he was aged four.

At one stage he was found to have more than 50 bruises on his body. He told a doctor of being hit with a belt and a stick by his stepfather, a heroin addict.

Haringey local safeguarding children board launched a serious case review (SCR) into the matter, which found failings by the police, social workers and medical staff who saw the boy and his three siblings.

The report concluded there was an overall weakness in following up collaborative investigations across all the agencies along with a failure to focus on the children of the family and what life was like for them.

It also blamed a reluctance to “think the unthinkable” and recognise all the adults in the family as the perpetrators of abuse, as well as a lack of alertness to the possibility of child abuse being the cause of his injuries.

Referring to the case of Baby P, who died in August 2007 with more than 50 injuries, the report said: “The correspondence with the abuse of Peter Connelly cannot go unmarked.”

The “list of concerns sounds like a textbook presentation of frequently found weakness in the protection of children,” it added.

The first time Child T came to the authorities’ attention was when he was taken to the A&E department at North Middlesex hospital by his mother and stepfather in June 2010. He had bruising around the eyes, forehead and nose and swelling that was said to have become worse during the day.

His stepfather told medics that the boy often ran around and “bangs and hits himself on the wall”. Child T was kept in overnight before being seen by a paediatrician the next day who thought his case should be referred to children’s social care services. But the fax was mistakenly sent to Enfield instead of Haringey.

In February 2011 police were called to the family home after Child T’s mother said his stepfather had been violent to both him and herself. The stepfather, referred to as Mr C, was arrested and the toddler was taken to hospital by police the following day where he was found to have more than 50 bruises of varying ages and sizes.

The doctor judged that many of the injuries were caused by physical abuse and that others were “highly suspicious”. Mr C was interviewed by police where he denied causing any injury to Child T, claiming that his mother and maternal grandmother, who lived with them, hit the child with a slipper. He also denied any violence towards his partner.

There were also claims that Child T’s younger sister and older half-sister were abused by Mr C, and that he tried to drown the older girl in the bath and hit her with a rod. The three children, along with Child T’s six-month-old half-sister, were eventually taken into care. Mr C was sentenced to four years in prison in October 2011 for assaulting a person under the age of 16.

Haringey council’s leader, Claire Kober, said: “We fully accept the findings of this SCR and apologise unreservedly for the failings set out in the report. Together with partner agencies, we could and should have intervened more swiftly.

“We are pleased that we were able to secure positive outcomes for the child in this case, and that he is now thriving in a safe family environment.”

 

SOURCE: The Guardian

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-public/child-protection/england-baby-p-council-apologises-for-failings-in-child-t-abuse-case/

WALES/ENGLAND – Kill off outdated family law, says retiring Coleridge

The private sector should take the lead in developing more innovative and ‘daring’ alternatives to the ‘bloodshed, time and cost’ of court, according to a retiring family judge.

 

Announcing the he is stepping down from full-time judging, Sir Paul Coleridge also called for an overhaul of outdated divorce laws.

 

He told a conference in London yesterday that he will devote more time to the Marriage Foundation – the charity he set up two years ago – and to ‘explore and push’ the possibilities of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution.

English courts need to follow other jurisdictions and be more ‘innovative and much more daring’ in this field, he said. 

Save in rare cases, Coleridge said the ‘days of gladiatorial wars of titans’ are over; ‘the dinosaurs have had their day’.

Even the most intractable and difficult cases, he suggested, can be solved in a more ‘sophisticated and modern way’ with less ‘bloodshed, time and cost’.

He said the private sector has to pioneer the work and pave the way for change, as ‘we cannot wait for the courts to get round to moving into a more streamlined and user-friendly environment’.

Coleridge called for an independent commission to take a ‘new and fresh’ look at the current divorce laws, which have been unchanged for 40 years.

Family law, he said, should regulate how life is lived now, not in the ‘distant past’.

Current divorce and financial provision law, he said, was ‘designed in a wholly different era to deal with a wholly different society and way of life’ and is no longer fit for purpose.

‘In the immortal words of John Cleese it is dead as a parrot, it is no more, it has gone to meet its maker. Or should do.’

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, he said has ‘had its day’ and should be ‘humanely killed off’.

 

SOURCE: Law Society Gazette

 

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-private/divorce-2/walesengland-kill-off-outdated-family-law-says-retiring-coleridge/

ENGLAND – Child death reviews: improving the use of evidence

A study investigating how to make better national use of the information collected through the child death review processes.

