Pembrokeshire Council has been ordered to pay £5,000 to a
mother of four for failing to follow procedures when conducting
child protection inquiries.
In a damning report released this week, ombudsman Adam Peat
concludes that social services’ handling of the case in 2002
revealed “repeated, prolonged and serious maladministration”.
He added that the council’s record in dealing with the woman and
her children, who cannot be named, had been “lamentable”.
Social workers’ decision to follow up an allegation of physical
abuse by the children’s father without first undertaking adequate
preliminary inquiries resulted in “hamfisted” interviews with her
and the children, Peat says.
In his report, Peat highlights that the woman was visited in her
shop before a child protection conference had been held to discuss
the allegation. She was accused, in front of one of her children,
of hitting another of them with a wooden spoon.
The insistence of social workers on picking up the children from
school, in full view of teachers, other pupils and parents, was
“grossly insensitive and indiscreet”. And an attempt to illegally
transport six people in a five-seater car was incompetence, Peat
A child protection conference was eventually held 23 days after
the father made the allegation. It was then that the children were
formally placed on the child protection register.
However, an investigating officer concludes that many of the
professionals had become frustrated with the family’s attitude by
this time, and emphasises that this was not grounds for registering
the children’s names.
The mother complained about the way she had been treated by social
workers and the conduct of the child protection conference.
She claims her family was ostracised and she was forced to close
her shop because neighbours thought she was a child abuser and
withdrew their custom.
Peat has ordered the council to carry out a formal review into
its handling of the case by June to ensure it has learned
Council leader John Davies said the authority accepted the
He added: “Although we do have some reservations, it is clear that
there were errors in procedure which should not have occurred.”
Depression is rife but unnoticed among older people, driving many
of them into long-term care, according to Help the Aged.
A report by the charity finds that depression affects one in eight
pensioners living in the community and is a significant factor in
admission to care homes, where it affects two in five
Despite its prevalence, GPs are failing to diagnose the condition,
with depressive symptoms seen as a normal part of ageing.
Pensioners who are diagnosed often receive inadequate or no
treatment, with few being referred to specialist mental health
The report finds that older people often become depressed because
of bereavement, illness or disability, leading to isolation and an
inability to do everyday tasks.
Alongside more training for professionals in diagnosing the
condition, it calls for a reinvestment in low-level social care,
such as home help services, to support older people handle everyday
It claims the provision of such services has declined significantly
in the past 10 years.
The report also calls for action to help pensioners develop their
social lives through clubs and leisure services.
<25CF> Depression and Older People from www.helptheaged.org
The Child Poverty Action Group says a plan to replace backdated
income support for refugees with a system of loans may breach the
Geneva Convention on Refugees.
The charity says the convention stipulates that a country must
treat refugees in the same way it does its own nationals in
relation to social security benefits. Under the present system
asylum seekers are not entitled to income support but, if they are
granted refugee status, it is backdated to when they arrived.
Kate Green, the charity’s chief executive, said the government’s
plan, which will be piloted in one area, was “grossly unfair” and
would increase debt and poverty.
A Home Office spokesperson said the government was confident it was
not breaching the convention. The Commission for Social Care
Inspection has joined local authorities in urging the government to
put on hold its reforms to social services complaints
Board members last week urged a six-month delay to the changes due
to come into force in April. With final guidance expected in
February, councils will be given little time to implement the
Authorities say the proposal to reduce the number of stages from
three to two will be time-consuming and costly. Many say the
reforms are an unnecessary upheaval to an already effective
Consultations from the Department of Health and Department for
Education and Skills are due to be completed this month.
In a draft letter to the DoH seen by Community Care, commission
chair Denise Platt said: “[The reduction in the number of stages]
is widely seen as a distortion of existing good practice, with no
purpose other than that of achieving superficial consistency with
The commission is also waiting for the government to confirm that
its independent review role in the complaints process will be fully
Platt’s letter says: “The commission’s ability to deliver the
proposalsÉ is fundamentally dependent upon a resolution of the
negotiations between the commission and the DoH concerning the full
cost funding of the new service.”