This story is written in a really deceptive way. I don't know exactly what went on or how much the neighbour or social services really knew, but they use some real sleight of hand here. The opening two paragraphs say this:
Social workers were told three times about the terrible conditions endured by Shannon Matthews before she was kidnapped by her own mother, it has emerged.
The nine-year-old was drugged to stay quiet, denied food and regularly beaten by her mother Karen in the years leading up to her disappearance.
That sort of implies that the neighbour knew about all that stuff, but later in the article we discover that's simply what came out in the trial. So what did this neighbour report to the social services? This is the entirety of the quote from the neighbour, actual accusations highlighted:
Miss Wilson told ITV News: 'The warning signs were there six years ago that she [Shannon] needed help.
Social services failed her. Issues were being raised six years ago that something was not right. She needed help. I know I wasn't the only one that was telling them.
I know the school knew, I know, I even contacted the education authority because I was running out of places to ring up and say look, something's going on.'
She added: 'Lads used to lean out of the window, drinking smoking and swearing. You could hear Shannon crying. The stereo was blaring 24 hours a day and you could hear crying on top of that.
'Dirt was caked on the soles of her feet like cement. She'd always flinch back from you if you were trying to get a smile out of her.'
So, there was swearing, smoking and drinking in the house, done by 'lads', some crying, loud music, and dirty feet. Oh, and she didn't smile at her neighbours. Now, while that's probably not a great environment for a child, none of it is evidence of a crime being committed, abuse, or an indication that Karen Matthews would later stage a kidnapping to try and make money
. So what did social services do? From the headline:
...but social services did nothing
...in a shocking echo of the council failings revealed in Haringey, North London, by the Baby P affair, nothing appeared to be done
Yet later in the article we discover that she was placed on, and later removed from, the child protection register, and that the council "commissioned a 2003 psychological report into Matthews which found her ability to protect her children was compromised by her inability to place her children's needs above her own".
So, it sounds like the authorities did intervene, but eventually found nothing serious enough to warrant further action. Years later, the situation changed, but just because Shannon wasn't immediately re-homed doesn't mean this was always going to happen. It's so easy with hindsight, but when you're making decisions about intervening in and potentially splitting up families it's surely incredibly hard, not something I'd want to do. You'd need to be pretty damn certain.
It must be horrendous to be a social worker right now, after the recent cases. Imagine having to work in such a field, and then having shit like this becoming the prevailing view of your profession:
Gee, what a surprise. Social services fails again. I'd like to know three things: (a) Where do they find these people; (b) What sort of training do they get: and (c) Is it time to fire the trainers and the workers and get people who actually care and actually know what they're doing.
'Lessons must be learned'. How many times are we going to hear that phrase? The trouble is, as long as the relevant boxes are ticked on the appropriate forms the social services job is done to them.
Not a surprise that social services didn't bother, perhaps they were too busy finding reasons why a divorced dad shouldn't have residence of his kids or investigating a mum who smacked her child for being naughty. When people raise concerns in really serious cases nothing seems to get done, shannon mathews, baby p, victoria climbie etc., begs the question are they really fit for purpose?
Let's have some evidence-free accusations!
If this had been a "nice" middle-class family the Social Services would have pounced like glutton wolverines at the first hint of anything amiss, whether substantiated or not.
Rating of +47 for that one. Someone attempts to stick up for them a bit:
Here we go again - trying to put the blame on social workers again. When will you get it in your head that social services are making complex and subjective judgements every day and if they err on the side of caution and take a child into care you are the first to criticise.
...and gets a -44 for his troubles. Although one guy did managed to get some sense through AND get a positive rating (+21):
Think about this, if Social Services were to take children into care from every 'unsuitable' parent then we would have tens if not hundreds of thousands of children in care. Wouldn't we all feel a little threatened if the Social Services could come in the night and take your kids, because there was a possibility that you might go off the rails six years hence.
Karen Matthews fooled the whole country for a month, you can hardly blame social services for being taken in as well, and six years earlier at that.
- Paul Wilson, Bristol, 5/12/2008 7:57
Let's give the final word to the someone who recognise the REAL problem in this so-called society: political correctness gone mad.
I am sorry to have to say this. But if the Social Services were less PC, children like Shannon and baby P could be fostered or adopted even.