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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

B.2: Child protection issues in the early 1990s

2. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a “deep rift” arose between Nottinghamshire Police and the County’s children’s social care service following a major child abuse investigation involving an extended family in Broxtowe.[1] The investigation led to 10 adults being charged in February 1989 with 53 offences of indecent assault, incest and cruelty against 23 children. In December 1989, a joint enquiry team of police officers and social workers warned that “there could be a total breakdown of Police/Social Service relationships with incalculable consequences”.[2] By September 1991, the “extent of this antagonism, and the damage ensuing from it, was … considerable”.[3]

3. In 1991, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Department of Health’s Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) conducted a joint inspection of child abuse investigations in the County.[4] Although only seven of the 20 cases inspected concerned children in care,[5] the inspectors criticised a lack of training and made a number of recommendations, including that all child sexual abuse investigations should be undertaken by trained officers within Nottinghamshire Police’s Family Support Unit (FSU), supported by specialist children’s social care staff. They also said the Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC)[6] needed urgently to disseminate revised procedures and provide appropriate training to ensure implementation.

4. Between 1990 and 1995, there was a crisis in the County’s child protection capability:

4.1.There were more than 800 ‘unallocated cases’ in 1990,[7] leading to the Department of Health threatening to intervene.[8] This was reduced to zero by the end of 1991.[9]

4.2. There were 14 child deaths reported to the SSI between 1990 and 1992.[10] One death generated significant publicity, which intensified in December 1993 when the County decided not to start disciplinary proceedings against the social workers involved in the case, and promoted them.[11]

4.3. In 1994, two highly critical internal and external reports on child protection in the County were published.[12]

As a result, the SSI considered there was “a serious problem”[13] and the Health Minister had “very great concerns about the poor performance … in the protection of children at risk”.[14]

5. The County also identified “serious weaknesses” in its children’s social care service in 1994, with services not meeting the required standards of the Children Act 1989, weak information systems, abandoned internal training programmes, poorly kept records and inadequate recruitment practices.[15] Both David White, the County’s Director of Social Services, and Joan Taylor, Chair of the Social Services Committee, subsequently resigned.[16]

6. In September 1994, an SSI inspection concluded that the children’s social care service “had not yet safely established a competent child protection service for children and families in Nottinghamshire”.[17] The SSI became directly involved in ‘monitoring’[18] children’s social care until August 1995, when the SSI decided that sufficient progress had been made.[19] A further SSI inspection in December 1995 commented that “considerable efforts had been made … to transform a dismal child protection investigative service”.[20]

7. The Broxtowe investigation occupied significant time and focus,[21] and diverted attention away from child abuse investigations.[22] As a consequence, children in care were not given sufficient priority, despite the large number of investigations and prosecutions into the sexual abuse of children in residential and foster care. There was an unwarranted assumption that they were protected by the carers themselves.[23]

 

References

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