Documents

 

Detail

Local safeguarding children boards in England were statutorily required to establish local child death overview panels (CDOPs) by April 2008 to review the deaths of all children from birth up to 18 years normally resident in their area.

The primary purpose of CDOPs is to review individual deaths to inform strategic planning on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children in their area. To support the CDOP function and using templates provided by the Department for Education, CDOPs collect information about each child who dies including the conclusions of the panel review.

The study was conducted in December 2012 through to March 2013. Questionnaires were emailed to all CDOPs to collect representative data, following which a series of telephone and face-to-face interviews were conducted with CDOPs, managers and chairs.

 

SOURCE: Department for Education

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-public/child-death/england-child-death-reviews-improving-the-use-of-evidence/

WALES/ENGLAND – Silver splitter surge leaves divorce lawyers with new headache – the meddling children

It is a job which has always required the skills of a diplomat, conflict negotiator, property expert and financial whizz all rolled into one.

 

Increasing numbers of people turning 60 consider divorce

The number of divorces rises when people turn 60 Photo: ALAMY

 

But divorce lawyers say their ability to defuse acrimony appears to be being put to the test more than ever before – because of the rise in so-called “silver-splitter” separations.

The problem, they say, is not the couple getting divorced themselves but their meddling adult offspring, often intent on protecting their own inheritance.

Those who decide to divorce in later life are more likely to have grown-up children who are, lawyers say, more likely to get involved, often making the process even more bitter and protracted.

Beverley Darwent, a partner in family law at Pannone Solicitors, said she and other colleagues had noticed a marked “pattern” in recent years, corresponding with the growth in over-60s heading to the divorce courts.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics last year showed that the number of older people getting divorced has almost doubled within a decade in England and Wales.

The influence of adult offspring routinely causes one or other party to the split to dig their heels in and raise their demands, she said.

Often they put pressure on parents to change their will to protect their share of the family assets from any future half brothers or sisters. Or they endless try to persuade their parents to get back together when the marriage is beyond rescue, simply delaying the inevitable and running up costs, she added.

In some cases they have been known to take matters into their own hands such as tracking down their father or mother’s new partner and bombarding them with angry or abusive messages by email or on sites such as Facebook.

She added that, even though adult children have no say in proceedings, she has at times had to hold meetings with them to explain the process in hope of defusing the acrimony.

“Regardless of the motivation, some of the adult children concerned often express quite forceful views which only serve to complicate their parents’ divorce, meaning that the process is even more distressing all-‘round and takes longer to resolve,” she said.

“One of the things they do is try to make contact with one of the parties’ new partner and try to be beastly to them.

“Some of them do resort to nasty emails or messages on Facebook.

“Particularly when trying to feather their own nests they will try to put pressure on the parents to alter their will, which won’t be effective because you could argue that there was undue pressure.”

While often the children’s motivation is simply a sense of shock or desire to preserve the family, it was clear in many cases that concerns about their future inheritance were a major consideration.

“You can tell that’s what they are thinking,” she said.

“Very few of them will actually articulate that but you can tell from the venom towards the new partner what their thinking is.”

 

SOURCE: The Telegraph

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-private/divorce-2/walesengland-silver-splitter-surge-leaves-divorce-lawyers-with-new-headache-the-meddling-children/

ENGLAND – Ofsted launches new single inspection for children’s services

Ofsted’s new single framework for the inspection of local authority services for vulnerable children will come into effect from November 2013. The framework will bring together child protection, services for looked after children and care leavers, and local authority fostering and adoption services.

 

Inspection gradings have been revised so that anything less than ‘good’ will be deemed not good enough and will be judged to ‘require improvement’. The ‘adequate’ rating will no longer be applied.

Inspectors will judge performance in three key areas in the single inspection:

– the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection;

– the experiences and progress of children looked after and achieving permanent homes and families for them;

– leadership, management and governance.

If a local authority is judged ‘inadequate’ in any of these three critical areas, it will automatically be judged ‘inadequate’ overall.

Ofsted’s new National Director for Social Care, Debbie Jones, said:

‘While I understand the pressures and recognise that the social care landscape is changing, I believe that this new framework has children and young people and the quality of professional practice at its heart.

It is our ambition to establish “good” as the new minimum and for this to become the agreed standard for all services for children and young people. It is right to introduce the harder test asking what difference we are all making and I am impressed with the extent to which the new framework sets this out.’

