A serious case review into the case of a mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter after suffering years of harassment from a local gang has questioned the ability of safeguarding adults policies to protect vulnerable victims of antisocial behaviour.
The SCR into the case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter said polices based on the current No Secrets guidance could be leaving people who were not eligible for social care services “at risk of falling through the safeguarding net”.
The SCR was published this week after an inquest jury ruled that Pilkington had killed herself and 18-year-old Francescca Hardwick in October 2007 due to the ongoing antisocial behaviour they and Pilkington’s severely dyslexic son Anthony had faced over more than 10 years.
Police and councils slammed
The jury slammed Leicestershire Police for failing to respond to Pilkington’s complaints and also criticised the response of Leicestershire Council and Hinckley and Bosworth Council, the district council responsible for tackling antisocial behaviour in Barwell, where the family lived.
The SCR, published by Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Adult Board, said police responded to over 70% of antisocial behaviour incidents relating to the family.
Partnership working lacking
But the police management review, which fed into the SCR, found that each incident was taken in isolation and there appeared to be no recognition of the family’s possible vulnerability, and acknowledged that “partnership working was lacking at various points in their interventions”.
No referrals were made to Leicestershire Council social services during 2007, when 13 incidents of antisocial behaviour regarding the family were recorded by police.
But the SCR concluded that had one been made, it would probably have been taken as a request for services, not a multi-agency safeguarding matter as “no abuse had taken place within the family or professional support system”.
It said only a “much more rounded assessment” than would have been provided through social care would have identified “significant problems”.
Concerns raised about No Secrets
The SCR also raised concerns about the national basis for safeguarding vulnerable adults, the 2000 No Secrets guidance, because it defined vulnerability in terms of eligibility for adult social care, potentially excluding those deemed ineligible.
In this case, a focus on “individual or family vulnerability, regardless of eligibility or presenting need for specific care services” would have been more likely to trigger a safeguarding response.
Its key recommendation was for the adult safeguarding board to examine whether its current definition of vulnerability was inclusive enough and whether current procedures enabled “effective responses to individuals or families subject to significant community pressures”.
Antisocial behaviour focus
It also said safeguarding policies and training should cover the impact of antisocial behaviour on communities and individuals, while assessments should be “holistic” rather than solely based around eligibility for services.
In response to the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has asked Hinckley and Bosworth Council to provide evidence it is compliant with its duty to eliminate disability-related harassment, under the disability equality duty, which applies to all public bodies.
Chair Trevor Phillips said: “It is clear that serious failings in a number of public bodies led directly to the tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter. The commission’s role is to look at how the council was using the Disability Equality Duty to provide the right support and services for families like the Pilkingtons.”
Hinckley and Bosworth response
In its response to the inquest, Hinckley and Bosworth Council said it was not aware of the harassment until February 2007, and responded immediately to both complaints it received from Pilkington, including by imposing antisocial behaviour contracts on the young people concerned.
However, it accepted that information sharing could have been better.