Essex Abuse settlement: timeline of social work involvement

In November 2011 Essex council agreed to pay damages of almost £1m to four siblings it failed to protect from years of parental abuse, stretching back as early as 1990. The landmark case – thought to be one of the largest of its kind – could prompt further compensation claims from a hidden army of claimants, lawyers have warned. Here we’ve created a timeline of key events.

1990 – Eldest child reveals to neighbour that “daddy has been bonking me”

Essex council initiates child protection investigation and discovers that the children’s father had been convicted of indecently assaulting his daughter and son from previous marriage.

1990 – Father moves out of home but continues to have contact with his children, supervised by mother – who does not accept his conviction.

1991 – Allegations that father has been left in charge of his children do not appear to have been properly investigated by social services.

1993 – Council agrees to father taking children to school. Concerns are raised about children’s sexualised behaviour at school.

1994 – Father’s contact with children begins to be supervised by local authority. Evidence suggests he has been in family home without supervision.

Essex council begins a risk assessment on the father.

1995 – Mother places one child, ‘D’, in private fostering but placement never assessed and records indicate that father stayed overnight there. Records indicate that the mother told professionals D had been sexually abused by his father over two years.

1995 – One child, D, accommodated by local authority in foster home

Council again agrees that mother is suitable supervisor of contact between father and his children

Eldest child alleges in interview that father assaulted her.

1996 – Assessment concludes father poses high risk of reoffending and children should be protected from him.

Case conference fails to acknowledge past disclosures of sexual abuse and recommends father’s contact be supervised by mother and new partner.

1996 – Case remains unallocated for five months.

Essex council commences care proceedings for remaining three children.

1997 – Child and family psychiatric report commissioned from Great Ormond Street hospital reveals serious sexual abuse by father, and his brother, of all four children with knowledge of mother.

All four children made subjects of full care orders.

2000 – Case is referred to Southend’s Area Child Protection Committee for comprehensive review.

2002 – Review concludes that the child protection system had failed all four children. Recommendations are made for future practice within agencies concerned.

How to keep children safe

Our series of comprehensive Inform guides to child protection, managing risk and assessment can help ensure you keep the children on your caseload safe.

Parenting assessment reference manual

Guide to managing risk in social work

Guide to understanding developmentally appropriate sexual behaviour

Guide to therapeutic assistance for children and young people recovering from sexual abuse

Guide to the assessment and support of non-abusing carers in circumstances of reported sexual abuse committed by an adult in the family

Guide to an initial pre assessment of an adult who has committed sexual abuse

Sexual abuse child protection – research review

Processes of sexual abuse and why children and young people find it hard to tell

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