Pembrokeshire Council admits “errors”

    Pembrokeshire Council has accepted responsibility for
    “errors in procedures” after it was ordered to pay
    £5,000 to a mother of four children for its handling of child
    protection inquiries, writes Sally
    Gillen.

    In a damning report released this week, ombudsman Adam Peat
    concludes that social services’ handling of the case in 2002
    revealed “repeated, prolonged and serious
    maladministration”.

    He added that the council’s track-record in dealing with
    the woman and her children, who can not be named, had been
    “lamentable”.

    Leader of the council, councillor John Davies said the authority
    accepted the ombudsman’s report. “Although we do have
    some reservations, it is clear that there were errors in procedure
    which should not have occurred.”

    The report says that social workers’ decision to follow up
    an allegation of physical abuse by the children’s father
    without first undertaking adequate preliminary inquiries resulted
    in “hamfisted” interviews with the mother and her
    children.

    Peat highlights that the woman was visited in the shop she owned
    before a child protection conference had been held to discuss the
    father’s allegation. She was accused in front of one of her
    children of hitting one of her sons with a wooden spoon

    Social workers’ insistence on then picking up the children
    from school where their teachers, friends and friends’
    mothers witnessed the event was “grossly insensitive and
    indiscreet” and an attempt to illegally transport six people
    in a five-seater car was incompetent, Peat adds.

    The mother complained about the way she had been treated by
    social workers and the conduct of the child protection conference
    which resulted in the children being placed on the child protection
    register.

    She claims her family was ostracised and she was forced to close
    her shop because neighbours thought she was a child abuser.

    Peat has ordered the council to carry out a formal review into
    its handling of the case by June to ensure it has learned
    lessons.

    Davies said: “It appears that one of the principle
    mistakes in this matter has been one of over caution. In all such
    cases there are difficult decisions to be made and these are
    usually matters of judgement.”

    Davies stressed that many changes had already been made but that
    the formal review would take place and a fresh apology would be
    issued.

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