Coroner attacks authorities over failing mother and disabled daughter

A coroner attacked authorities over failings while dealing with a family who were terrorised by a gang of youths asking why social workers could not have just “sat down with a cup of tea” and asked how to help.
Fiona Pilkington, 38, was driven to such despair by the 16-strong gang that she drove to a secluded lay-by and set her car alight while she and disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick sat inside.

At the pair’s inquest Coroner Olivia Davison asked why social workers had never sat down with a family ”over a cup of tea” and discussed their problems.

Their blue Austin Maestro was found burnt out at the side of the A47 near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire, on October 23, 2007.

The inquest at Loughborough Town Hall heard Leicestershire County Council launched a serious case review into the way the authorities handled the care of Ms Pilkington, her teenage daughter and severely dyslexic son Anthony, now 19.

The review found there were a number of failings including a failure by the County Council, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and Leicestershire Police to share information about the family, their disabilities and the abuse they were receiving from the gang – some as young as 10.

Questioning Mick Connell, director of adult services at the county council, Ms Davison, asked whether the deaths could have been prevented by a social worker taking the time to sit down with the family and listen to their problems.

Ms Davison said: ”If somebody had sat this woman (Ms Pilkington) down with a cup of tea they could have perhaps helped her.

”It seems to me if you want to help somebody you need to understand what they are dealing with and listen to them and get information from them and that’s probably best done by talking to them.

”I have never done any social work and I wonder why it has taken a serious case review to get to this point. You need to sit down with people to get information from them and I wonder why that wasn’t something that occurred here.”

The inquest heard the serious case review made five recommendations:

:: to expand the definition of who can be classed as a vulnerable adult to make it broader;

:: investigate the impact of anti-social behaviour on peoples’ lives and the provision of more explicit information about the level of risk of certain people;

:: to provide more accurate information and share that information between the police, councils and health workers;

:: Those dealing with complaints should read the situation from the victims’ point of view.

The jury will return on Monday when it is expected to retire.