A girl of five was left amid “unspeakable filth and
neglect” for two years because social workers assumed that
her father’s concerns were motivated by a custody battle, a
watchdog has found, writes Craig
When police eventually broke down the door of the flat they found
it littered with bags of rotting rubbish, smashed doors and an
unguarded makeshift heat source, says a report by the Local
A social worker later commented that “conditions were so bad
that she expected to find everyone dead”.
The father, who cannot be named, first alerted Manchester social
services in 1996, after making an access visit to his daughter who
was living with his ex-partner.
He reported that the flat was filled with fungus-encrusted crockery
and used condoms, and that there was no food.
Social workers made several attempts to visit the flat without
success. A health visitor, school nurse and the educational welfare
service were also unable to make assessments and expressed their
concerns to social services.
But social workers repeatedly closed the case files because – a
principal manager in the children and families team later admitted
– of an “unquestioning acceptance” of the
mother’s claims that the girl’s father had been
violent, and an assumption that his complaints were motivated by a
In early 1998 the flat was found to be clean and tidy on a
pre-arranged visit by social workers and police child protection
But rising concerns led to the door being broken down in early
1999, when the girl was taken into her father’s custody. The
girl later revealed that she had been sexually abused while left in
the care of a friend of her mother’s.
Finding maladministration causing injustice, the ombudsman ordered
Manchester Council to pay £8,000 compensation to the girl and
Pauline Newman, Manchester’s director of social services,
said the council regretted the poor practice and apologised to the
She added that the new multi-agency national framework for
assessment made it unlikely that a failure to assess properly would