SHANNON: Kirklees Childcare Services Reviewed

THE conviction of Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan for the abduction of Karen’s daughter Shannon, has led to a review of child protection services in Kirklees.

An independent review has been launched into the dealings all Kirklees agencies had with the Matthews family.

The move, announced by council leader Robert Light on Friday, is in response to claims that social services knew Karen Matthews’s children were at risk before Shannon went missing.

And he pledged Kirklees would do all it could to provide the Matthews children with a safe environment in which to develop.

On Friday the Daily Mail reported that a former neighbour of Karen Matthews – Claire Wilson – told ITV News how she had informed authorities of her fears for the children.

She said warning signs were there six years ago and that social services had failed the child.

She also said others and the school knew of problems in the Matthews household.

Ms Wilson said she even rang the local education authority to tell them ‘something is going on’.

“Lads were hanging from the window swearing, smoking and drinking. You could hear Shannon crying. Music was blaring out the whole time,” she said.

The BBC’s Panorama special on Thursday evening reported that Shannon and a sibling were at one point on Kirklees’s child protection register.

The programme said social services were told the children were often left unattended and that there was alcohol abuse. It continued: “In 2003 the council commissioned a psychological report into Karen Matthews which concluded she had an inability to put her children’s needs above her own.

“By the time the report was finished, the children had been taken off the register.”

The council then revealed that Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board will commission an independently chaired serious case review of the dealings all agencies had with the Matthews family.

This action had the full support of Coun Light, who said: “Matters surrounding the Karen Matthews trial are among issues that have put child care and safeguarding in the public eye this week.

“It is important that there is an independent review of the history and records of all agencies’ dealings with the family.

“The review is being commissioned because of its significant importance. We support the review because any responsible local authority would want to be constantly reviewing its processes and working practices.

“We need to be reassuring ourselves, our partners, the public and others, that we have in place and in practice the very best child protection and safeguarding systems possible.

“People will be rightly concerned to be reassured that those professionals working in the field of child care and safeguarding acted properly and professionally in their dealings with the family.

“People must understand that, without exception, we do act on reports of serious concern that are made to us. They are followed through and appropriate action taken.”