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Our questions for Norfolk County Council about the Marie Black child abuse case

PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:36 28 July 2015

Sheila Lock, interim executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council.

Sheila Lock, interim executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council.

Archant

What we asked Norfolk County Council about the Marie Black child abuse case:

1. When did children’s services first get involved with the people in this case?

2. What action was taken by children’s services and when?

3. Should the abuse have been spotted sooner?

4. The trial heard about the actions of Gail Barnard, with allegations that she asked foster agency worker Malcolm Blissett to ‘tidy up’ evidence. Does the council stand by Ms Barnard and is she still employed by the council? And in what capacity now compared to before the trial?

5. Has this case led to any reviews or changes in how children’s services operates?

6. This is the second recent case which has led to questions over evidence relating to children’s care. Have these cases led to any concerns/reviews/formal inquiries/guidance in the department?

The council issued this statement:

Sheila Lock, interim executive director of children’s services, said: “Sexual abuse against children is an horrific crime and still often goes under-reported or unnoticed.

“The victims in this case have shown tremendous courage in speaking out and I hope that this verdict will give other victims or witnesses the confidence to report abuse – because agencies in Norfolk will listen and act.

“This was a complex case brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, with our staff among several witnesses who gave evidence in the proceedings.

“The needs of the children, who were central to the prosecution case, have always been at the forefront of our minds and have been the main focus of all of the agencies involved. Our priority continues to be the children in this case who, despite the ordeal they have been through, are now doing well and are safe from harm.

“Anyone with concerns about the safety of a child should contact the police on 101 or children’s services on 0344 800 8020.”

The council would not discuss when the authority first became involved in the case, but did confirm that Gail Barnard is still employed by the authority.

As for Malcolm Blissett, the foster agency worker, who the trial heard had altered evidence, he no longer works for his former employees Anglia Fostering Agency. The Drayton-based company would not state whether he resigned or whether he was dismissed, but said his employment had “come to an end” in November 2014. Their statement read: “Since Mr Blissett’s departure, a full audit has been undertaken and we are confident that our systems and processes are robust and fit for purpose.

“At no time has the company requested or authorised any employee to carry out any practices falling short of The Fostering Regulations and/or National Minimum Standards.”

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