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Social worker was ‘inept’ in case involving abusive mother

A family court judge has criticised the inaction of a social worker in the case of a mother who fabricated illnesses in her two children.

The youngsters in question were now nine and eight years old. They were taken into care after it emerged that the mentally ill mother regularly gave them unncessary medication and even confined them to wheelchairs. She invented symptoms and lied to professionals, subjecting the boy and girl to multiple unnecessary medical procedures, doctor’s visits and even hospital admissions.

In this, the father aided her by prioritising her needs over those of the children. He reportedly found it difficult to accept that the mother had lied on multiple occasions and harmed his son and daughter.

Concerns first came to light when the siblings stared nursery in 2012. Staff quickly referred the family to social workers.

In two recently published rulings on this complex case, Her Honour Judge Mayer highlighted the “alarming ineptitude” of a social worker involved in the case. The local authority, Barnet Council in North London, had not responded to the case in a decisive manner, she declared, and failed to properly intervene.

Doctors, teachers and other educational professionals had repeatedly urged intervention after they noticed discrepancies in the mother’s account of the children’s apparent illnesses, but the social worker still remained “inactive” and planned to close the case.

It was only when the boy eventually made specific allegations against the mother that decisive action was taken and the children were taken into care.

Judge Mayer declared:

“The local authority neglected this case and this family, and the social worker, who was allocated for six years, demonstrated alarming ineptitude in the face of clear and obvious concerns expressed by many over a long period. A number of opportunities to intervene and spare the children unnecessary medical intervention [were] missed.”

In a supplementary ruling she concluded:

“X and Y cannot be cared for by their parents.  There are no safeguards which could be put in place, certainly not before the mother has been assessed to have successfully completed her therapy and the father has done some additional safeguarding work.”

Read X and Y (Children) here. The second new ruling is here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Brian says:

    How tragic for the children. No happy ending here for anyone.

  2. John Smith says:

    A stupid question …. a few days ago we have a case of child with ehlers danlos returned to parents. In this case hypermobility is mentioned but no mention of ruling out ehlers danlos et al tissue disorders, nor discussions with treating physicians. Perhaps the paediatrician involved is an expert in tissue disorders? I can see professional chronologies were used. Hypermobility is mentioned but not its relevence to tissue disorders?

    In case anyone is interested tissue disorders such as ehlers danlos create odd and very variable symptoms not just bruising. As such parents can be accused of physical harm – [bruising/broken bones etc] like the recent care case or emotional harm [ie overmedicalising or overfussing about a sick child, making child play the “sick role”]. It is very easy for social workers to get it wrong because some elhers danlos children/adults have such variable symptoms whereby they can be olympic champions in the morning and in a wheelchair in the afternoon, only to go paryting in the evening..

    Go figure.. May is ehlers danlos month… Ehlers Danlos Association… and their zebra mascot…..

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