Social workers reluctant to face reality in incest case

A serious case review into two sisters repeatedly made pregnant by their abusive father over a period of 35 years has found social workers and other professionals suspected incest for many years but were reluctant to acknowledge such fears in the absence of specific allegations.

Only in June 2008, when the daughters revealed the repeated rapes and physical abuse that had been going on since they had been children, was action taken. The father has been jailed for 14-and-a-half years.

The SCR, published yesterday and covering incidents in Sheffield and Lincolnshire, found that, although many of the children born to the daughters had genetic disorders and disabilities, professionals did not understand enough about genetics to feel this was evidence of incest.

The SCR said there was a culture of “having a quiet word” between services but, even when an attempt was made by the daughters to gain help from services, they were ignored.

Nor were the suspicions of incest considered when care planning for the children with disabilities who were still in regular contact with their grandfather.

The family moved 67 times over this period. Although professionals raised concerns about the frequent house moves, it was not considered when assessing the safeguarding needs of the children with disabilities or the educational needs of the other children in the family.

“The relevance of the house moves was misjudged in that professionals supported the family to acquire new tenancies rather than assessing the moves as an indicator for th eneed to protect the children.”

The SCR said there also appeared to be “significant misplaced optimism” about the extent to which the family was involved with children’s services and other agencies. “The fact that the adults were engaging appears to be a repeat of the family history of co-operation to try to hold off agencies using specific issues to deflect the focus from the children, eg housing, disability requirements.”

The SCR recommended changes to the roles and responsibiliites of the children with disabilities teams to prevent duplication between services and protocols devised with the police regarding the use of DNA in investigations with suspected incest. Social workers should also check all historical information when completing initial and core assessments and the common assessment framework (CAF) should be used as an assessment tool rather than a referral tool.

All the public sector agencies involved apologised to the daughters in a press conference held yesterday.

Chris Cook, independent chair of Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board said: “This is a tragic and complicated case that involved more than 100 professionals working in 28 agencies. We have significantly changed the way we work, particularly in protecting vulnerable children and families.”

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