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iowsafeguardingchildrenA Serious Case Review (SCR) has today (Tuesday) been published by the Isle of Wight Safeguarding Children Board in relation to historic, long-term sexual abuse within a single family on the Isle of Wight in a case that spans almost two decades.

The review, which was launched in October 2013, has been undertaken on the grounds that abuse or neglect were suspected, a child has been seriously harmed and concerns about how agencies and professionals had worked together with the family involved have been raised.

The report identifies multiple opportunities that were missed by the authorities to protect children from significant sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

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Details have been included in the 66-page document of how previous allegations of sexual abuse or risk of sexual abuse were investigated, but no further action was taken and how staff found working with the family ‘daunting’, especially due to the challenging behaviour of the father which left social workers feeling harassed and Police officers at risk.

Details of ‘sexualised games’and ‘disgusting, filthy’  living conditions have been highlighted.

The independent chair of the IOWSCB, Maggie Blyth, has today said:

“What happened to the victims is extremely upsetting and could have been prevented. The failure of the authorities to work together, coupled with the dysfunctional nature of the family and intimidating and challenging behaviour of the father meant the abuse continued for many years – which was unacceptable.

“The report identified deep-seated failings within the children protection system at the Isle of Wight Council. Findings which mirror those identified in an Ofsted inspection in 2012. Too much emphasis was given to reacting to the problem of the day rather than assessing the long-term wellbeing of the children. Children’s Social Care and the Police failed to follow up serious allegations of abuse when they were unsubstantiated for court purposes and there was an absence of multi-agency discussions about the family.

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“Thankfully, much work has been carried out to address these problems with a successful partnership with Hampshire County Council now underway. Rapid improvements have been carried out with the Isle of Wight children’s social care front door, through Hampshire’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and Children’s Reception Team, now safe. Changes in leadership and management, policies and practice, and systems and processes have all been overhauled and children’s social care on the Isle of Wight is now very different from the period of time focused on within this report. This was acknowledged in the more recent Ofsted inspection report published in November 2014.

“Hampshire Constabulary acknowledges that police managers should have been involved in the meetings to plan joint investigations, and that allegations of parents using excessive force to punish their children should have been investigated more thoroughly. This case shows a pattern of making decisions on the evidence for criminal action rather than looking at wider child protection issues and child care in the family.”

The report makes 12 recommendations to the IOWSCB.  These include:

• That in complex long term cases there is time to step back and reflect, away from the heat of current crises

• That the impact of aggressive parents is understood, and staff are supported with this so that they become resilient in face of the pressures

• That the value of ‘history’ is high, that records are easily accessible, and that assessments always take the full history into account

• That optimism in the face of changing evidence will sometimes happen and needs to be addressed through good supervision and case review

• That challenge is valued, and modelled by supervisors and managers by both giving and receiving challenge well

• That escalation procedures to resolve inter-professional and inter-agency disputes are understood and used

• That the resolution of a current problem, does not prevent the consideration of the long term well-being of the children

• That there are clear processes in place for multiagency discussion of chronic cases without necessarily a single trigger event

• That, whilst valuing the contribution of parents to conferences, there are clear processes in place to ensure staff can have some time to discuss their views without the parents being present

• That CSC would, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, convene multiagency meetings to discuss major concerns by other agencies, and that the procedural requirement for the LSCB to rule on any dispute is understood

• That contradictory evidence from children about an allegation or disclosure does not lead to a failure to consider what is happening overall in the children’s lives

• That contradictory evidence is considered as a possible indicator of abuse rather than something that disproves it

Several agencies have been involved in the review including the Isle of Wight Council, Hampshire Constabulary, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Hampshire Probation Trust and the Isle of Wight NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

A Serious Case Review is undertaken to appraise the quality of work in the case; establish what lessons can be learned about the quality and effectiveness of agency and multiagency working; identify the key themes that characterised work with this family and to make proposals for improvement where any shortfalls are identified.

The full report can be read here.

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