Care proceedings reviews set to leave social services out of pocket

The legal bills involved in carrying out reviews of cases of
children taken into care on the basis of disputed medical evidence
are set to cost social services departments hundreds of thousands
of pounds.

Andrew Cozens, the president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, will meet children’s minister Margaret Hodge this
week to discuss the costs that councils have incurred as a result
of the review.

Hodge ordered the three-month review, which started in March, into
cases where children had been placed under a care order as a result
of “serious disagreement” between medical experts (news, page 6, 26

It followed the acquittal of Angela Cannings, who was cleared in
December 2003 of killing her babies after doubts were cast over the
expert evidence of paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow. A review of 258
criminal convictions involving the deaths of children aged under
two is also being carried out.

Last week, the ADSS submitted figures from 105 of the 150 councils
it surveyed to gauge how many cases might need to be re-examined

Director of social services at Kent Council Peter Gilroy said the
review had cost his department £30,000 in fees for in-house
and external lawyers. One case had been uncovered that was now
being reviewed and could go back to court, he said.

“What all this demonstrates is that there must be much better
accreditation of experts,” he added. “Thirty thousand pounds is a
lot of money.”

The review has attracted criticism from some quarters over its lack
of independence. But children’s minister Margaret Hodge rejected
cross-party calls to appoint an independent team to carry out the
review, insisting councils would behave objectively.

But some departments have struggled to carry out the work. Director
of social services at Luton Council Wes Cuell said he thought the
three-month timescale allocated to carry out the review was
“unrealistic” and would have to be extended. However, Cozens
insisted this week that the information would be gathered in

– The Crown Office in Scotland is confident that there is no cause
for concern arising from its investigation prompted by the Cannings
judgement into 22 cases involving the deaths of children under the
age of two in the past 10 years.

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