The introduction of the new framework has been the subject of concern among local authority professionals. Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Solihull MBC and Lead on Children’s Services for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) made the following statement on the Society’s website:

‘Only good is good enough when it comes to delivery of children’s services. Excellence must be the ambition when it comes to the outcomes for children and young people. Unfortunately, Ofsted’s efforts to deliver a quality independent single inspection framework fall short of expectations and still require improvement.

SOLACE has successfully argued that a single inspection framework is needed to recognise the complexity of the local system for protecting and caring for children and young people. However, it is hard to see how justice is done to this complexity when the performance of other agencies remains out of scope. The publication of a simplistic single grade to describe the performance of a sophisticated multi-agency system will not enhance public understanding, improvement or accountability.

Of greatest concern is the readiness of the inspectorate’s workforce to deliver this new inspection framework routinely to a high standard. Feedback from the two pilots was only recently concluded and SOLACE is very concerned that this will leave insufficient time for the learning to filter through. Inspection practice and consistency will suffer as a consequence.

To deploy this inspection framework at this time will be like driving using only the rear view mirror.’

Andrew Webb, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) voiced concerns about the use of graded judgments:

‘Every director of children services wants to ensure a safe and high quality service is provided by all partners to protect and support children, young people and their families. The universal nature of the Single Inspection Framework is welcomed but we fundamentally disagree with the use of graded judgments. Graded judgments can, and do, hide a multitude of strengths and weaknesses, and there is no certainty that two local authorities with the same judgments are providing the same quality of service and achieving the same outcomes for children in their area.

The complex, multi-agency, nature of safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children would be better suited to a narrative approach to judgments. Narrative judgments, which are used effectively in Coroners’ Courts, would allow Ofsted to describe its findings in detail, including the strengths and weaknesses of the system. This, combined with a requirement for the local authority to produce an ‘action plan’ detailing how improvement will be achieved, would ensure the public can see a remedy for improvement alongside a diagnosis of the problems. Local authorities, working with their partners in health, education, police and probation, would then be empowered to devise and conduct a targeted and tailored programme of improvement designed to ensure sustainable change across the whole system, with everyone playing their part. We hope Ofsted, when working with other inspectorates to develop the planned multi agency, multi-inspectorate framework for April 2015, will consider the use of narrative judgments as a more constructive way to ensure that sustained improvements are made.’

 

SOURCE: Family Law

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-public/child-protection/england-ofsted-launches-new-single-inspection-for-childrens-services/

ENGLAND – Cafcass chief wary over recent fall in care applications

The head of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has dampened hopes that a recent decrease in new care applications represents the start of a sustained fall in children needing protection.

 

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Douglas expects care applications to remain at a high level despite recent falls

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said the need for care applications remained at a “high level” with there being “no underlying change” in demand.

His comments followed the publication today of the September care applications figures from Cafcass that showed there were 830 applications last month, six per cent fewer than in September 2012. The monthly figure for August (828) was also 17 per cent down on the corresponding figure in 2012.  

Despite applications falling for two consecutive months and quarterly figures sitting at levels not consistently seen for two years, Douglas attributed the decline to the introduction of the revised Public Law Outline (PLO) case management system.

“We saw a decline in 2008 before the first PLO was introduced, and I think this decline is primarily down to the impact of the revised PLO,” he explained.

The PLO sets out the work that local authorities need to do before making care applications, so any changes to these requirements will take councils time to adapt. The changes to PLO have been phased in over recent months, with the last 30 local authorities starting to use it this week.

However, Douglas said that efforts by local authorities to do more pre-proceedings work could be helping to resolve some cases without having to make care applications.

He added: “It may be an early trend on more diversion; it’s too early to tell. But it’s probably not enough to affect the underlying high level of between 850 and 1,000 applications per month. It is quite a range, but I think it will stay at that level.”

Douglas said the figures also hid “wild local variation” in the number of applications made by different councils, with some areas making “rapid progress” in their use of diversion to find alternatives to care.

In 2012/13, Cafcass received 11,099 new applications, eight per cent higher than the previous year. February 2013 saw 1,002 applications made, the highest monthly total ever recorded.

 

SOURCE: Children & Young People Now

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/cafcass-england/england-cafcass-chief-wary-over-recent-fall-in-care-applications/