John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, December 23, 2007
  Essex Enquirer Story into Essex Childrens Services
The following story has just been published by the Essex Enquirer. They publish on the net using PDF so I have extracted the text:

IT’S USED up more than £90m per year for the last four years and has the power to save children’s lives or ruin families for ever.

It has overseen the adoption of about 450 youngsters since 2002 and investigated the home lives of 8,000 more.

And it employs more than 150 people with the power to investigate anyone’s home life answering only to itself.

But there are calls to make Essex County Council social services more accountable to the public over controversial cases hitting the headlines.

Just 18 people have launched formal complaints against the department since 2004 but the authority will not say how many of these have resulted in disciplinary action taking place.

A spokesman told The Enquirer: “The complaints procedure and disciplinary process are quite separate from one another and, therefore, do not become linked at any stage.”

Following its controversial decision in 2003 to start care proceedings against a Brentwood couple on the grounds of their learning disabilities, social workers in January 2006 were found to have withheld potentially vital information from the court.

The parents – who cannot e named for legal reasons– have not seen their daughter and son since they were taken in 2005.

In 2000 fostering manager Martin Thei committed suicide after being arrested over child porn charges.

In November 2006 social services director Liz Railton wrote to the grandfather of a child assessed for adoption by Thei admitting the department had not investigated all of cases he had been involved with.

In September a mother who had had four of her children taken away for adoption received a letter from social services telling her she was a “good” parent and “no further action” would be taken with regards to her fifth child. Her fourth child had been taken just days before she received the letter.

In October, social services received a threat of legal action from the aunt of four children taken into care in 2005. The woman applied to adopt the youngsters, asking her local authority for help acquiring larger accommodation, as she lived in a three-bedroom house with her partner.

He lawyers argued the authority had a duty of care to the children to try to keep them together if possible. But after a new home was not found, the children were uprooted from her home and taken back into council care.

Her solicitor Nigel Priestley called the situation “utterly, utterly appalling” and told The Enquirer a judge had given permission for the case to go ahead. And in November another woman was contemplating taking social services to court after her son was wrongly placed on the ‘at-risk register’.

Janette Everton, a 49-year­old cleaner from Vange, saw her son Nicky, now 17, investigated by social services, claiming he had been a concern her previous authority (Tower Hamlets) – a claim that council denies.

She lost her husband Graham to cancer in 2004 – around the same time as Nicky was placed on the register.

But still Essex County Council has refused to confirm to Mrs Everton the lad has been removed or apologise for their error. Brentwood Tory MP Eric Pickles heads a parliamentary campaign to make social services more accountable to the public by opening courts during care proceedings, where normal reporting is currently banned
under child protection

legislation. In 2005 he told the House of Commons: “There is almost a process of Chinese whispers, whereby that noble concept [keeping children anonymous] becomes

bastardised into an unwillingness to disclose, to justify, to listen to arguments, or even to see a need to explain decisions...

“Few people who initiate a serious chain of events are likely to admit it when it goes wrong. The temptation is to tailor evidence to fit the complaint...

“If adoption has resulted from fraud or seriously erroneous evidence, we should have a procedure to enable that adoption to be overturned.”

He this week said failure to “open up” family courts was “one of the great disappointments” of 2007.

“Anything so large and powerful [as social services] must be transparent and accountable, without being prurient,” he added.

An ECC spokesman was unable to comment as The Enquirer went to print.
 
Comments:
My wife and I are in the process of trying to obtain an SGO on two of her grandchildren that are in care. Now childrens services law that the legal length of time they can remain in foster care is 6 months. The elder of the 2 siblings has been in care for 19 months and the younger who is 4 months old, since her birth. We have been assessed and all feedback has been positive. However it seems for unexplained reasons they are deliberately trying to slow down the process, by suggesting that we do certain things but do that orally and never in writing. I personally have been told that I need to do a liver function test, as I used to drink, but been teetotal for 4 years. That was requested orally but never in writing even though I requested it. We attended a financial assessment on Tuesday 12/06/2012. We were asked questions about the babies, which had nothing to do with finances, we were asked about our home, the colour of the walls, the state of the garden, nothing to do with finances. When I asked what this had to do with the assessment, I got no response. Instead they were going to email us the necessary forms as in their words that was quicker. I told them that we had all the necessary documentation with us. But still they insisted doing it via email after the fact was quicker. I sid that was daft in my opinion, and then was told by them I was disrespecting them and was asked to leave the meeting. Needless to say that the assessment was never done. The person carrying out the "assessment" returned to her office and informed her superiors that I had threatened to kill her. If that was the case why were the police never called. Why did she remain in the room with my wife for a further 10 minutes and carry on asking inane questions about the children. It seems they have halted the proceedings now pending a false allegation. Guilty without proof. We have been fighting our case for 12months now. We did put in an official complaint about one of their social workers who lied to a judge in one of her statements. We had the evidence to support our claim. She has since left and moved to America. Social Services have not taken our complaint seriously, they just told us to speak to our solicitor. No internal enquiry was held. This is how Barking and Dagenham Social Services treat people.
 
I am a grandmother who has an sgo of my 3 grandchildren. I am sorry to read thst B&D have behaved in such a way. However please be aware that an sgo is not all its claimed to be. The support you get is very minimal and the financial package is a joke. You have to ensure you get all the required suoport before you sign off on any agreement. I have been a sgo parent for a number of years. The local authority has been less than supportive even in a time of great need. Eg i broke my leg and needed daytime care for my 2 year old eg nursery childminders. The local authority refused to give me that support. However what they offered was to put my baby into a foster care under a s20 which broke my hart. The local authorities are a law unto themselves when making decisions the children are not at the centre of their decision making process. They run the strapline about keeping families together but they are a very negative vindictive organisation. I am an individual who agrees that these boroughs need to be answerable to the public. They have a duty to spend public money in a responsible way. However who monitors this. It's all a fraudulent process. I say put the children back in the centre of the decision process and make the authorities accountable to it's service user's
 
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