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Norfolk baby case: The timeline

February 2004

Diane (not her real name) was recovering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, a mental health condition featuring multiple personalities, when she became pregnant.

April 2004

Diane’s mental health social worker informs her that that he has made a referral to children and families for extra support.

September 2004

Unbeknown to Diane and her family social workers and other professionals convene a strategy meeting and share information about them (Working Together guidelines say parental consent should be sought before information is shared unless there is a risk of significant harm).

September 2004

Diane, who is seven months pregnant and suffering from severe oedema, faintness and dizziness, is contacted by a child protection social worker to arrange an urgent appointment that day but then fails to attend due to other commitments.

September 2004

Diane attends a CPA meeting with her mental health social worker and, unbeknown to her and her parents, a child protection social worker is invited to attend. She tells Diane she should go to a residential assessment unit for three months , following the birth of her child, a move opposed by her mother, who planned to offer her 24-hour support for at least three months. The social worker also insists on four, two-hour assessments, one of which would have to be on her own. Diane’s mother voices her concerns about the assessments saying her daughter was under stress, unwell and about to move house., and requests a delay, which is refused. The family is refused access to minutes if the strategy meeting but told – to their surprise – that Diane’s psychologist has recommended she be seen alone. This was later proved to be untrue.

September 2004

Diane attends the first of four assessments alone and, due to the way she is treated, becomes distressed and tearful. Her parents decide to complain about the aggressive interview and on legal advice inform the social worker that she will not attend any more interviews alone.

October 2004

The Acting AD, accompanied by the social worker, visit Diane’s parents at home, telling them about 75 per cent of child deaths were caused by people with mental health problems (it is later revealed that the correct figure is 32 per cent) and a residential assessment would be the best option. They decide to make a formal complaint about the assessment process.

November 2004

Just before the baby’s birth, a case conference is convened. The family receives a copy of the 31-page assessment and is shocked by its content, which includes a number of factual inaccuracies and the inclusion of out-of-date information. They inform social services before the case conference but the report has already been circulated.

The case conference lasts four hours and nine of the 12 professionals vote against registration, while three social workers vote for it. The chair decides to use her exceptional powers to assure registration on the grounds of likelihood of emotional abuse but does not make clear the five-day right of appeal. The police officer attending the meeting later phones the chair to question her decision. The family is advised by their solicitor to appeal the decision and lodge another complaint.

They later discover, after gaining access to documents during the complaints process, that Diane’s psychologist informed the social worker right at the start that she was “categorically no risk to her child”.

November 2004

Baby is born and the social worker makes a first visit a week later

January 2005

Baby was removed from the register after only four short visits by the social worker. The baby’s file is closed after a parenting assessment on Diane concludes there are no concerns.

May 2006

The complaints review panel considers the complaints and the appeal.

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