Saturday, 15 December 2012

Getting it wrong – in Hampshire?

Wrongly taking children, who are not being abused or neglected, into care is as bad as wrongly failing to take children into care when they are being maltreated. The one type of error is the mirror image of the other.

I don’t know how accurate the Daily Mail’s recent story is. It concerns events in Hampshire, in which three children were taken from their mother in a 6 am police raid. If it is true it is utterly shocking -

The questions the article doesn’t answer are:

·       What medical opinion was sought and obtained?
·       Why has it taken so long for the children to be returned if, as the judge is reported as saying: ‘What happened here is that a picture was painted before the facts were properly analysed, indeed before many of the facts were actually known, and then the facts were made to fit the picture’?
·       Why were the children taken in an apparently heavy-handed dawn raid with the deployment of fourteen police officers?

My view is that John Coughlan, Hampshire County Council’s director of children’s services, and the police, have some important questions to answer.

It is not good enough just to say that the council acted with the ‘best motives’, or that it was acting out of a duty ‘to secure the wellbeing of children.’ The Council and Hampshire Police need either to refute the claims made in the article or to offer to explore what went wrong with a view to understanding the causes of what seems to have been a catastrophic error.

It has always seemed odd to me that we do not usually hold Serious Case Reviews in circumstances like this. The damage done if children are wrongly taken into care can be very great. Professionals need to know what went wrong and why it went wrong. The public need to be assured that someone somewhere is learning the lessons that make a repeat less likely.