A Family Court Judge has abandoned a care hearing, denouncing “wholly inadequate” assessments by social workers.
Sitting at the Liverpool Family Court, Mr Justice MacDonald demanded that new assessments be conducted of potential carers for a baby girl. The council would have to explain its earlier failures in the case, the Judge insisted.
The case concerned ‘PN’, an 11 month-old girl who had been taken into care after twice suffering head injuries inflicted by her mentally ill, alcoholic mother. The council proposed the girl’s great aunt and uncle on her father’s side of the family as special guardians for her but her aunt and her partner on the mother’s objected to this plan, putting themselves forward as carers instead.
Social workers for Cheshire East Council assessed both couples but the Judge was very critical of he reports they submitted, saying they contained “patent defects”. Amongst the issues identified were uncertainties regarding chronology and the fact that the relevant social worker had produced a “plainly incomplete” report after failing to speak to the maternal aunt’s partner before reaching the conclusion that they were not suitable as carers.
Meanwhile, a report on the paternal great aunt was also “fundamentally flawed” . It contained “cut and pasted” sections and did adequately explore the risk of the girl coming into contact with her birth parents in that household.
The Judge wrote:
“Whilst [the social worker] deals with road safety, stairgates and a loud Jack Russell, there is no assessment or evaluation whatsoever of the central question of the ability of the paternal great aunt and her husband to protect PN against the clearly identified risk of harm presented by the mother and the father, nor does any attempt at all appear to have been made to undertake such an assessment.”
Another social worker was unable to recall “basic elements” of the assessments while giving evidence in court.
As a result said Mr Justice MacDonald, it was impossible for him to reach a verdict on the most suitable carers for the girl and both couples would have to be reassessed.
The Council had “comprehensively failed to discharge its duties” concluded the Judge.
“I hope that those responsible at the local authority for the unfortunate omissions I have had to deal with in this judgment will reflect on the consequences for PN and her family of their failure to comply with their professional obligations and their obligations to this court, and on the need for them to do better in the future for a child whose welfare they are charged with safeguarding and promoting.”
Read the ruling here.
Image by Guillaume Brialon via Flickr