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
    February).

    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
    nationally.

    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
    time.

    – 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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