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I presented a case to a social worker in a meeting. A case I have presented countless times. But before I go any further, let’s do a little role play….let me present the case to you…a brief overview as you will….and you pretend that you have to decide what to do with the case. I can’t go into detail, but I will give you a flavor.

Child D was born into poverty and neglect. Parents with mental issues that were not addressed and a history of neglect (at the very least) of older sibling. Mother involved in various abusive relationships, some worse than others but all abusive. Child D witnesses’ domestic violence and abuse on many levels towards mother and towards him and his siblings at times. Mother treats him different to the rest of the children. Mental abuse…. some may say. There is a long paper trail for child D. One of the longest I have seen. Mother has sent Child D to buy food and electric…with no money. Just told too provided what is needed. One can only imagine how he funds the above. But one thing is for sure. Child D won’t return empty handed.

For years Child D didn’t say much. To be fair, just looking at this child it is clear neglect. No coat in winter, dirty uniform, wrong size, always hungry…the list goes on.

Then one day Child D speaks. Lists lots of things going on including being sent to purchase things with no money, having to pay for shower gel at home (with no money), kitchen locked and only opened when mum feeds other siblings, SEN needs not addressed….

On top of that professionals have seen the Living conditions and have said things such that the home is shocking….

Child D is at high risk of CSE for many reason…wait….let me take that back….let’s not be coy…how is a 14 year old going to pay for electric with no money….he can’t steal it…..So, Child D has most likely  already been exposed to CSE if not already fallen victim. Sibling involved with gangs.

I could go on and on…. I could list it for pages. My point is this…its neglect. Straight and simple…or is it?

What do you think? Is the above good enough for your child? Is it good enough for anyone’s child? What would you say and do as a professional?

So, when child D speaks out …. nothing happens. Not really. In fact, it gets worse eventually for the child.

I’m sure you will agree that the above case…with very limited information, is neglect…emotional abuse…there has been physical abuse disclosed by Child D….

Yet…. Child D is just left in the situation.

So, I put it to a Social worker, the case and I asked them one question …. define neglect. Tell me what neglect looks like. Show me the tier system where neglect is listed and identified because if I can’t get this kid the right help under the category of neglect, trust me, I won’t be able to get any kid help.

The social worker said that “Neglect is hard to define and even harder in teenagers”. Now, I get that. Of course, I do. I have studied neglect on many levels and understand that adolescent neglect is had to prove. So…what about all the years before he was a teenager…what about the time Child D disclosed in year 3 that they had to feed the newest sibling a bottle through the night and that was why he was falling asleep in class..…

The social worker done the same thing that ever single social worker has done when I have challenged the case of Child D…. a blank expression and a slightly awkward look on their face and then went on to speak utter nonsense about why they could not do this or that. Excuses. Bad ones at that…just so we are clear.

There are also the professionals that say that child D is a fantasist.  A liar. That mum always has “Plausible excuses for situations”

Well that’s ok then. Fuck me…. why didn’t you say…. if Mum says it’s all good what are we even worrying about. Let’s pack this case up now…in fact why didn’t I think of that! I should have just asked mum if it was true……

Yep…the professionals must be right…Child D is such a liar…Child goes deep with the lies…like…. his mum said that he has clean uniform and chooses not to wear it. Child D deliberately dresses in the dirtiest cloths he can find…where other kids cuss him…and he is freezing cold…. He is such a liar

Child D is such a good liar that he is able to make the whole house stink, smash all the windows and make his bed disappear  when professionals visit…I mean they report he had no bed…but….nothing was done…must be child D being such a liar

Ohhhh the worst lies must be when we he told me that known gang members and offenders were going into the home and mum was allowing it…professionals saw this….and yet he still lived in the home. Let’s call him Pinocchio shall we.

He must rub his hands in dirt every morning before school

Hide his own lunch. Because he never has any

Mark his own skin

Such a fantasist.

