Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Medical Experts 21st Century Witchfinders In Action

A couple whose three children spent two years in care because social workers wrongly believed that they were at risk of abuse have been awarded a “six-figure” sum in compensation.
Small comfort it may be to them, when the details of the case are examined...
The couple, from Newport, South Wales, received an undisclosed sum yesterday in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff and were given a full written apology from Newport City Council.

The court was told that there had never been any evidence that the children, now aged 14, 11 and 9, had been abused. As a result of the social workers’ actions, the Williams missed their children’s birthdays, Christmases and their first days in new schools.
Still, a ‘six figure sum’, eh? Personally, I’d have only settled for the heads of the social workers and doctors on a pike, but I’m not the forgiving type.
In August 2004 Mr Williams called the police after finding his youngest daughter naked from the waist down with an 11-year-old friend. The girl was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up and the doctor who carried out the examination claimed to have found evidence of longstanding abuse but by an adult, not an 11-year-old.

Mr Williams and his wife were told that they were under suspicion and the children were taken into care. A second doctor confirmed the evidence of abuse and the couple were restricted to supervised weekly visits to their children.
So, two paragons of the NHS scrutinised the child for the Devil’s Mark and found it.

And (as before) they were both wrong:
There were exonerated after a US expert in child abuse examined the evidence and disputed the claims by the British doctors, who subsequently accepted that they had been mistaken. The council conceded that the children should never have been taken from their parents on the basis of the evidence.
They can no doubt thank their lucky stars that they were living in the 21st century, or there’d be no six-figure sum payable should Matthew Hopkin’s team be found wanting....

However, the judge was quick to point out the potential for real victims to be created here:
Giving his judgment, Judge Crispin Masterman said that the children’s names were never put on the child protection register and it was simply decided to remove them from the family home. He said that the criticisms were coupled with an acknowledgment that all professionals involved were acting for the good of the children.

“It is undoubtedly true that social services departments have in recent years operated with inadequate resources and under immense stress and run the risk of attracting equal criticism whether they remove a child or whether they do not.”
Oh, bless them! Would they like more money and less criticism, then? Would that help?

Perhaps court secrecy would be a good idea? Oh, no, wait, they’ve got that, haven’t they?
A Newport council representative said: “A settlement has now been reached which will support the children’s future. The wellbeing of the children has remained paramount throughout this case. While the local authority has offered sincere apologies to the family, our priority was always the safety of the children. The court concluded that the council acted in good faith given the strength of the medical evidence presented.

“The council, together with other members of Newport safeguarding children board, has embraced the recommendations of the multi-agency review.”
Oooh, a ‘multi agency review’! Let me guess, it’s so they can ‘learn lessons’...
Under the terms of the settlement, the family are banned from talking about it.
Not for the sake of the children, I suspect, but so the doctors and social workers can remain nameless.

After all, ‘naming and shaming’ is so 17th century, isn’t it...?


Stan said...

No doubt this "suspicion" of sexual abuse came about as the result of the discredited and rather unwholesome practice of checking the child for RAD - the modern equivalent of "The Devils Mark" you mention.

Anonymous said...

The article doesn't go into detail about what they thought they'd found, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

That Higgs and her cronies were still allowed to practice as peadiatricians (she was working in Kent in 2007) is nothing short of disgraceful...

paul ilc said...

I'd like to see a full (financial and non-financial) cost-benefit analysis of child protection services. I suspect that the harm that is prevented is more than outweighed by the harm that is caused, and that much genuine child abuse is unpreventable (without extremely authoritarian controls on the family) and in some cases ultimately a social benefit (eg the underclass murdering its sprogs, before they grow up to murder others).

That said, social workers do seem to do some good work - eg as part of hospital discharge teams, helping the mentally ill or helping the elderly (though the policy of encouraging 'elders' to stay in their own homes is a job-creation scheme for social services).

patently said...

I think you have the wrong target in the frame, in asking for the social worker's heads on a pike, Julia.

They received medical advice that abuse had taken place; they acted on that advice. They can't really ignore it (imagine the fuss if they did!), nor are they qualified to question it.

The real incompetence lies with the doctors, whose heads really should be on sticks.

Anonymous said...

"They received medical advice that abuse had taken place; they acted on that advice. They can't really ignore it..."

Really? They seem quite capable of ignoring medical advice when they want to:"When she started living with another man, Bob, and got pregnant by him, her ex-husband sued for custody. He claimed that Ann suffered from a condition that used to be called Munchausen's syndrome by proxy and is now known as fabricated or induced illness (FII). This would have led her to pretend the child was ill.

Despite a surgeon explaining that he had made most of the medical referrals, social workers seem to have become convinced that Ann was a liar."
Once again, it seems that they start by making a decision, then tailor the facts to fit accordingly. The doctor agrees? Ignore it! The doctor disagrees? Ignore it!

paul ilc said...

Which, JuliaM 1255, bears out my point for a full (financial and non-financial) cost-benefit analysis of child protection services. Now, I'll take my pill and r...e...l...a...x. Merry Xmas!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you too :0