Social services departments must reopen files on care proceedings

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge has ordered all social
services departments to review cases where children were placed
under a care order in which medical experts had “serious
disagreements” over how they came to harm.

Social workers will comb through records dating back 18 years as
part of the 12-week review and will need to 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 than…

Association of Directors of Social Services president Andrew
Cozens said 38,000 cases in England had to be considered, of which
400-500 would be reviewed because they involved disputed medical

Then “a much smaller number” would warrant further
investigation. He said the task should be achievable in the
three-month timescale set.

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

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

Hodge described the case as “tragic” and said there may be other
cases where children had been “wrongly separated” from their

“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.”

Hodge said she could not say whether any of the cases 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 rare.”

Chief executive of Baaf Adoption and Fostering Felicity Collier
said in some cases “a careful planned return to the family will be
the right way forward”, but warned that courts needed to consider
whether it was in the best interests of children. 

– Speaking at a Westminster Hall debate this week, Hodge rejected
cross-party calls to appoint an independent team to conduct the
reviews, saying she was sure “local authorities would act in a
proper, objective way”.

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