Daniel Pelka abuse case ‘could happen again’

Family|News|January 17th 2014

Child abuse comparable to the  Daniel Pelka case could happen again, Coventry City Council has claimed.

Daniel, who lived in the city, was just four when he was starved and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather in 2012. They were jailed for life last summer.

A subsequent serious case review found that the boy had been effectively “invisible” to authorities, and that professionals had been “too optimistic” about the family’s situation.

Now Brian Walsh, the council’s director of community services, has warned colleagues:

“I could never give assurances this could never happen again. Social care is not a science. All we can do is be clear about our requirements and ensure professionals are properly supported.”

The warning came in an council meeting held to review progress made since the serious case review, the BBC reports.

He said the council was facing “the massive challenges we have as a council” balancing budgetary pressures with the protection of children. There had been an “exponential increase” in the number of children referred to social services in the city since the Daniel Pelka case, he added.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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Comments(15)

  1. Name Witheld says:

    I made reference to this case when fighting a 4year long battle after my children disclosed non-contact sexual abuse , violence and domestic violence. The day of the final hearing is clear as day. . . This case was on the bbc and it blew me away, this was awfull to hear and the reality hit home. If all agencies did not act on what my children disclosed over my ex’s discuised compliance, a higher number of police logs than dear Daniel’s case, they could have a serious case review on their hands. My legal representatives were outstanding. They made the experience less traumatic for me. My children are safe and sound and able to enjoy their childhood. With support from camhs they have made progress. It took time, strength and dear Daniel’s case to get justice.

  2. Tristan says:

    How can a serious Serious Case Review find that the boy was effectively “invisible” to authorities when he was already known to social services. He had been treated in hospital for a broken arm, seen at school with bruises and other injuries and also spotted scavenging for food in bins?

    Social services and doctors too for that matter, have an unhelpful habit of believing any old excuse a mother makes. This includes those not uncommon separated family situations when false allegations are made against a father. Then it’s all hands to the deck as police and social services try to conjure up evidence that can lead to charge and conviction of a man.

  3. s says:

    There has to be factual evidence. Communication between multidisciplinary teams are the key. Statements are also taken at various stages which tests the validity and reliabilty of the evidence. Assessments are made which in all honesty are hard when someone says what professionals want to hear when in fact police logs etc demonstrate otherwise. This case has changed the culture of the public sector. Safeguarding is a professional responsibility as well as a personal responsibility. All public sector professionals are now prosecuted as are parents who fail to safeguard.

  4. s says:

    “A person’s a person, no matter how small!
    And you very small persons will not have to die
    If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!” – Dr Seuss

  5. Andrew says:

    What is particularly appalling about the case is that the father, convicted of some lesser offence, and given a non-custodial sentence, spent some time on remand, while the mother, convicted of murder, was bailed throughout. CPS had stereotyped father as killer and mother as victim.

  6. Tristan says:

    I’ve seen the police operate first hand and I know from personal experience just how poor they are when it comes down to evaluating a resident mother’s word against a non-resident father’s. In cases where abundant external evidence exists to indicate the mother is an unreliable witness, police and social services will persist in taking her word at face value and seek to pin abuse on an innocent father. If needs be they will seek to corroborate phony evidence by suggestive questioning of a child. That amounts to abuse of a child in itself, in my case a toddler. A forensic expert then has to be called in (on court appointment) to unpick and savage their investigation (if you could call it that) for the inadequate, inept exercise in futility that it is, carried out by charlatans who operate at public expense and who are afraid to call out an alienating mother and deal with her as a perpatrator.

    In poor Daniel’s case the signs of an abusive mother were all over the place yet once again we see a case where one professional defers to the next in accepting the lies and garbage spewed out by his criminal mother. Now we have a nonsensical Serious Case Review that attempts to explain it all away on the basis of a child’s invisibility. Child protection professionals are professional in one sense only – as master buckpassers.

