Norfolk children’s services accused of naivety over sex offender after vulnerable girl abused
- Credit: PA
A series of failures left a vulnerable girl to be abused by a convicted sex offender who was in a relationship with her mother, a damning report has found.
Norfolk schools, social workers and doctors have been urged to learn lessons to prevent 'naivety' about sex offenders, crucial information not being shared, and reasons for school absences not being fully checked.
The independent investigation was triggered after the victim, Child P, reported sexual offences in October and November 2014, nearly a decade into her mother's relationship with her step-father.
The man, who had been convicted of five counts of indecent assault in 2001, was later jailed for sexual assaults on Child P, and her mother was imprisoned for failing to prevent the offences, despite knowing about them.
In a statement, David Ashcroft, independent chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, which commissioned the report, said: 'We are very sorry the people who should have protected her let her down.'
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The report's 17 recommendations include compulsory training for social workers about working with adults known to pose a risk to children, and ensuring safeguarding and attendance information is shared with school staff working with a pupil.
The report highlighted breakdowns, over a seven-year period, in the work of children's social care, GPs, schools, school nursing, and a service that provides early help to troubled families.
It said that, while children's social care, probation and the police knew a sex offender was in a relationship with Child P's mother, there was an 'un-informed naivity', especially in children's social care, about unsupervised time he spent with the girl.
It quoted a report which found the naivety 'reflected insufficient training about the approaches often adopted by sex offenders'.
In addition, it outlined nine other systemic factors that increased Child P's vulnerability, including:
- poor management of school absences;
- GPs being unaware of her step-father's record of sexual offending;
- a 'near total failure' to maintain records while the case was within Children's Social Care's Children in Need team.
Mr Ashcroft said: 'The review does show the agencies involved responded to individual issues as they arose, but there was a lack of information sharing which led to a convicted sex offender having close and regular contact, and generating a high risk to, Child P over a number of years.
'This also meant incidents of concern were not quickly and consistently shared with other agencies working with Child P.'
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said it fully supported the findings.
He added: 'There is no doubt that, in this case, the child protection system failed this child and we are deeply sorry for our part in that failure.
'For our part, we now have much stronger leadership and governance arrangements and in Children's Services there has been a change in culture across the department, with much more emphasis on professional challenge.
'We have strengthened the ways in which we co-ordinate our work with that of partners. The service has tightened procedures and invested greater resources in this area.'
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