Social services told to review care order cases

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge ordered all social
services departments to review cases where children were placed
under a care order following a “serious”
disagreement” between medical experts about how they came to
harm, writes Sally Gillen.

Departments will comb through records dating back 18 years as
part of the 12-week review and will need to and ask whether
“there are now doubts about the reliability of the expert
medical evidence”, she said.

Hodge added that she did not want to speculate about the precise
number of cases that would fall into that category, but it was
likely to be “no more than the low hundreds rather

Association of Directors of Social Services president Andrew
Cozens said 38,000 cases had to be considered, of which 4-500 will
be reviewed because they involve disputed medical evidence. Then
“a much smaller number” will warrant further
investigation, he said.

Cozens said the task should be achievable within the three-month
timescale set.

The move comes just over a month after attorney general Lord
Goldsmith ordered the Criminal Cases Review Commission to
re-examine 258 convictions for the deaths of children under two
years old, which may have been unsafe, following the acquittal of
Angela Cannings.

Cannings was wrongly convicted of killing her babies following
now discredited expert evidence by eminent paediatrician Roy Meadow
and was freed in December.

Hodge described the case as “tragic”, and added that
there may be other cases where children had been “wrongly
separated” from their families.

“I am not suggesting that it will be appropriate in every
case, following a review, to apply for the discharge of the
original care order. The decision must depend entirely on the
circumstances of each case.”

But Hodge said she could not say whether any of the cases
involved would involve adoptions. “It would be wrong for me
today to give a false impression about the scope for reopening
existing adoption cases, when in truth this is extremely

Chief executive of Baaf Adoption and Fostering Felicity Collier
said: “It is likely in some cases, a careful planned return
to the family will be the right way forward.”

But she added it was important to recognise that some children
would be very settled with their new families, and courts needed to
look very carefully at the needs of the child and what is in their
best interests.

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