  7. u6c00 says:

    Andrew do you mean biological father spent time on remand for a lesser offense, or the stepfather who had a hand in killing this child? I haven’t seen that elsewhere so I’m not certain which you mean.

  8. Tristan says:

    Dr Seuss needs to think again. Infants and toddlers cannot fend for themselves.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Could happen again?

    If we were brave enough to acknowledge denial of contact and parental alienation as what they are, we would say that this might as well be happening every day.

  10. Andrew says:

    u6c00 I think the stepfather; it is in the SCR and I did not read it again before posting.

  11. Tristan says:

    One reason of course why abuse of a child by alienation receives no mention whatever in the government’s lexicon of child abuse – “Working Together to Safeguard Children”.
    Any enlightened professional who dares to face social services
    up puts himself at professional risk of being demonised as an “alienation evangelist” as occurred when one local authority tried to pigeonhole a child psychiatrist in this way in 2010.

  12. s says:

    I fought tooth and nail to safeguard my children from their father and will do so until I take my last living breath!!! Police logs, witness statements, assessments and my children’s best interests were all considered. As said above there has to be factual evidence before a court even considers stopping contact, the courts actually consider the psychological impact upon the child not seeing their father even if there is evidence of historical abuse, substance misuse etc. . . Even if the children have witnessed violence. I also have experienced first hand a contact order being sealed despite my children being physically assaulted and exposed to pornography. Each case is different, we must respect that. But dear daniels case was clear that both parents were at fault. Lessons can be learnt from this case. For professionals and parents who are involved with sensitive cases. Trust your gut instinct. . . 99% of tge timeyou are right.

  13. s says:

    Children cannot stand up for themselves its a parent’s duty to and professional’s. Thats the moral of the saying. Protecting them, their innocence and childhood.

  14. Fiona McClymont says:

    In Scotland, employees who are aware, or who have evidence of, dangerous practices by a child protection agency cannot complain about that practice. This is because there is no ‘whistle blowing’ mechanism. If a Child Protection Designated Officer is concerned that a child is not receiving appropriate support and intervention, after concern for the child’s safety have been officially reported to the agency e.g. a local authority, they have no ‘right’ to complain about that child protection failure.

    Currently, the local authority can ‘legally’ refuse to investigate complaints from their own employees about the authority’s bad practice – even when such practice – e.g. the much reported ‘failure to share concern with other agencies’ has actually exposed a child at risk to further risk of harm.

    The regulation of child protection services in Scotland is under the auspices of SCSWIS. This body has no remit to investigate ANY complaints about the services that they inspect and report on. This is clearly stated on the SCSWIS web site.

    The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) will not investigate either complaints about dangerous child protection practices or the refusal by a council to investigate complaints made about its own poor practices. When I asked the SPSO directly who would investigate complaints I was advised in writing that by the Complaints Reviewer that she knew of ‘…no route of appeal or complaint open to you.’ In other words employees (in fact any concerned person) has no means to complain about councils when they fail to protect children. The child protection system can legally protect itself from any scrutiny of failures to protect children and so cannot be held accountable for those failures. The only time there is any scrutiny is when a child has died or suffers very extreme harm – serious case reviews are simply an analysis of what went wrong when it is too late. This is when the public is told that ‘lesons will be learned’. Would it not be better to have system – a complaints process open to all – that allowed employees & others to raise concerns &/or complain about dangerous practices by child protection agencies? This may actually prevent deaths.

    The effect of this is that when councils have placed a child at risk they are able to conceal this from any scrutiny. Any complaints about that unacceptable practice can be ‘legally’ ignored and covered up – there is no need to record the fact that any complaints about failures in child protection practices have been made.

    I believe that the situation in Scotland will also be the position throughout the rest of the UK. This perhaps adds to the reasons why Governments are so keen to avoid any legislation in connection with mandatory reporting.

  15. Tristan says:

    The entire complaint system around child protection requires urgent reform. Everything is designed to frustrate complaints, however justifiable.

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