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Family of 10 children neglected as council dismissed warnings

17:00 02 May 2012

Councillor Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children at Haringey Council.

Councillor Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children at Haringey Council.

Archant

A family of 10 children suffered neglect at the hands of their parents for seven years under the noses of Haringey social workers, a new report reveals.

The primary school attended by two of them was forced to take matters into its own hands after it felt its concerns were not being heeded by Haringey Council’s social services.

The school switched from monthly to weekly “cause for concern” meetings after the education welfare service manager’s worries about the youngsters’ wellbeing were effectively dismissed by social workers in December 2008.

But theirs concerns were correct: the pupils were among 10 siblings taken into police protection in April 2008, resulting in both their parents – who cannot be named for legal reasons – being jailed for child cruelty and prompting a review into the handling of the case.

The review, by Haringey’s Local Safeguarding Children Board, found a catalogue of failings which meant the neglect of the 10 children - aged two to 16 - was allowed to continue from 2002 to 2009 in spite of warnings from members of the public, teachers and a nursery.

It flagged up a number of issues within the Tottenham team assigned to deal with the case – including “autocratic” management focusing too much on results and a high staff turn-over which meant, at one point, three different social workers dealt with the family in just six months.

It also highlights a number of failings on the part of the council’s response, which includes failing to make sure all the children were signed up to a GP before being taken off the “at-risk” register.

Cllr Katherine Reece, Haringey’s Liberal Democrat children’s spokesman, said the report was the second “disturbing case” recently to “cast doubt over Haringey Council’s ability to protect our children”.

It follows news last week that the council failed to promptly investigate concerns over a property in Wood Green where a family enslaved a girl and keept a man captive in a shed.

But Cllr Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children, said improvements had been made since the case first came to light – improvements which are mentioned in the report.

She said: “This review covers a period when there were serious shortcomings in our children’s safeguarding services, and we apologise unreservedly for the past failures identified in this case.

“We have been working hard to ensure sustained improvement in our services for vulnerable children and have received a number of positive reports. Those improvements were recognised this February when our child protection services were taken out of ‘special measures’.

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