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Three abuse cases reveal shocking failures to protect Norfolk’s vulnerable children

PUBLISHED: 08:29 16 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:25 16 August 2018

Three serious case reviews by the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board reveal how vulnerable children were let down. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Three serious case reviews by the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board reveal how vulnerable children were let down. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

A litany of failings in three separate Norfolk cases involving vulnerable children were revealed today.

Director of children's services at Norfolk County Council Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County CouncilDirector of children's services at Norfolk County Council Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council

In one case a six-month old baby was shaken to death by her father after a string of opportunities to give the family better support were missed from 2013 to 2016.

In a second case a 20-year-old man, on bail for abusing a young boy, was placed in accommodation with young families - despite his bail condition stating he should not be alone with children.

He went on to abuse another boy in the accommodation in 2016 after Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department, which has around 1,200 youngsters in its care, failed to tell the housing authority about the man’s previous sexual behaviour or the fact he was on bail for abusing an 11-year-old boy. Under the bail conditions he was not meant to be alone with children.

In a third case four children were sexually assaulted by their father over several years after agencies failed to properly recognise symptoms of sexual abuse.

A father was jailed after shaking his daughter to death. A review has highlighted how opportunities to support the family were missed. Pic: Peter Macdiarmid/PA WireA father was jailed after shaking his daughter to death. A review has highlighted how opportunities to support the family were missed. Pic: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Wire

All three cases sparked investigations by the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, called serious case reviews.

The reviews are launched when a child dies or is seriously harmed and abuse or neglect is believed to be involved.

They are very rare, but on Tuesday the Board published all three on the same day.

Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department is criticised in the reports.

Three serious case reviews have today been published. File photo posed by model. Getty ImagesThree serious case reviews have today been published. File photo posed by model. Getty Images

Sara Tough, who took over as director of the department in October 2017, said: “These three cases reflect a department that wasn’t working properly at the time but we have since made significant progress and continue to improve rapidly.

“Every day our staff work hard to keep hundreds of children safe from harm and we all feel it personally on the rare occasions when things go wrong. However, it is important that we are able to learn and reflect so that we can further improve how we work to keep children safe.”

The department has twice been rated as “inadequate” by inspectors from Ofsted.

In its most recent inspection this year it was rated as “requires improvement”.

David Ashcroft, chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, said the response from different authorities in all three of these cases was not good enough and apologised.

But he added: “Over the last two years the board has stepped up its monitoring of the multi-agency response to child protection.

“As a board, we are confident that services to children in the county have improved in the last two years and are continuing to improve.”

The reviews have led to a series of recommendations to improve services.

•You can read the full reports by the Safeguarding Board here

What Norfolk Police

Chief superintendent Nick Davison, head of safeguarding and investigations, said: “All three cases published today underline the complexities and challenges encountered by all agencies and their staff in keeping children safe from harm.

“With the tragic death of V most prominent in our thoughts along with its devastating impact, the work undertaken in serious cases reviews highlights how vital learning and development across our services can be. Occasions where we get things wrong are few and far between but our goal continues to be working hard in the best interests of the victim. Working more efficiently and effectively across all agencies, as highlighted in Case Z, should be our focus to get it right first time, every time.

“In Case U, which shows a long history of multi-agency involvement with the family, it is clear that the police investigation that took place back in 2006 was inadequate. Sadly this reflects upon a time in policing where the dedicated child abuse investigation team was under resourced and both national and local policing priorities were focused on other areas of our responsibilities.

“Since then, and within our current plans, the force has significantly invested in child abuse investigations and safeguarding with increased numbers of officers focusing on child abuse, stronger processes, greater training and improved leadership and oversight. Looking to the future with the development of our new 2020 Investigations Hubs, we continue to make increased investment in our ability to tackle these complex crimes ensuring we are the strongest position possible to protect other vulnerable children and adults.”

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