Kent County Council criticised on child sex abuse case

Boy on stairs (file pic) [Image: Jupiter]
Image caption An Ofsted report last year raised concern about most services intended to protect children in Kent

A judge investigating a mother with learning difficulties whose children became victims of a paedophile has strongly condemned a local authority.

Mr Justice Baker said Kent County Council (KCC) had not taken steps that "might have prevented the abuse of the children".

The High Court judge said there had been "a catalogue of failure".

KCC has apologised to the family, admitting the care and attention they received "was not good enough".

The case concerned a mother of several children, three of whom had suffered abuse at the hands of a paedophile.

The three were a girl, who can only be identified as X, now aged 16, Y, a 15-year-old boy, and Z, a girl aged seven.

'Alarming matters'

The mother had been befriended by the man following the breakdown of a previous relationship in 2007.

She had been moved by a police domestic violence unit to bed and breakfast accommodation.

When the man moved out of the B&B shortly afterwards, the children started to visit him and stay overnight at his new address.

The man has since admitted sexual offences against them and other children and has been jailed.

The judge said the county council had started care proceedings, and he had been called in to determine whether the council's conclusions were correct.

But he said a "number of alarming matters" had come to light about the practices and procedures of the authority.

The judge said the case demonstrated "a catalogue of failure by the local authority to take steps which might have protected the family and prevented the abuse of the children in this family".

Damning report

He said social workers had been "completely unfamiliar" with government guidance on working with people with learning disabilities

He said a series of errors by the council staff included failing to investigate the information that the children of the mother were staying with a single man.

Image caption The Ofsted report came after a report into the killing of baby Tiffany by her father Christopher Sellman

If it had conducted a proper assessment, the truth about the true identity of the paedophile, who was using another name, would have come to light sooner.

The police, too, had failed to carry out checks which could possibly have led to the identification of the paedophile abuser earlier.

In 2010, an Ofsted report found KCC's childcare protection to be inadequate.

It concluded children in Kent had been left at risk of significant harm by inadequate services in almost every area.

The Ofsted report came after a previous damning report into the killing of 25-day-old baby Tiffany by her father Christopher Sellman.

It found a number of opportunities were missed by Kent Social Services and concluded her death could have been prevented.

Malcolm Newsam, KCC's interim director of families and social care, said: "What happened in this case is deeply regrettable and the council offers its sincerest apologies to the family."

"We have been absolutely focused on recognising our shortcomings and weaknesses.

"A plan to make sure substantial improvements are made to the services we provide to children in Kent is already being actioned."

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