Oh…there is this other line that several professionals have used about this child

*Shrug of the shoulders “Its what he is used too”

How many children have died because professionals did not listen or capture the voice of the child? How many times did Daniel Pelka’s mum say she did not know why her son was so skinny…whilst force feeding him salt each night so he would throw up his dinner. How many professionals saw Victoria Climbie and knew something was not right and did not act? The death of Heidi Koseda is an example of this. Many people from the local community reported their concerns to professionals for Heidi and her siblings. Many of these concerns were reported directly to the NCPCC. On one of the occasions the referral was never investigated and later a professional from the NSPCC fabricated a reported that he had seen the children. It is recognised in the inquiry into Heidi’s death that if the NSPCC had operated within their rules and regulations of referrals and Heidi had been seen then her death could have been averted.

Why is the mothers voice so powerful when an abuse or neglect is suspected? There is so much evidence that mothers do abuse and harm their children and that “It is generally thought that mothers are mainly responsible for mistreating children in cases of neglect. This is likely to be because of common assumption about parenting roles, with childcare largely seen as the responsibility of women and, therefore, when things go wrong, the fault is thought to lie with them”.  (Corby, Shemmings and Wilkins, 2012)

Peter Connelly was on the CP register yet it appears that his mother was covering abuse from very early on, even before she was in a relationship with the man who went on to kill Peter. It is recorded that when Peter was 6 months old, Tracey Connelly took Peter to the doctors to complain that he bruised easily and because of this, she could be accused of hurting him. This concealment continued throughout his abuse. Days before he died, he was visited by a social worker and it is recorded in the serious case review that “Peter was in the buggy, alert and smiling but overtired. His ear was sore and slightly inflamed. He had white cream on the top of his head and Ms A thought the infection had improved. Peter’s face was smeared with chocolate and the social worker asked that it be cleaned off. The family friend took him away to do so and he did not reappear before the social worker left.   Mum said she had a GP appointment and mentioned grab marks on Peter.  She was worried about being accused of harming him”. We now know that all the above was deliberate concealment by Peters mother of his abuse and injuries. Yet, her voice was dominate and went unchallenged many times and subsequently lead to his death.

Just as there were clear indicators with the Connelly case we also saw the same with Keanu Williams . In the Peter Connelly murder it was said “Agencies were too willing to believe Mum’s accounts of herself, her care of the children, the composition of her household, and the nature of her friendship network” this was also true in the case of Keanu Williams. Keanu’s mother was a care leaver and when she became pregnant with Keanu she was well known to services. As stated in the serious case review that followed his death, “Keanu experienced a number of presentations to hospital and to the GP, which were all explained by Rebecca Shuttleworth as “bumps and falls due to unsteadiness”. (Serious case review, Keanu Williams) There were times when the mother’s explanation for Keanu’s injuries were not accepted, but there were also many times that they were. She had two older children that were not in her care and there had been investigations around the neglect of them before Keanu was born. Due to numerous factors, including those listed above, Keanu and his mother were put in a placement to assess the mother’s ability to care for Keanu. However, she would spend much of her time away from the placement with Keanu and much of the intervention in place was around her historical needs. When the mother was asked about her relationship with professionals at Keanu’s Nursery, where signs of neglect and abuse were noted, she referred to the staff as more like friends than professionals . Keanu’s mother was using excuses for Keanu’s injuries such as falling out of bed and this was excepted. When interviewed, the mother herself stated that she was shocked that her son was not removed at birth due to her personal history and concerns around her first 2 children. Rebecca Shuttleworth explained that she viewed some of the staff more as ‘friends’ rather than professionals, who should have focused more on her child  It is concerning that the mothers voice throughout these cases was not only prominent but also unchallenged at crucial moments. just like child D’s mother…..

Please …click on the names and read the cases. Look at the mistakes that were made each time and then look at how they are being repeated. You don’t have to be a professional to see that…just read the news…google “Serious case reviews”. You will see that neglect has been prevalent in all these cases yet…. I can’t find a true definition for it anywhere.

For me and others, we will never accept what is happening to Child D. We will bag the drum and speak out and make as many referrals as we can to try and get people to listen. Child D does not know this. Child D thinks that NO ONE cares about him.  Because he spoke out and as far as he can see nothing happened. Nothing positive that’s for sure.

However, we do care. And we have tried so hard and done so much. And will continue to do so. Because god strike me down the day, I stop fighting

So…my professional friends…I reach out to you and ask you to send me any if and legal definition on neglect…..every case highlighted above has neglect running through it ……what should happen when a child is neglected……..because aint no social worker or outside agency got a decent answer for me so far….

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